Marvel’s Echo actor, Katarina Ziervogel, is a ‘big sci-fi nerd’

While sitting in her sister’s sunny living room and fending off playful cats, big smiles come across Katarina Ziervogel’s face as she talks about all things related to video games.

“I could talk about [video games] forever,” says Ziervogel, while speaking American Sign Language and interpreter Cindy Boscow translates. “I love to play The Legend of Zelda, right now I just finished Tears of the Kingdom.”

Ziervogel says she is a fan of other game franchises such as World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed and Stray. Her name has been making headlines recently for her role as Taloa, the mother of Maya Lopez – better known as her superhero alter ego Echo in the new Marvel miniseries Echo, streaming on Disney+.

Both of those characters are deaf and Indigenous and are played by actors who share those identities.

Ziervogel is a member of Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and says she’s Mohawk, Ojibwe, and German. The 27-year-old was born in Edmonton and moved to Winnipeg as a pre-teen.

She says long before her acting debut in Echo, Indigenous representation in the media was already an important part of her life thanks to her mother and step-father, Kim and Jordan Wheeler, who also work in the industry.

“I think they have shown me a lot of Indigenous representation in their work,” says Ziervogel, “being both deaf and Indigenous, and having both of those representations started my journey on it.”

A strong start to her career

She attended Toronto Metropolitan University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Media Production in 2021.

“I actually started working with Eagle Vision and they gave me my first internship in the industry and … basically my whole career started at that point,” says Ziervogel.

She’s since worked on multiple projects and even co-wrote her first feature film, Finality of Dusk, which came out last year and was directed by award-winning Indigenous director Madison Thomas.

It focuses on a post-apocalyptic world where the lead characters Ishkode, Ojibwe, and Niife, Nigerian, don’t speak the same language and communicate through body language to escape a deaf antagonist. Ziervogel says one of her goals is to work in a writer’s room.

“I love to work with other writers, just be in that creative process together,” says Ziervogel.

She wants to write for a TV show, a graphic novel, or any other type of media as long as it has a science fiction hook “…because I love the sci-fi genre, it’s one of my favourites – it’s just really fun to think about what could be in the future.”

Ziervogel says she’s always had a knack for writing, but acting in-front of the camera was out of her comfort zone. She says the working on Echo taught her not to be afraid to try new things.

“It was an amazing opportunity because I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about that process and I gained a huge respect [for the job] because it’s certainly not easy,” says Ziervogel.

Ziervogel says she got into the movies and comic books in high school. Daredevil is her favourite Marvel character.

She says that while watching the Daredevil series on Netflix years ago, she imagined how Echo’s character would be introduced on the show – but the series was cancelled before that happened.

“A few years later here we are and now Daredevil’s in this show, right? I don’t think I could have ever envisioned that happening, and having me involved either,” says Ziervogel.

‘We all have different parts’ 

Accessibility measures on the set of Echo meant that there was an easy transition to being on-screen.

“I think that, you know, having interpreters in the industry has been paramount for me,” says Ziervogel, “Even thinking about when I worked on the set for Echo, they had lights in my dressing room so somebody would hit a doorbell but it would flash a light, so I would know if somebody was coming in.

“So, I think actually they gave a great example of providing accessibility. Even the cast and the crew all learned some sign language.”

She says she was “really quite nervous” before filming began for the series, and was worried she “would be out of place” in such a big production.

“But once I got there, I saw so much of the crew being Indigenous, deaf crew as well, and just how they were able to create a sense of a welcoming … feeling. I felt included.”

“That really helped to [get rid of] a lot of those apprehensions because I am part of both of those communities, right?”

Though she hasn’t had a lot of experience being on other film sets, Ziervogel says she thinks it would be quite hard working on one that didn’t keep accessibility in mind.

“I think it would feel very isolating, right? Because you would have to do everything kind of on your own and [advocate] for your own needs … I think that would be very challenging,”

Being deaf and Indigenous are important parts of Ziervogel’s identity, but she says she’d like people to know that she’s “more than just that.”

“Like, the fact that I’m a big sci-fi nerd, I love to play video games, I love reading, I love being in nature, going camping, and that’s a huge part of who I am too,” says Ziervogel.

“To really get to know who I am, those are all really important parts and all different areas that you should know. Instead of just thinking as, you know, we’re all kind of the same. It’s kind of hard to explain, but we all have different parts.”

Ziervogel is working on new projects but says she can’t share the details yet.

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