Exclusive: Xochitl Gomez on How Marvel's America Chavez Helped Her Embrace Her Own Power
With one phone call, actress Xochitl Gomez's life changed forever. When the Mexican American star and Los Angeles native received the news that she'd nabbed the role of America Chavez in the new Marvel film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, she felt like she was in a dream.
She recalls the moment with stark clarity, noting that her agent had played a little prank on her to get her on a Zoom call. The next thing she knows, the movie's casting director Sarah Finn appeared on the screen to confirm the big news—Gomez would be the one to bring America Chavez to life.
Being part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe is no small feat, and the 15-year-old actress took this groundbreaking role to heart. "I'm excited for the world to meet America Chavez. She is a powerful, smart, charismatic, queer Latina. The fact that she is on the screen and is important to the story will make people feel seen in a way that they have never been," she notes.
Her talent also radiates. "Xochitl is an actress who shines on the big screen," says Victoria Alonso, President of Physical and Post Production, Visual Effects, and Animation at Marvel Studios. "From the day we saw her audition, we knew she was our America Chavez!" She continues, "What I admired most was her tenacity and her composure as an actress. She has to constantly be at the level of our cast, and without a doubt, she achieves that with a subtlety and power that is not common in such young actors."
Success didn't come to the actress overnight. "My mom would drive me around L.A. for hours every day after school, taking me to auditions. Sometimes we would have like 4 or 5 a day, it was crazy. It was a couple of years of doing that," The Babysitters' Club and Gentefied actress says. "I would never be here if she didn't do all those things so I could follow my dream."
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the rising star touches upon the importance of a character like America Chavez and the personal triumphs she achieved thanks to her very own superhero power—her personality.
Tell us about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. What does it feel like to be part of this Marvel film?
It's huge. To me, it's quite a responsibility to bring a comic book character to screen in the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe]. There are lots of expectations from fans and a lot riding on this character because she is Latina and queer, and what that means for kids who will be seeing someone like them on the screen for the first time. Your fear sets in and you realize you have big shoes to fill. You're like, "Wow, this is a lot." So, I tell myself, "Don't worry, you got this." I give myself some pump.
How do you prepare for a role like this and how did you get this amazing opportunity?
It's kind of the same preparation I do for all my auditions. I get the slides and go over them and over them because I have dyslexia, so in order for me to not fumble around, I have to really actually know the material.
I got my first audition back in February of 2020, and I didn't know what character I was going for since Marvel is so secretive and they have code names for all the characters, but it said that she was 18 and I was 15 at the time, so I was like, "oh-oh."
I didn't hear anything back for six months so naturally, I thought I didn't get it, but then in August I got a call back for the same character but it was a younger version. I submitted my tape and found out a week later I got pinned, then I did my screen test in London. It just went really fast, it was crazy!
What does it mean to you to play America Chavez—a Latinx superhero representing the LGBTQ community who will be breaking down barriers?
I'm excited for the world to meet America Chavez. She is a powerful, smart, charismatic, queer Latina. The fact that Marvel brought her from the comics to the MCU is really exciting. The fact that she is on the screen and is important to the story will make people feel seen in a way that they have never been. I am waiting for the day when this kind of representation is so normal in a way that we don't even think about it.
What is it like working with such a stellar cast? Were there any tips and tricks you learned watching them?
[I worked with] Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen and Benedict Wong. With Benedict, it was so cool to see his process and how much detail and thought he puts into his performance. I would say he is a perfectionist. I would tease him about being old and serious, but we're pretty much opposites and that's why it works. He could be lots of fun, too. We would do golf cart races and we did make a secret handshake.
With Elizabeth Olsen, this might sound stalker-like, but I did watch every move she made, especially in preparing for her scenes because she has such acting range that it's unbelievable. You got to see [her do] comedy, horror and drama. She can do it all so well. She is so cool and friendly. She is a beautiful cool lady who can transform into anything and [that] just blows my mind.
Being part of a Marvel project is a dream for any actor. When you got that phone call saying you received the part, what was that like for you?
I was in my bedroom, it was two days after I got back from the UK [after] doing my test. I was in my bedroom on the floor with my mom and my agent kind of like tricked me, saying, "I need to show you something on Zoom." So I fell for it, and once I logged in [the casting director] Sarah Finn was on the phone and she was like, "Hey Xochitl, are you sitting down? Because I have some big news for you." I was like, "Yeah." She said, "Welcome to the MCU. You're America Chavez." And I just sat there in disbelief, I was literally frozen. It took me a couple of weeks to process the news and go like, "Wow, I'm a part of this."
How did you prepare for your action scenes as America for the film?
I did lots of wushu prior to The Babysitter's Club, so I had that under my belt. During the audition process, when I found out I got a callback, I did kickbox training and Zen training for a month straight every other day. It was really intense, but I just felt it was really important for me to show up there and show them that I have the capability of being a superhero. Of course, once I got the role I did training daily, I did running and strengthening exercises. Then there is wire work and all of that. I had never done [wire work before,] so it was a fun experience. Overcoming my fear of heights was a big accomplishment for me.
