The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be 13 years, 27 films, and 5 TV shows deep but even Kevin Feige‘s billion-dollar franchise has its fair share of ‘firsts’ this late in the game. Case in point, this week’s episode of Hawkeye that gave Filipino audiences a Black Widow of their own. Yssa Mei Panganiban, appears as Sonya, a Black Widow working alongside Florence Pugh‘s Yelena Belova in a mission to save the remaining brainwashed Black Widow assailants in the world.
We got to speak to Panganiban about her experiences working on the set with directors Bert and Bertie, Florence Pugh, and what it’s like to be a Filipina in the MCU.
The works of directing duo Bert and Bertie have been unanimously praised by fans these past 3 episodes of Hawkeye, prompting some fans to rally behind the call to have the duo direct the next Spider-Man films. Panganiban had nothing but nice words to say about the duo, who made sure her first time on a Marvel set was a warm experience.
Everyone on set was so kind. They mentioned to me, “This is your first time? It’s not gonna be your last time for sure.” They were so sweet because at the time, I had no credits on IMDB but they just said, “That doesn’t matter to us.” The fact that Marvel took so many green artists onboard for Hawkeye was unbelievable. They were super kind enough to bring me on.
Florence Pugh makes up most of Episode 5’s memorable moments, sharing the screen with not only lead Hailee Steinfeld but also Panganiban herself. The two share a very intense fight scene with another Black Widow named Anna yet filming that sequence with Pugh was anything but, according to Panganiban.
She’s so kind. Yelena and Florence are kind of the same person in terms of their humor. It was really lovely working with her. She hyped me up the whole time. I let her know it was my first time on set. She was so supportive the entire time. When I wrapped, she had everyone clap for me. She was just the kindest soul.
Sonya is one of a handful of Filipino characters to appear in a speaking role in the MCU, with the most notable ones being Dave Batista‘s Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jacob Batalon‘s Need Leeds in the Spider-Man series. For Panganiban, she hopes for the role to resonate among her Filipinx peers who want to see more of themselves in the industry.
To give Sonya a voice has been so amazing. To be a Pinay Black Widow is so amazing. I hope Filipinos can go, “She has the same skin tone as me. I don’t have to whiten my skin.” I really just want people to feel seen. To feel like they can love themselves as they are. I think that’s the whole thing of being an actor and an artist.
Our interview can be watched below: