Carol Danvers doesn’t have a love interest in Captain Marvel, but she does have a best friend. Stylist speaks to Lashana Lynch about her role in the movie as friend, ally and true support network for Marvel’s first female superhero.
The most powerful scene in Captain Marvel isn’t one in which the titular superhero blasts something with her hands.
It’s a much smaller scene, about two-thirds of the way into the film, after Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, having a whole lot of fun) find their way to the home of the Rambeaus. Carol, who has no memory of her life on Earth, is drawn to this house and the women who live there, not knowing that Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), were her best friends and surrogate family.
The powerful moment comes when Maria reminds Carol who she really is. Not an alien warrior hero or ruthless killer, but Carol, best friend and aunty. “You are my best friend, who supported me as a mother and a pilot when nobody else did,” Maria tells her. “You are smart, funny and a pain in the ass. You are the most powerful person I know, even before you had glowing fists. Do you hear me?”
Emotionally charged and forceful, Maria’s words rouse Carol from her anger and help her to understand her power. But it was a scene that Lynch was certain would end up on the cutting room floor. A conversation imbued with soft power and the strength of female friendship? How could that possibly make it into a Marvel superhero movie?
“That was an emotional day that I was really proud of,” Lynch tells Stylist on the phone from Canada. The British actress is almost back home in the UK, where she is about to enjoy a well-deserved holiday.
“It felt like two women connecting, and I think in superhero movies the emotional moments are essential because I want to see that connection,” Lynch adds. “But I didn’t know if it would make the cut.”
She’s glad that it did, though. That scene reinforces one of the most quietly revolutionary aspects of Captain Marvel: that this female superhero doesn’t have a love interest.
“We don’t need a romantic interest,” Lynch says. “It’s nice to have one, but it’s not a necessity in every single film. I hope there’s a lot of women around the world watching it with their girlfriends, nudging each other going this is the love we have for each other. It’s really special, and we don’t get to celebrate it often. For me, the biggest loves of my life are women.”
Captain Marvel is a movie that asks what power and strength might look like on screen, especially in the hands of women. It’s not soft power, exactly, but an understanding that the qualities of support, empathy and emotional intelligence are as important as being able to send photon blasts shooting from your fists. (Though, when it comes Thanos, those will come in handy, too.)
“I think there is a misconception of what strength means,” Lynch says. Over the course of her training for Captain Marvel, which involved learning from female air force pilots, Lynch learned that “strength doesn’t mean you have it together all the time. But it means that you are taking all of your life experience and you use it to empower you every day to wake up and get out of bed.”
That’s what Maria was trying to get into Carol’s head – this message of resilience and perseverence. “It’s really important for women to be reminded that love comes from themselves,” Lynch explains. “And when it doesn’t come from themselves, the next best thing is a girlfriend who loves them and reminds them of who they are.”
Lynch, who found out she had secured the role on the same day that she auditioned – “None of my friends even knew I was in Los Angeles to audition, they thought I was on a long holiday,” – met Larson on her first day of filming. They felt a kinship immediately. “When you start a movie it’s almost like the first day of school,” Lynch muses. “You’ve got to find your feet. So it’s nice when you meet someone and they’re so cool you just want to be their friend. That was Brie. It wasn’t hard to create a bond with her.”
Early on in the shoot, after Lynch had spent a few days away from the set, she found herself desperately missing her onscreen best friend. “I remember being back and just running onto set and we had a champion moment of just both being like ‘I miss you,’ ‘I miss you too’. It felt good, that relationship, it was exactly what I want to see on screen.”
Captain Marvel has the celebration of women baked into its DNA. It has diverse female leads (Gemma Chan and Annette Bening also co-star), a female co-director, female producers, costume designers and heads of department. “We had so much power,” Lynch says. “There’s not really more that I could ask for.”
Is it any surprise, then, that sexist trolls have targeted the film with negative reviews?
“Hmmm,” Lynch says, when Stylist brings it up. “Not everyone is going to like everything, and I really want to understand,” she breaks off, pausing for a second. “Actually, no, I don’t want to understand. I don’t know why they do it. I know that a lot of them are men and men are obviously going to find it difficult to see women taking over the world when they’ve had it in their hands all this time.”
Lynch, warming to her theme, adds: “Thank you, but no thank you to them. We’re not about to give it back. We’re here to stay.”
Captain Marvel is in cinemas now.
Images: Getty, Marvel