Eternals Actress Lia McHugh On The Future Of Sprite And How The Film Changed The MCU [Interview]

Whatever your experience was of director Chloé Zhao's superhero epic "Eternals" when it was released in theaters late last year, if you're a die hard Marvel Studios fan, you certainly owe it to yourself to give it another spin on home video. With the film now available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD, it's the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in one of Marvel's wildest, most sprawling epics yet. 

As a reminder of how great the film's cast is, we got a chance to have an exclusive chat with actress Lia McHugh ("The Lodge," "Songbird") about her mischievous character, Sprite. McHugh talks about how Sprite's particular power base would make her a perfect foil for Tom Hiddleston's Loki, how the film opened fans' minds to what the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do, and talked about the surreal experience of seeing herself as a Happy Meal toy.

"Eternals" also stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. You can read our own review of the film here.

'I had a lot of similarities with Sprite.'

Like the rest of the cast, you have to play your character as if they'd lived for centuries, but Sprite is perpetually stuck in the body of a young girl, which is a similar predicament to Kirsten Dunst in "Interview With a Vampire." How did you research or even wrap your head around having to project lived-in wisdom beyond not only someone your age, but any age?

First of all, I came into it feeling I had a lot of similarities with Sprite. I've looked very young for my age my entire life, and felt sort of stuck in looking young but feeling a lot older. I've been working my whole life, and I have a different level of maturity than my peers. So, I have sort of struggled with that and I think Chloé saw that a lot in me. She even says in interviews that I'm a lot like my character, which is what made me really good for this role. She also mentioned Judi Dench, a sort of cranky old lady, tired of life almost. A lot of it is just discussion with Chloé, understanding the character to get a really good grip on her and then perfecting little moments as they came during shooting.

This is something that actors like Hugh Jackman had to deal with when he's playing Wolverine, or Chris Hemsworth when he plays Thor. These characters have been around and they can't quite act like everyday people.

It's also unlimited knowledge. We're at such a higher level than humans, and I think "Eternals" is cool because it shows that — if you think about it — we know every single language ever created, we've gone through every single history and time period. My costume was interesting, too, because there was a lot of discussion about what my character should wear, because she's gone through all of this life experience and she's chosen a time period that she likes.

I know you're a very fashion-conscious person. What did you appreciate most about Sammy Differ's costumes for Sprite and what they projected about the character?

I think it showed she was 13. I still looked like I was before teenage years. It's like a kid but also an adult, she's got a bit of a refined fashion taste, as well. She's not quite old enough to dress like a woman, I would look silly, right? She's chosen a sophisticated, unique look unto herself.

'Marvel's capable of doing so many different things.'

One thing I found very interesting about "Eternals" was how much it split critics and engendered a lot of debate about not only "Eternals" itself, but what fans have come to expect from Marvel's series of movies and shows. How do you think "Eternals" changed the MCU for the better?

I think it opened minds a little bit. There's endless things about how we're different from any other Marvel movie, but when I watched it ... I saw it once before the premiere, but it wasn't totally finished yet, but when I saw it at premiere, it was just completely different. I think that's exciting for fans. I think fans have seen that Marvel's capable of doing so many different things, not just what they're used to. They're showing that now with the TV shows they're making and the content they're releasing that's different than what they've been doing before.

One of the best aspects of a home video release is it gives fans a chance to dig deeper into what is — in this case, a very complex movie with a lot of character arcs and background. It's actually the same length as "Dune." What do you think audiences who have already seen the film should look out for when experiencing it for a second time?

Sometimes when you're at home, you're on your phone and you're not really paying attention. I always try my best to pay total attention during movies, I think it's really important to do that. To find the little moments in there. Little eye contact moments, or little details here and there, and that's Chloé's brilliance coming through. I think that's what she's so good at, is the little things that you catch or the little words that are said. Every time you watch it, you experience something different as well. You get a perspective from another Eternal, or it makes you think of, "Oh, I wonder what they were doing back then?" It also gives ideas for possibilities for the future.

'Can I get 30 Happy Meal toys and the box?'

I actually got a Happy Meal for my daughter not too long ago that had your character as the toy. How surreal is it to be in billions of boxes of hamburgers across the country?

I try not to think about it, to be honest with you. It's just like too much to understand and comprehend. We went to McDonald's and my mother was like, "Can I get 30 Happy Meal toys and the box, but no burger. I don't want the food." She just wanted the box with my face on it and my Happy Meal toy. She got like 30 of them, and she's giving them to all of our friends. We were keeping a few, all my siblings had one. I'm just like, I don't even know. I don't know what to do in these situations of having my face on everything. It's crazy!

I would have loved to have heard how your mom explained that to the drive-through person. Like, "I'm not crazy. It's my daughter. She's in the box."

There's a video on my Instagram. I posted my Happy Meal, and then if you scroll a slide, we go to the window and the lady's like, "You want what? You're in the movie?" I was like, "Yeah," and she's like, "Well, I haven't seen that."

You must have been prepared for how much "Eternals" might have changed your life and the awareness of you as an actor. What has surprised you the most about the actual experience since the movie came out?

In the town that I live in, people talk and whatever. Everyone's kind of figured out that I live near nearby and people find me ... not interesting, but they think I'm this crazy cool celebrity. And I'm really not. I don't get it. I don't get why everyone's so interested and talking about it a lot, you know? It's weird to be known, and it's funny the things people assume about you, too, just because you were in the movie. People think I fly to Hollywood and go to parties and meet all these celebrities. No, I'm still a normal person. I mean, I've done a few cool things, but I'm just a normal person.

'Loki is a bit like that, too.'

Spoilers for "Eternals" ahead.

To get into the ending, Sersi uses her power to transform Sprite into a human, which would finally allow her to grow. Did the filmmakers discuss that as being a pragmatic thing, given that you are naturally going to age up and they presumably want you to keep playing the character?

It was definitely good for me that I became human so I wouldn't be recast! I'm very glad that happened. I don't know much about how they discussed it or how they decided to do that, but I think it was the perfect thing to happen to the character. It was a really cool ending for that movie, but also a really cool beginning for possible futures.

What do you think a Sprite who is no longer a bonafide Eternal still has to offer in the world of superheroics?

We don't know that. I don't know if that's true. I think she is going to be very excited to live as a human. I think she's going to relish her life. There's a lot of regular humans out there in the MCU. [Kat Dennings' character] Darcy [Lewis], she's very prominent in it and she's just a human and she helps out a lot. Black Widow is just a human, right?

But they haven't lived for 7,000 years.

That's very true! I think she's gonna maybe be a little excited and go a little crazy experiencing things that she hasn't before.

Some of the Eternals' powers have echoes to other characters in the Marvel Universe. Sprite's power base has a lot of similarities to Loki, so do you think it's inevitable that she will eventually have a run-in with the God of Mischief?

I hope so. I love Tom Hiddleston and I love the character Loki. I think they both have funny personalities. Sprite's a little sarcastic, and Loki is a bit like that, too. I think they would. Not only their powers, but their personalities together would be cool to see.

"Eternals" is now available on home video and streaming on Disney+.