For actress Yvette Monreal, being a part of a superhero universe was always a dream, but also something that felt far from becoming real this early in her career. As a kid, she remembers thinking how “badass” Halle Berry was playing Catwoman.
“I wanted to be like her and show off my claws,” Monreal told Remezcla during a recent interview. “As my career progressed, it crossed my mind, but I was always focused on the next step forward. But now, it’s happened!”
After small roles on MTV’s romantic comedy series Faking It, El Rey’s Matador, and starring opposite Sylvester Stallone in the 2019 sequel Rambo: Last Blood, Monreal landed a main role on DC’s Stargirl, a superhero TV series, which now airs on The CW.
Monreal plays Yolanda Montez, AKA Wildcat, a high school student and aspiring boxer, who becomes a superhero with catlike abilities and retractable, razor-sharp claws. “The star of the show is Stargirl, but the writers give us each our own little platform,” Monreal explained before continuing. “I feel like everyone can find a hero within the show that they can resonate with.”
Her role is especially noteworthy, of course, since Wildcat is a Latina superhero character. Monreal, who is half-Mexican and half-Chilean, is well aware of how rare it is for a Latina character to get screen time in a film or TV series produced by a major comic book company like DC and Marvel.
“I feel really honored to play one of the only Latina characters on network television,” she said. “I think Hollywood is taking a step in the right direction. I know there’s only a few of us out there.”
The lack of Latinx representation in the superhero genre, however, may have recently started changing for the better – and DC Comics seems to be leading the way. It started in February with the news that Sasha Calle was cast as Supergirl in the upcoming movie The Flash. A week later, Rachel Zegler joined the sequel Shazam: Fury of the Gods as one of the daughters of Greek God Atlas.
Then, this summer, Leslie Grace was tapped to play Batgirl for an upcoming HBO Max movie and Xolo Maridueña was announced as the title character in Blue Beetle. Marvel also joined in by casting Tenoch Huerta as an anti-hero in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
“I can’t wait to see more faces and more diverse directors,” Monreal said of the recent rise in Latine roles for upcoming superhero projects. “The world is so big. It’s something the youth can look up to moving forward. Being diverse is so important right now.”
Monreal hopes that her version of Wildcat lives up to what fans of the character came to love about her in the comics. While the superhero, who made her debut in 1985, doesn’t have as long of a history as other DC Comics characters like Catwoman (debuted in 1940) and Wonder Woman (debuted in 1941), Monreal was quick to find as much content as she could get her hands on when she was formally offered the role.
“Once I got the part, I ordered the old comic book issues, so I could really bring some of that into the character,” Monreal said before elaborating. “A character like Superman goes way back. There are so many references. So, I didn’t really have as much. In a way, it was a blessing because I could build her as my own character. I didn’t have anything that could influence me.”
Monreal also said the most important thing she wanted for her character was to make her feel real. The easiest way to do this was to play Yolanda Montez and Wildcat as versions of herself.
“I really wanted to ground the character and make her as relatable as possible,” she remarked. “The only way I could do that is by being myself and bringing my own experiences into this. I played myself and it worked, and they loved it.”
With the number of spin-offs that tend to emerge from superhero projects (think of a recent movie like DC’s Birds of Prey and the upcoming Peacemaker TV series), it’s not out of the question that Monreal’s Wildcat could find herself leading the way in her own movie sometime in the future.
“That’s the dream!” Monreal said. “I would love to do a feature film. It would be amazing to see her grow up and become a reporter and fight crime. I love being a part of [Stargirl], but that would definitely be my end goal.”
DC’s Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.