The Superhero Issue

Lashana Lynch doesn’t want to be the next James Bond. She’s thinking bigger.

“We’ve been focusing on James Bond for so long,” Lynch tells Inverse. “Who else is here?”

MGM

Lashana Lynch doesn’t remember the first time she saw a James Bond movie.

The 33-year-old London native is a good two decades younger than the franchise she joins in No Time to Die (now in theaters). And although 007 played a crucial role in her childhood, she struggles to recall the exact moment when she first laid eyes on Britain’s most famous spy.

“I’m adamant to use a higher percentage of my brain and just access those memories,” Lynch tells Inverse, as she tries to remember. “Those were really special father-daughter bonding moments.”

But Lynch does remember the first time she saw Casino Royale. It was 2006 when the Bond franchise hit the reset button — hard — with Daniel Craig assuming the role of a secret agent man with a license to kill. Lynch vividly recalls the gritty black-and-white opening scene: Craig’s Bond, on assignment, killing two men to earn his Double-O designation.

“Within years, she could be M.”

Shot in stylized white light and deep shadow, the scene remains an arresting statement of purpose: James Bond, who once rode jetpacks and fired laser guns in space, had modernized to suit the more brutal and morally ambiguous tenor of the times. That scene left a permanent impression on a generation of moviegoers, including Lynch.

“It made me appreciate the changes within the franchise that were happening,” says Lynch. It “made me excited as an actor. That first scene in Casino Royale is the most memorable opening scene in cinema history. I thought, ‘This is feeding my soul.’ It made me connect in a way I hadn’t before.”

15 years later, Lynch is 007. In No Time to Die, Lynch co-stars as “Nomi,” a young, skilled MI6 agent who replaces Craig’s retired Bond — and takes over his double-O alias. The first Black woman to earn this mythic license, Lynch’s role moves Bond forward, in defiance of the series’ history as an escapist vehicle for white masculinity and Western imperialism. What’s more, her presence means that, for the first time in recent memory, James Bond meets a woman who’s more than his match — and impervious to his powers of seduction.

Lashana Lynch at the world premiere of No Time to Die in London.Ian West - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

“Nomi is one of the first examples of a woman challenging Bond’s brain so far that he has to respond to her in a way that makes sense to who she is and where her power lies,” Lynch says. “She’s able to reel him in in a way he understands — and shut him down.”

Nomi’s 00 training has especially primed her to outwit Bond. “She’s studied him for so long, which I don’t think other characters have,” continues Lynch. “She knows how to push his buttons and reveal things in a way that puts him in a weaker position.”

In other words, adds Lynch, “she’s literally an agent of chaos.”

Nomi represents a shock to James Bond’s system. In a lengthy Inverse interview, Lynch elaborates on the character while discussing her time as Maria Rambeau in the 2019 film Captain Marvel, and what lies ahead for both franchises.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The 007 title is almost like a superhero identity, but James Bond doesn’t seem to care much for it. What reverence does Nomi have for the 007 designation, if any?

The reason Nomi sniffs at the idea of being a Double O is [that] there’s someone who has been the golden child for so long. She wants a slice of that. The conversations she’s had with M, how she can best be used within MI6 and not on the bench, [are] because she wanted to overthrow someone who has had [that preferential status] and isn’t even in the building anymore. All she needs to do is have the power so that one day she can be the next M. That’s a really great aim for someone like her. She probably thinks that, within years, she could be M.

When you first watched Casino Royale, did you ever imagine you’d factor into that world?

I hadn’t. This caught me by surprise. There are things you manifest in the world, but I hadn’t seen this coming. It was enough for me to dream big and manifest Marvel. For me to dare to manifest another franchise would have been beyond me. I’m really confident in things happening in my life. I hadn’t thought of that, but now it’s here. And here we are, talking.

We know little about Nomi beyond what’s in No Time to Die. What can you say about her? What don’t we know?

I know that she is vulnerable. She’s sometimes naive to how brutal being a Double O agent is. She’s confident, outspoken, and very much ready to lead the pack, but that comes with a cost. She’s a Black woman having to navigate MI6 in a way that no one else has. She wants to get things right so much [that] it’s to her detriment. Imagine her as a person who goes home and does her homework and doesn’t go out. She’s a workaholic. She’s real, [and] she deals with vulnerability and anxiety, which is important to discuss.