When did you know you wanted to be a performer? When did you get your big break?
When I was five, my mom put me in musical theater class and I absolutely loved it. I was always in a show or rehearsing. I did it from [when I was] five to 12 years old, so I've done like 22 full-length musicals, which is pretty insane. I loved being on stage performing and bonding with the cast and all the excitement leading up to the show. I think it really gave me a passion for acting. Then I started doing commercials when I was ten, and that slowly led to co-star roles. Then I got The Babysitters' Club when I was 12 and I was so excited. I loved those books and I loved how the series turned out.
Your world changes when you're on the big screen. How do you deal with fame?
I do have a hard time doing press since I don't have too much experience in the press world, so I'm a little overwhelmed. I have supportive, fun people by my side and I will be drinking my tea to calm me down.
What are some things or activities that bring you joy when you're not on set?
I'm usually hanging out with my dog, or I'll be watching reality TV. That's something I'm embarrassed about, that I really do enjoy reality TV. I will be like, "This is trash. Xochitl, why are you watching?" And then I'm like 9 episodes deep, and I just can't stop!
Did your family always support your dream to act?
Yeah, always. My mom would drive me around L.A. for hours every day after school, taking me to auditions. Sometimes we would have like four or five a day, it was crazy. It was a couple of years of doing that, then I would have rehearsals at night for a musical I was doing. Eventually, she did have to quit her job because the auditions were so demanding, and yet she chose to support me. I would never be here if she didn't do all those things so I could follow my dream and I'm really happy that I have had her by my side.
How do your friends deal with your fame and seeing you on screen?
I think it's really important for me to have friends that I have known for a long time, way before I even got The Babysitter's Club because I know they are really here for me and not for my career or my fame. Having those really long-lasting friendships, especially when I'm filming, could be a little hard, so communication is a big thing for me. Just keeping in touch and always asking, "how was your day," that kind of thing.
What superpowers do you feel you have in real life?
Of course, getting over my fear of heights! I feel like my superpower is my personality. It's so happy and optimistic and resilient. Anything that shoots me down, I'm like, "Nah guys, I'm sorry, I'm bullet-proof, nothing can break down my happiness."
What challenges or struggles have you faced on your journey to success?
I had to switch from going to public school to independent study because it was hard to do school while having to be in Canada filming. I would be going to school and have to leave early to do auditions and the school would be like, "You can't be leaving like this." I had to transfer and do independent study and I feel it was one of the best decisions because I've done classes over the summer and I've moved ahead, it's been good for me while working so I have [fewer] classes to worry about and can focus on my acting. I had to sacrifice my friends in the process of that because some of them didn't understand that I was working.
What is your life like outside of the set with your loved ones?
I grew up in L.A. I lived in Hollywood until I was five and then we moved to Echo Park. I've gone to public school my entire life. I'm kind of like a normal kid, honestly! My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from here, so I grew up with a lot of Mexican influences because all the kids I played with and my babysitter was from Mexico. My parents speak Spanish at home, so I feel like I've lived in both worlds and that has shaped who I am as a person.
How have you evolved as an actress since you first started out?
When I was first starting out I did lots of student films, like 13. I got a lot of my experience from those student films. I look back at the short films I did and I'm really proud of them. I feel that got me to where I am now, to get Gentefied and The Babysitters' Club because it was hard for me to get roles [in] commercials and co-star roles because mainly you would have to be the younger version of an actor or the kid of a famous actor, and I didn't really look like any of the actors. I didn't have anyone that was a famous Latina that looked like me because I have indigenous features so it was a rough journey, but I feel that people were able to see my acting chops through my student films.
How do you deal with the stresses of this world and the pressures of fame?
At first, it's obviously stressful and I do have a little anxiety when it comes to it all, but what my agent actually said to me recently is, "Just take it day by day, and don't look at what's happening in the next week." It's focusing on the present, but the press is something I haven't experienced before and it's like going into the unknown. It's mainly trusting the people around me and knowing I'll be safe, and I'll have really fun people by my side and it's all going to be good.
With all the changes you're experiencing, how do keep life normal?
With The Babysitters Club, it was during the pandemic, and I had to wear a mask everywhere I went so I didn't really get recognized. I've been able to do all the fun stuff I like to do. I like to go thrift-store shopping, I like to go to the beach, to little restaurants and cafes and all that jazz, but I'm not really sure how being in a Marvel film will change that. I have noticed when I'm on the street I did get recognized once or twice and it's weird because I've never had that experience, taking photos with fans and just talking to them. They are kind of shocked when I talk to them, they don't expect me to talk to them.
Any message you want to send to other Latinas who may follow in your footsteps?
My overall message to everyone is [to] just be yourself, know your worth and follow your dreams, honestly. If you really want to pursue your dreams don't just sit around and talk about it, actually do it. Actions speak louder than words.