Meet Xochitl Gomez, the 'Doctor Strange 2' teen making America great in the Marvel universe

Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

Xochitl Gomez kept her cool hanging out in a trailer on her first day filming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Then it fell apart when she got a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch in all his sorcerer glory, with the wig, mustache and Cloak of Levitation.

“It just really smacks you in the face: This is really happening,” Gomez says.

The 16-year-old actress, who starred in Netflix’s now-canceled “The Baby-Sitters Club,” makes her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as queer Latina superhero America Chavez in the “Strange” sequel (in theaters now). America has the ability to travel the multiverse, and when she’s hunted for those powers by a magical villain, she finds protection and a new ally in Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch).

Review:Benedict Cumberbatch's freaky 'Doctor Strange 2' loses its way in Marvel multiverse

Xochitl Gomez makes her Marvel superhero debut in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

The MCU version of America is 14, younger than her comic-book counterpart, so she’s “less experienced and more unsure, which is tricky because I still wanted to keep that confidence and sass,” says Gomez,  whose first name is pronounced "SO-chee," She also infused the role with her own “kid spirit,” a quality that comes through watching the actress’ dance-filled TikToks or the random moves she busts out wearing a Doctor Strange hat and Avengers T-shirt before a recent interview.

With moviegoers' eyes on the “Multiverse of Madness” this weekend, here are five things you need to know about Gomez.

Xochitl Gomez gets her on-set swagger from Mom

“Strange” co-star Elizabeth Olsen says Gomez fit into the Marvel world really fast. “If you cut her open, it would just be like pinks (and) glitter – amazing youth, but also a lot of strength. She really knows who she is as a person.” That was how Gomez’s mother always raised her, the teenager says. “Just be you, and if people don't like it, just walk away and find people who enjoy who you actually are.” Entering the MCU, it was “a lot of fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence for me because I was like, ‘OK, yeah, man. How are you?’ when really on the inside, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I'm talking to Benedict Cumberbatch. Whaaat?’"

'Family comes first':Benedict Cumberbatch talks 'Doctor Strange 2,' 'SNL' and his multiverse selves

America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) is hunted by a villain who wants her power to travel the multiverse in the new "Doctor Strange."

She once rocked a ‘Dora the Explorer’ haircut

Gomez was raised in Los Angeles, but never saw much young Latina representation onscreen, though she was a huge fan of Nickelodeon's "Dora the Explorer" and Selena Gomez on Disney Channel's “Wizards of Waverly Place.” “Thankfully, we've come a long way from what I saw when I was a kid 10 years ago,” Gomez says. That’s why she’s proud of America and ready to “grow with her in every aspect. I love that she is a leader and a problem solver, and she just happens to be lesbian.”

'Doctor Strange 2':How sequel brings horror, a rookie hero and extra 'Madness' to Marvel's multiverse

Xochitl Gomez has become a fixture at Marvel movie premieres, like for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Musical theater was one of her first loves

When Gomez was 5, her mom put her in musical theater – “She was like, ‘I can't take you to work. You gotta do something fun” – and her first role was as one of the mermaids in “The Little Mermaid.” By 12, she had performed in 22 musicals and was working in TV shows and commercials, so busily that her mom quit her job. The next year, Gomez was cast in “Baby-Sitters Club" and had her first Marvel audition for "Strange." America was supposed to be 18 in the film, but by the time of Gomez’s second audition, she was aged down to a 12-to-15-year-old. “I was like, ‘OK, I think got a shot at this one,’” Gomez says, laughing.

She knows how to deal with haters

Some Marvel fans took issue with Gomez's casting, and the fact her skin was lighter than the America in the comics. Gomez was also a target for trolls when the film was banned in Saudi Arabia for including an LGBTQ character with two moms. Gomez is “really happy” that Marvel didn't back down and stayed true to the character. As for the negative comments, she tries to be careful on social media: “I’m all about positivity and creativity (but) sometimes I can't ignore that completely.  I’m grateful to have very supportive fans that are so much louder and more enthusiastic than haters. And it's really important, since I do have a really big young following to show them that things happen and it's better to stay strong and continue and move forward.”

Spoilers! The 5 most shocking moments in 'Doctor Strange 2 (including end-credits scenes)

Xochitl Gomez is already thinking about her heroine’s next step

With America leading the Young Avengers in the comics, she has several paths forward in the Marvel film universe. Gomez thinks it’d be “really fun” to see her character opposite Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop from “Hawkeye,” and she’s excited to see her fellow rookie heroines in the Disney+ shows “Ms. Marvel” and “Ironheart.” More diversity and inclusion is needed in the MCU but so are stories about young people, she says: “People underestimate what teens go through and how much they have to grow up so fast. That was also why it was so important to show that youthfulness of America. I didn't want her to be very serious. Remember, she is a kid.”

Youngsters on screen:Hollywood is ignoring tween girls. Here's why that needs to change.