Actress Kota Eberhardt Talks X-Men and Finding Acting

Meet the multi-hyphenate V-girl on the rise.

The first thing one notices in Dark Phoenix‘s promo imagery may be the presence of Selene. The vampiric villain, making her first appearance in the live-action X-Men universe this summer, is played by Kota Eberhardt, who, on a call from her Bushwick home, points us to another first for the franchise—a subtle call out to Indigenous culture.

“[My character’s tattoos] are indicative of Indigenous culture; I’m part Sioux,” Eberhardt says. “I like that they pay homage to that. Those tattoos are not an appropriation thing—they’re on someone of Indigenous blood. So, to me, it’s really super meaningful.”

Though Selene is a relatively deep cut even for well-versed Marvel fans, the character possesses an inventive range of pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, and body-snatching. “She has many names: the Black Queen, the Moon Goddess, Mistress of the Fire,” says Eberhardt. “She’s one of the most incredible underrated Mutants ever. She’s 17,000 years old, and considered to be secretly the most powerful. She has tons of physical attributes, and powers that make her super dynamic. I’m curious to see where [Selene] goes.”

An established model, Eberhardt may be most recognizable from her appearance in Pharrell’s “Happy” video. But modeling, let alone blockbuster drama, wasn’t always in the cards. Growing up in suburban Virginia, she lost her mother at 17 to addiction. Her single father then raised her, intent on scholarly pursuits. Eberhardt was a cardiovascular research student at Howard University when the camera came calling (literally—Bruce Weber discovered her while she was relaxing at Virginia Beach). “It’s a crazy journey,” she laughs. “When I found acting, and the ability to express myself, it made a lot of sense. I felt like why I was doing medicine was to make drugs that did good for the world. When I discovered that I could do the same thing in acting, that I could heal people—that by liberating myself in storytelling, I could liberate others—it was an amazing revelation for me.”

The next step for Eberhardt is to write her own films, enabling her to tell her full story. “I want to tell the story of my mother’s life,” she says. “I want to tell a story about reckless youthfulness, femininity, sexuality. What it means to be black in America or Native [in America]. Really big concepts.”

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