Xochitl Gomez kept her cool hanging out in a trailer on her first day filming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Then it fell apart when she got a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch in all his sorcerer glory, with the wig, mustache and Cloak of Levitation.
“It just really smacks you in the face: this is really happening,” Gomez says.
The 16-year-old actress, who starred in Netflix’s now-canceled “The Baby-Sitters Club,” makes her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as queer Latina superhero America Chavez in the “Strange” sequel (in theaters now). America has the ability to travel the multiverse, and when she’s hunted for those powers by a magical villain, she finds protection and a new ally in Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch).
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The MCU version of America is 14, younger than her comic-book counterpart so she’s “less experienced and more unsure, which is tricky because I still wanted to keep that confidence and sass,” says Gomez, whose first name is pronounced “SO-chee,” She also infused the role with her own “kid spirit,” a quality that comes through watching the actress’ dance-filled TikToks or the random moves she busts out wearing a Doctor Strange hat and Avengers T-shirt before a recent interview.
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Gomez was raised in Los Angeles, but never saw much young Latina representation onscreen, though she was a huge fan of Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer” and Selena Gomez on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” “Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from what I saw when I was a kid 10 years ago,” Gomez says. That’s why she’s proud of America and ready to “grow with her in every aspect. I love that she is a leader and a problem solver, and she just happens to be lesbian.”
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When Gomez was 5, her mom put her in musical theater – “She was like, ‘I can’t take you to work. You gotta do something fun” – and her first role was as one of the mermaids in “The Little Mermaid.” By 12, she had performed in 22 musicals and was working in TV shows and commercials, so busily that her mom quit her job. The next year, Gomez was cast in “Baby-Sitters Club” and had her first Marvel audition for “Strange.” America was originally supposed to be 18 in the film, but by the time of Gomez’s second audition, she was aged down to a 12-to-15-year-old. “I was like, ‘OK, I think got a shot at this one,’ ” Gomez says, laughing.
Some Marvel fans took issue with Gomez’s casting and the fact her skin was lighter than the America in the comics. Gomez was also a target for trolls when the film was banned in Saudi Arabia for including an LGBTQ character with two moms. Gomez is “really happy” that Marvel didn’t back down and stayed true to the character. As for the negative comments, she tries to be careful on social media: “I’m all about positivity and creativity (but) sometimes I can’t ignore that completely,” Gomez says. “’I’m grateful to have very supportive fans that are so much louder and more enthusiastic than haters. And it’s really important, since I do have a really big young following to show them that things happen and it’s better to stay strong and continue and move forward.”
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