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‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Team Talks Diversity: ‘Modern Heroes for a Modern World’

Brian Tyree Henry wasn’t so sure about being cast as a father in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

At just 36, the “Atlanta” actor said he didn’t think he was old enough, but when he found out he would be rearing Miles Morales, Marvel’s only black, Latino Spider-Man, he decided to forgo any insecurities he had about his age and jump at the opportunity. For Henry, and the rest of the cast and crew behind the film, Morales represented a new type of superhero: a young man of color who could show kids that anyone can be a superhero.

“I think that by them making this movie… and making it completely a representation of the world we live in and the families that are right next door to us, it’s so important because for some kids this is going to be their first vision of spider-man,” Henry told Variety during Saturday’s premiere at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood. “They’re opening up the imaginations of people to let them know that anything is possible.”

In the film, Morales (Shameik Moore) takes on the Spider-Man mantle after being bitten by a radioactive spider, forcing the young Brooklynite to come to terms with his new powers while battling a group of super villains intent on creating inter-dimensional travel. During the film’s run, Morales also teams up with a host of new Spider-Heroes from different dimensions, the likes of which include a black-and-white noir Spider-Man (Nicholas Cage), an older, chubbier Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), a futuristic Japanese Spider-Woman (Kimiko Glenn), a cartoon Spider-Pig (John Mulaney) and the love-interest-turned-hero Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld).

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Like Morales, each spider-character also stems from an actual comic series, and director Bob Persichetti said it was important to highlight all of their stories in order to better reflect the actual diversity present in the real world. In between comic book explosions and actual comic book text — the film incorporates both hand drawn comic book flourishes and 3D computer graphics — Persichetti said the diverse cast of characters creates a more unique Spider-Man story that embraces both female superheroes and superheroes of color.

“It’s a version of Spider-Man that is just representative of what it’s like in 2018 America or the world,” he said. “There’s diversity everywhere, and New York’s the place where it started for America.”

Tom Rothman, Post Malone. Tom Rothman, Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, and Post Malone during the Red Carpet Premiere of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" at Regency Village Theatre, in Los Angeles Premiere of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse", Los Angeles, USA - 01 Dec 2018

Kristine Belson, the president of Sony Pictures Animation, agreed with Perischetti, and said that diversity was at the forefront of the team’s mind from the very outset of the film’s production.

“It’s such an incredibly different Spider-Man because Miles is really, really different from Peter Parker. He’s just got a very different background; he’s got a different personality; he’s got a different family,” she told Variety. “Miles Morales and Spider Gwen are really awesome; they’re sort of modern heroes for a modern world.”

Like Belson, Johnson said he was also excited about the addition of Spider Gwen to the Marvel Universe’s latest film entry. After finding out he would be voicing Peter Parker for the film, Johnson said his daughters started calling themselves “Spider-Man-Girl” because they were so excited about the part. Now, following the release of the film, he said he’s glad they’ll finally have their own Spider-Man character to look up to.

“I think this movie is a real celebration of [Stan Lee], and a celebration of how Peter Parker at the core was an everyman,” Johnson told Variety. “This movie really felt about inclusion of everybody.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” hits theaters Dec. 14.

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