Warning! Spoilers for Eternals ahead.
Gemma Chan is one of few actors who has played two different characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but are her roles in Captain Marvel and Eternals linked somehow? Ever since the Infinity Saga concluded, the MCU has continued to expand with new stories, timelines, and concepts. The MCU’s Phase 4 not only explores the multiverse and its many dangers, but has also introduced many new characters and in particular a new team that has been secretly living on Earth for centuries: the Eternals.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, Eternals is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, with the return of half of the population igniting “the emergence”—the birth of a new Celestial, Tiamut, from within the Earth’s core. Faced with this threat that will destroy all of humanity, and the moral quandary that accompanies it, the Eternals are forced to reunite for the first time in centuries. The Eternals are an immortal alien race created by the Celestials, and the group is formed by Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Ajak (Salma Hayek), and Thena (Angelina Jolie). While each Eternal plays a key role on the team and in the film’s story, Gemma Chan’s Sersi is undoubtedly the main protagonist of Eternals.
However, Chan had an earlier MCU role on a much smaller scale: Minn-Erva from Captain Marvel. Although Marvel usually tries to avoid continuity errors within its sprawling cinematic universe, Chan’s double-casting as Minn-Erva and Eternals‘ Sersi is a bit of an odd exception. Here’s how Chan ended up playing two different characters in the MCU, and whether the two parts are actually connected.
Sersi in Eternals may have been Gemma Chan’s first lead role in a Marvel movie but it’s not her first in this extensive universe. Chan’s debut in the MCU happened in 2019 in Captain Marvel, where she played Minn-Erva, a Kree member of Starforce, an elite military task force formed by skilled warriors in the service of the Kree Empire and led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Minn-Erva and Yon-Rogg were the ones responsible for Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) gaining superpowers: on their mission to retrieve the Light-Speed Engine created by Mar-Vell (Annette Bening), they intercepted her and Danvers’ flight and caused their plane to crash, with Danvers later causing the engine to explode and infuse her with energy. Minn-Erva was an antagonist throughout Captain Marvel, fighting Danvers and trying to kill her, and was ultimately killed when Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) shot down her ship.
Gemma Chan got a second chance in the MCU as a completely different character that has nothing to do with her past role as a Kree warrior. Sersi is an empathetic member of the Eternals who has always shown a desire to live among humans. Like the rest of the Eternals, Sersi possesses superhuman strength and abilities like telepathy, teleportation, matter manipulation, shooting cosmic rays from her eyes and hands, and flight through levitation. In addition, she also possesses the power of transmutation. Eternals‘ Sersi and Captain Marvel‘s Minn-Erva are characters from different origins and have opposing roles in the MCU – one was an antagonist while the other has a heroic role – and they are not connected in any way except by Gemma Chan herself.
Part of the reason that Gemma Chan’s double MCU casting hasn’t been a significant issue is that the characters and storylines from Captain Marvel and Eternals have yet to interact (although they could in the future). The Eternals’ place in the MCU is off to the side for now, as their debut film didn’t directly include any existing MCU characters or storylines. However, Eternals did play a very significant role by introducing/retconning the MCU’s Celestials. The giant, all-powerful space gods have cropped up briefly in Phases 1-3, most notably in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, but Eternals fundamentally shifted their look, role, and presence in a way that’s sure to impact the MCU moving forward. With the Celestials now playing a larger role in the MCU, it’s even possible that Galactus will soon make his way to the screen.
Aside from Gemma Chan, a few other actors have played multiple MCU roles over the years. In most cases, these double-castings are intentional and help underscore story connections, unlike Chan’s recasting as Sersi, which seems more like a do-over. Here’s every actor to have played more than one MCU movie role:
- Chris Hemsworth: Thor and one of Hajo’s heads in Thor: Ragnarok
- Taika Waititi: Korg and another one of Hajo’s heads
- Benedict Cumberbatch: Doctor Strange and Dormammu
- Laura Haddock: a Captain America fan in Captain America and Meredith Quill in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies
- Martin Starr: a college student in The Incredible Hulk and Mr. Harrington in the Spider-Man: Homecoming franchise
- Kenneth Choi: Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos in Captain America and Principal Morita in Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Sean Gunn: Kraglin and Rocket in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise
- Paul Bettany: J.A.R.V.I.S. and Vision
- Imogen and Isabella Poynton: Rhomann Rey’s daughter in Guardians of the Galaxy and Lila Barton
Ultimately, it’s rare to have one actor playing different roles in the MCU. In some cases – as with Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Dormammu, for example – there is a meaningful connection between their characters, but that’s not the case with Gemma Chan. Fortunately, Eternals‘ Sersi should have a brighter MCU future than Minn-Erva had, and is a more complete character than the Captain Marvel antagonist, who like many others, was only meant to appear in one movie.