Sonya Balmores didn’t know what role she was auditioning for on casting day—all she knew was that it was Marvel and ABC and that she needed to act like a tough soldier. Now we know that Balmores portrays warrior woman Auran in ABC’s “Marvel’s Inhumans.” Auran is the Head of the Royal Guards on Attilan, the secret Inhuman city located on the Moon, whose existence is threatened by impending discovery by humans. Marvel fans may recognize the race of Inhumans as a story line from ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of Shield.”
“Marvel’s Inhumans” premiered on September 1st and is now showing in IMAX theaters. It will continue afterward on ABC starting September 29 to complete an eight-episode run. This is the first time a live-action TV series premiere has started in IMAX and Sonya Balmores is psyched to be a part of such a big project.
“You don’t even know how lucky I was to book this,” she exclaims. “I auditioned for five other TV pilots. And when I got a callback, you don’t think it’s real. My mind was blown; it was like my birthday. It was awesome.”
Not only was this Balmores’ chance to join the ABC/Marvel universe, but she got to travel to Hawaii for filming. “Everyone can agree Hawaii is pretty sweet,” she says, laughing. “One of the most interesting places we shot at was on Diamond Head. I’ve been to Diamond Head before but not this particular place, so that was cool.”
True to Marvel form, Balmores can’t tell me much more than, “It was at a secret place that cannot be mentioned but it’ll be in the show!” But she can admit one thing – “About the Marvel universe, I learned anything can happen. That’s really fun for audiences. I don’t think you’ll be able to guess!”
It also hasn’t been revealed whether in the TV series, Auran, like her comic book character, will have the same superpower ability, which allows her to choose a word and then hear and locate everywhere that word is being spoken.
“She’s super awesome. I’ll leave it at that,” laughs Balmores again, clearly having some fun with the weight of the secrets she gets to keep for Marvel. “It’s part of the story so I want to let people enjoy that – how she gets her powers or any of that superhero-ness.”
She does have plenty to say about how exciting it was to land the part and work with the rest of the “Marvel’s Inhumans” cast. “I had to hold back my fangirl, I had to be professional, but inside I was freaking out!”
This may have been Balmores’ first foray into the comic book universe, but she’s no stranger to the camera. One of her first public appearances was when she won the Miss Hawaii Teen USA title in 2004 and became first runner up in the national Miss Teen USA pageant. She modeled for some time before pursuing acting.
For Balmores, seeing actresses who were from a similar background as her, whether it was being Asian American or Hawaiian (or both!) helped her believe she could accomplish anything.
“Big shout out to the girls who came before me, because that inspired me and gave me hope that ‘Oh, I could do that,’ especially Kelly Hu and Maggie Q, who are from Hawaii. I grew up watching their careers. I don’t think I grew up with the idea that I can’t do that too.”
Half Filipino and a mix of Irish and Native American, Balmores, who was born in 1986, may be part of a new generation that is seeing Asian American talent begin to thrive in the entertainment industry. There are several shows running this fall that showcase Asian American female talent, including Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Chloe Bennet (Marvel’s Agents of Shield) and Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat).
“I’m assuming that my generation thinks like that now,” agrees Balmores. “We can make up our own stuff, do a YouTube show. We’re just really lucky to have that confidence, like ‘Yeah, we should be on screen, why not us?’”
That determination is exactly what we need from minority actors and actresses to help increase diversity in the industry. Not to say it’s not hard, confesses Balmores. “So many times I’ve gone home and cried, said ‘I’m gonna quit acting.’” But it’s good friends – sometimes saying “shut up, you’re awesome!” – and a supportive family, who motivate her and keep her focused.
Seems like Balmores and Auran have a lot in common. They may be fighting different battles, but at the end of the day, warrior women always win.