3:15 pm EDT, August 18, 2017

Exclusive: Melanie Minichino on Anya Corazon, being passionate and STEM in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’

Marvel’s Spider-Man premieres Saturday, August 19 on Disney XD. We got to chat with Melanie Minichino about what to expect from her character, Anya Corazon.

Spider-Man is no stranger to the big and small screen. But one thing that really sets Marvel’s Spider-Man apart from its predecessors is the introduction of Anya Corazon — aka Spider-Girl. This is her animated debut, and the incredible Melanie Minichino is bringing her to life in the series.

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I had the opportunity to chat to Minichino ahead of the series and discuss everything how Anya will shake up the Spider-verse to her being a role model for girls interested in science.

Introducing: Anya Corazon

When I asked Minichino about how she went about researching and preparing for taking on the role of Anya Corazon, especially as she’ll be pioneering the character, she spoke about how excited she was to be the first.

“It’s like I get to kind of create her,” Minichino said. “I did some research about Anya in the comics and what her history was. How she evolved and her background. It informed a lot of her. She’s really tough, and she’s strong and competitive, so I was able to take that.”

Working with that kind of clean slate seemed to be more exciting than daunting for Minichino. “I think that that was an advantage for me, because I didn’t really have anything else to reference,” she said. “Which sometimes can help, but can also maybe trip you up a little bit, in like, ‘Well that person did it like this, so maybe I should do it like this, or…’ I got to really do what I wanted to do.”

But it wasn’t just Anya Corazon’s background from the comics that had an influence on how she took shape, but also Minichino’s own life growing up.

“My Mom’s Puerto Rican and from the Bronx, and my father’s Italian. It was a very fiery household,” Minichino said. “Everyone is super passionate about everything. And so, Anya is really passionate about science. She takes it really seriously.”

“I could totally draw from that passion because in our household, even if we’re just talking about the dinner on the table, it seems like we’re all kind of yelling at each other. Because, you know, everyone’s really passionate.”

That passion, however, wasn’t the only shared personality trait between Minichino and Anya. Their work ethic is also incredibly similar. “When I’m serious and working on something, don’t come in here and try and mess me up, or don’t show up late,” she said. “Peter is late a lot, and she’s like, ‘Don’t be tryin’ to mess me up over here.’ She wants him to be on point, just like her.”

Taking names, kicking ass

Anya Corazon’s passion doesn’t just stop at just science — she throws herself straight into the action in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and is more than capable of holding her own.

“Because she is one of the top students at Horizon [High], and she has so much knowledge about science, in tense situations she can think on her feet,” Minichino said. “She comes up with solutions really fast that can back Peter up when he needs help.”

But don’t think that Anya waits until she gets powers to help Team Spider-Man — she’s not resting on her laurels, as Minichino assured us. “What I love is that she’s so strong. When they need her, even if she doesn’t have a superpower, she’s there to defend immediately and she’s not afraid.”

She continued, “She’s not like, ‘Oh, I need Spider-Man.’ She idolizes him, but she holds her own.”

Of course, Anya isn’t the sole female representation in Marvel’s Spider-Man — Gwen Stacy (as voiced by Laura Bailey) is also a hugely important and influential character in the series as well.

“We have two really strong women in this series, it’s such a good example for young girls. To see these strong women being represented,” Minichino said. “It’s a really good example of what we need, especially in these times.”

Science is cool

The one thing that was immediately apparent watching the first two episodes — which Marvel and Disney were kind enough to provide screeners of — was how Marvel’s Spider-Man provided a gateway to science. Especially with characters like Anya Corazon.

“It makes [science] really accessible, and it makes it cool. I think it’s going to influence people in a very positive way,” Minichino said.

“I think in the series science is really cool. It’s not your typical, ‘You have to be a nerd to be into science.’ Anya’s a really cool chick that you’d want to hang out with,” she continued. “She also happens to be really smart and really dedicated to science.”

Not just support

Anya Corazon becoming a hero in her own right, however, poses an interesting situation for Peter and Spider-Man: He has a support system much earlier than we’d typically expect. Spider-Man is, usually, more of a solitary hero. So how is that going to shake things up?

“It’s really more towards the end of the season where it kind of happens. So we get to see a lot of just [Peter],” Minichino said. “But I think that having that support system is really key for him. He can actually, for once, have someone else pick up some of the slack, help him out and get things done.”

The implications of that support system go beyond just being a traditional hero — Anya does, after all, spend most of her time without powers.

“I think another part of having that support is a really good example that anyone can be a superhero, not just Spider-Man. And give kids, and people, the inspiration that anyone can be a superhero in their own way.”

That support, as well, works both ways. And though Anya and Peter are of a similar age and intellect, skewing the typical mentor and mentee relationship, there’ll be a lot of give on his side.

“She needs a veteran to show her the ropes,” Minichino said, “which is really nice because usually she’s giving Peter a little flack. Her relationship with Peter and Spider-Man is interesting because Peter’s always late to her science projects. She thinks he’s slacking.”

Anya still has Peter’s back, of course, but her interactions with Spider-Man are very different to those she has with Peter. “She’s all about [Spider-Man]. She’s kind of impressed with him. She’s following him on social media, she takes selfies with him.”

Minichino continued, “The relationships are really contrasting. So then, when she gets her powers and she needs help, she has to go to Peter for help. Which is usually the other way around, when they’re just Peter and Anya talking about science. So it’s just another dynamic of their relationship now, where she has to ask him for help.”

‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ premieres Saturday, August 19 on Disney XD

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