In No Time to Die, Lashana Lynch (left) stars as “Nomi,” the new Agent 007 after James Bond, played for the last time by Daniel Craig (right).MGM

Physically speaking, how did you prepare to become Nomi? What martial arts and firearms training did you undergo?

Everything, it felt like. Wushu, boxing, general core training to get the stamina I needed to do take after take. They trained me for everything under the sun. I feel like I'm trained for life.

We see in No Time to Die how both Nomi and James Bond operate as 007. How would you describe the differences in their approaches?

Nomi is a hard perfectionist. Bond enjoys playing with M and making M work harder to run MI6. Nomi enjoys the teacher-pupil dynamic, being the teacher’s pet: Always getting things right, [being] reliable. [She] isn’t chaotic in a way James Bond was. She’s the one ready to do things properly and make sure she is representing women — Black women — in the 00 program, so that more people like me will be recruited.

I think there's an incredible difference between the two of them. We don’t need another James Bond. We need someone else to contrast and to get the audience thinking about the rest of the Double O program. We’ve been focusing on James Bond for so long. Who else is here?

Why do you think Nomi is willing to be that teacher’s pet? What are her views on authority, specifically MI6 and service to the Crown?

I’ll be a bit diplomatic here. Whether Nomi is respectful of MI6, or if she questions it and her position as a woman in the Double O program, there’s no way you’re ever going to know. While she’s open, her personal views never come into play — which is nice, because I think it’s nice to have the same respect for Nomi as you would for James Bond.

They are not the same person. Even for me as an actor revealing what her stance is on things, I think we dive into an area that defeats the point of why she’s there. Her strength and vulnerability, her ability to be seen as a woman [with] a seat at the table, is something I would focus on more than any of her opinions.

Craig and Lynch, on the set of No Time to Die, in theaters now.MGM

James Bond is recognized as an avatar for white masculinity. He's a beloved character who is very flawed. In what ways do you think Nomi disrupts those 50 years of telling his story?

Her existence challenges filmmakers to rethink this archaic way of thinking that Black narratives don’t sell, which is something a lot of people are scared to talk about — and scared to admit. We can’t just have one Black Panther movie and say, “We did it! Now, let’s continue with white male narratives.” It makes no sense to me, and I would hate for my children to continue living in the world I grew up in.

It’s disrespectful to the point [that] it does silence so many communities. These are issues that were brought about by people who do not look like me, yet we are the ones having to discuss it in an interview like this, in order to make it make sense for the people in powerful positions.

There’s a lot of listening to do. I’m willing to be one of the people involved in shifts that have been happening since my foremothers and fathers created a foundation for me to even be in this industry. But I call for people to start listening and feeling no way about owning up to something they don’t know.

That really does bring about the representation of people who need it, so badly. It’s a new wave of radical, younger individuals ready to take power by the neck and make people listen. They are ready to stand on tables. I’m ready to stand there with them. I can’t have one Nomi in the cinema and no other Nomis for people to aspire to.

“We don’t need another James Bond.”

What conversations did you have with director Cary Joji Fukunaga about Nomi?

It was a collaborative effort. Cary, [producer] Barbara [Broccoli], [producer] Michael [G. Wilson], [writer] Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] were [all] focusing on different aspects of Nomi. I was absorbing all conversations and shaping them into something that made sense to what I wanted — and, selfishly, things I wanted to represent through other characters in my career but hadn’t been able to.

With Cary, I think he would agree we wanted to make someone who made sense to the person they cast. I didn't want to step into someone else’s creation. I wanted to make sure I had a hand in speaking on my Black experience and having people listen. And when I say “speak on my Black experience,” I mean not bashing anyone on the head at all, but subtle things that would make Black audiences shake their heads, exhale, feel empowered, feel ashamed, and just feel seen. They allowed me the space to show a Black experience without thrusting the idea that “Nomi is Black and we must remember that.” Because that would be the wrong way to go.

