WARNING: This article contains MILD SPOILERS for Aquaman
Amber Heard was hesitant about playing Mera in Aquaman until she read the comics. Before she agreed to sign on to the DC adaptation, Heard had some reservations – not only because she was unfamiliar with the character, but with comic books in general.
Before Aquaman, Heard made her debut in the DCEU in Justice League during a cameo appearance. In the film, she meets Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) after a brief altercation with the villain Steppenwolf, and she and Arthur then reminisce about his mother, Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), who he believes abandoned him when he was a child. However, in Aquaman, Mera plays a much more prominent and pivotal role – not only in leading Arthur closer to reclaiming his royal title in Atlantis, but as a central character who sets much of the story in motion. As it so happens, though, Heard nearly passed on the role before she realized just how significant a part Mera actually played.
During an Aquaman junket interview with Screen Rant, Heard, who is known for starring in movies like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and Drive Angry, revealed that she nearly avoided taking on the role of Mera because she was “totally unfamiliar with this world and comic books, the whole superhero thing.” However, once she started reading the Aquaman comics, she had a change of heart. In fact, she was especially drawn to the character during a scene in which Mera is confronted by locals in a town that she and Aquaman had just finished saving. The townsperson asks if her name is Aquawoman, but Mera firmly declares that she has her own name, and this scene in particular attracted Heard to the character. She said:
“I kind of thought maybe they called the wrong actress. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ And when I opened the comic book and met her – where she lives – I realized why. It’s a strong, badass, kickass, fierce warrior superhero in her own right. You know? She is the driving force in the script- I mean, of the story. She’s the driving force of really making Aquaman Aquaman. She turns Arthur into Aquaman. And she figures everything out. She knows what is right, and she knows what is wrong, and she has willpower to execute it. And I love that about her.”
Heard also added to her enthusiasm about the role by calling out the importance of having strong female characters in movies – specifically in the superhero genre. Given that on-screen superheroes are predominantly male, save for the occasional exception, Heard was adamant that, “We need more female superheroes. We need more women in this world. We need more kickass, powerful women who do things, that have complexity, that have agency, who we can look up to and be engaged [with]; our daughters, sisters – our kids – can see a strong female. It’s about time.”
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken steps in offering strong, significant roles to women with characters like Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, and Hope van Dyne/Wasp, the DCEU was the first of the two comic book franchises to actually give a female superhero her own standalone film. The film was Wonder Woman, and the results spoke for themselves in terms of box office returns, critical success, and a string of broken records. Mera’s significant role in Aquaman is just one more example of how DC comic book adaptations are bringing female characters to the forefront and making gender disparity on screen a thing of the past.