Can you point out a specific moment you’re referring to?

There’s one moment that’s spoiler-y. But I will take this opportunity to talk about something else: the costume department. It was important for me to celebrate the Black female figure in a way not all movies do. I had wonderful fittings with our costume designer, Suttirat Larlarb, who listened to me to make sure Nomi has curves. Her uniform isn’t a dude’s uniform. I’ve had conversations with fighter pilots before [for Captain Marvel], and they wear men’s suits they tailor for themselves.

In this dream world of James Bond, I wanted a uniform that caters to all figures. I wanted to make sure she has a waist, that she has a backside, so Black women can watch their body on screen and feel good about it. There are shots in the movie where my friends have been like, “I can really see your bum!” I’m like, “Good! You should!”

In 2019, Lashana Lynch co-starred in the Marvel blockbuster Captain Marvel as “Maria Rambeau,” a U.S. Air Force pilot who mothers the superhero character Monica, currently played by Teyonah Parris.Marvel Studios

No Time to Die is the most physical you've been in a feature film role. How would you compare your preparation for No Time to Die versus Captain Marvel? How different were the two movies for you?

Very different. I was so excited when I went into Marvel because I’ve been auditioning for so many years. When I realized [my character, Maria] was not going to be doing fights, I decided there was another role that would come where I would get to flex in that way. The green screen is similar, but the imagination you have to stretch is different.

Marvel is literally one of a kind; you’ve really got to see things that aren’t there. Sometimes tennis balls are people. Bond, even though it’s an extended version of the world, is still the real world. I felt like I was using my imagination in a way that could be very realistic. They’re similar in that they're both massive franchises, but there's something about James Bond that — just being a human on the ground fighting real people — is something in another life I could have done.

Speaking of Captain Marvel, there was a lot of buzz for WandaVision earlier this year. You have a cameo as a photograph on the wall. Have you seen the show?

As soon as it came out I binged it across two days. I was so intrigued to see what they were going to do with Monica. I enjoyed seeing [my] cameo. I did know it was coming in WandaVision, by the way. I was so excited that Teyonah Parris was cast [as Maria’s daughter, Monica] because I think she’s perfect for it. She's a brilliant actress and a wonderful human being. It’s exciting. As her [fictional] mother, I feel proud they’ve explored her in this way. The legacy of Maria is going to live forever in Monica.

Marvel is literally one of a kind, you really got to see things that aren’t there.

Your co-star Daniel Craig recently said he's disinterested in a woman or person of color as James Bond, and would rather see a new character. What would you want to see? Would you want a reimagined James Bond or a new character?

There’s a lot to it, this conversation. When there was the conversation of a Black man taking on James Bond, all I think of, all I see, is “Black man.” All the criticisms and questions of “Will it be good enough?” would be aimed towards his race. And that is unfair.

If there is a shift and they make James Bond another race or sex, in my mind I would hope we just focus on the character. But we know the world we live in. That’s not going to happen. We’re gonna compare and contrast. And the actor that takes it on is going to have to go through so much. They already take on so much being James Bond, and that added layer is so unhelpful.

I think the conversation is brilliant because it means the world is ready for more and asking for more. But what I think is important is that all of the films that have been shelved because no one wants to finance them can now [share] their light. You can bring in a character that’s been shelved and put them in the James Bond franchise. Nomi could have been from somewhere else. I think the two [ideas] can co-exist. The fact they are also calling for Black and brown people to take over roles instead of having spaces carved out for themselves is also unfair.

Lynch and Craig, in No Time to Die.MGM

Do you know what Nomi’s future as 007 is on the big screen?

I honestly don’t know. It would be nice to hear the audience feel passionate about seeing her again. You get so attached to these roles, Nomi is like my best friend now. She’s my pal. It would be nice, but I think the franchise is just focusing on getting this movie out, and being present to Nomi being in it.

How about more Maria Rambeau in the MCU?

Oh my gosh. Kevin Feige? Hello? Are you out there? I think it is powerful to have a Rambeau who is grown up and getting to tell her story. I think that is powerful enough.

The Inverse Superhero Issue challenges the most dominant idea in our culture today.

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