by Aaron Halls
Marvel’s Runaways felt as if it had gulped down a super-charged energy drink for its sophomore outing. It not only felt amped-up in energy, action, and character beats, as its teen protagonists faced their villainous parents, but felt much closer to its inspired comics by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.
One element that drew the Hulu series closer to its comic origins in Season 2 was introducing Xavin, a mysterious alien played by actress Clarissa Thibeaux. In the comics, Xavin is a character that first appears in Runaways vol. 2 #7 (2005), as a member of the green shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls. It’s revealed that Xavin has traveled to Earth in order to seek out Runaway Karolina Dean, who’s a member of the rainbow alien race called the Majesdanians; the two were placed in an arranged marriage by their parents and Xavin hopes to end the interspecies war between the two’s races.
Xavin slowly earns the trust of Karolina and the Runaways and soon becomes a core member of the team. In addition to shape-shifting, being a Super Skrull in training, Xavin has the powers of the Fantastic Four, which includes the abilities to turn invisible, stretch their body in many ways, pyrokinesis, and rock-like strength and toughness. Throughout their appearances in the Runaways comics Xavin has been seen shifting between a female and male form depending on the situation. They have gone on to be included in Runaways arcs by writers such as Joss Whedon and Terry Moore.
While not a Skrull in the show, Xavin has retained their core traits from the comics as seen in the character’s appearances in the final episodes of Season 2. Xavin has an unbreakable dedication to Karolina, which is now made complicated by the latter’s romance with fellow Runaway Nico Minoru; the character also retains their shape-shifting ability by being an Xartan, another shape-shifting race found in Marvel Comics.
The Beat recently had the opportunity to speak with Xavin actress Clarissa Thibeaux, in a phone interview, about the audition process, playing a shape-shifter, and eating doughnuts with ketchup in Marvel’s Runaways Season 2.
This interview contains key plot details for Season 2 of Marvel’s Runaways.
Halls: Marvel is a property it seems that everybody wants to be a part of now, and Runaways had such a successful first season which I assume has to make it an attractive television show for an actress or actor. Can you take me back to what it was like to audition for your character Xavin?
Thibeaux: Oh gosh! Okay. So, it was actually my first audition for the casting director Patrick Rush. I was really nervous anyway and definitely didn’t think I was going to get it. I kind of just was taking it as an opportunity to get to know the casting director, but then it was quick. I went in for the audition and [got] really good feedback – Patrick is such a lovely person. Then it was a couple days later I think, and I got the call that they wanted to test me.
So it went straight from initial auditions to chemistry read with some of the leads of the show, which was crazy and amazing; it was like nothing that’s ever happened in my life. But yeah, I went in to do the test and it all went really well, and everybody was so nice. Two of the leads hugged me as I left, and so did the director, and then Patrick hugged me, and I was like “That’s a good sign!”
Then it was waiting through the weekend. I had tested on a Thursday, I think, so I had to wait until that next Monday to find out if I got it, and I was just a wreck for the entire weekend. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat; I was just like “I need to know!” And then I found out that I got it on Monday, and it was really fast. It was great!
Halls: That’s amazing! What goes through your mind when you get this role?
Thibeaux: It was really surreal. It was actually my birthday that week, so I kept feeling like maybe I was dreaming and that this was some weird way of my mind giving me a birthday present. I had to keep reminding myself actually that I had gotten the role, because it was so hard for me to believe. I was going in and doing table reads with the whole cast.
I got to meet everybody in the show actually the day I found out I got the role; I went in that day in the afternoon for a table read for the episode that I was going to be in. I was starstruck every time I turned my head. It was all these people that I admired so much. It’s been wild, completely wild, and especially to play Xavin – such an iconic character. She’s so cool, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Halls: Were you familiar with the Runaways show or comic book before you landed the role?
Thibeaux: So, I haven’t read a lot of comic books; of course I know about Marvel and I go to watch the movies, but I had kind of heard about the show already, and I had heard that it was based off of a comic book. When I first went in I didn’t know what the show was cause it’s all kept very, very, secret. Once I found out what the show was I went and looked it all up. I looked at Xavin and saw her whole character arc and all the awesome things she can do, and just how interesting of character she was, and that she was a shape-shifter. There [was] so many things of like “Oh my god, I’m going to get to do that! That’s so cool!”
Halls: Among fans of the Runaways comics Xavin is considered, as you said, an [iconic] character. People love the character’s relationship with Karolina. Did you feel any pressure in bringing the character to life? And what was it like working with actress Virginia Gardner [who plays Karolina] since [your characters] have a pretty big relationship?
Thibeaux: It definitely was a lot of pressure, but I found out how big of a character she was just from looking her up. I immediately went and grabbed the comics and tried to see exactly how she acted in different situations, just to see exactly what her vibe was, and of course worked with everybody there too. I know a lot of people have said that they liked my portrayal – I’m hoping I do justice to her, because she deserves it.
Working with Ginny – she’s really fun. She’s so lovely. Everybody in the cast is so welcoming; it’s like joining a big family. [Virginia’s] a great scene partner. She’s very, very, easy to work with. I’m excited to see, as long as Season 3 gets picked up, how our relationship evolves.
Halls: So, as you mentioned, Xavin has this awesome little ability to shape-shift. How did you guys film these scenes? Were you able to work with any other of the cast members that were playing your character?
Thibeaux: It was interesting because it was almost as if I would do a pass at it first and then [another cast member] – I know Lyrica [Okano] [who plays Nico Minoru] plays me in one scene – she would do a pass at it and then I’d kind of go back and forth. She was able to watch me [and] I was able to watch her. Same thing with Ariela [Barer], who plays Gert; we did the same kind of thing. She came up to me and she’s like “Do the lines with me. Let me watch you do it!”
It is interesting playing a shape-shifter, and working with so many people who are essentially replicating you replicating them. It’s kind of like Inception!
Halls: In the comics Xavin has been seen shape-shifting in a female form and a male form and some fans have labeled the character as gender-fluid. In a potential Season 3 would you want to explore this element of the character?
Thibeaux: I think it is [a] very important aspect of Xavin; I would love to explore that further. Of course I don’t know what’s going to be written, but I think Xavin definitely deserves the they/them pronouns because s/he is more than just confined by our gender labels. S/he is an alien outside this universe, so I think that’s something very interesting to explore.
Halls: In general did you have any favorite aspects in terms of playing your character and working on the show?
Thibeaux: I loved being able to almost be this weird force for disruption if that makes any sense; with Nico and Karolina and their relationship and how strong and at sometimes turbulent it was in Season 2 – though I know some fans are not happy about it. It is a fun thing to kind of create that conflict and raise a few questions like “Who is Karolina going to choose?”
Halls: Yeah, all relationships need that little test I guess!
Thibeaux: Xavin loves Karolina to no bounds – almost completely. She has no strings attached. She’s just completely in love with her.
Halls: [In the season] there’s one scene where we see that Xavin is a pretty big fan of eating a doughnut with ketchup – a ketchup and doughnut combination. I was curious; did they actually make you eat [that]?
Thibeaux: Yes. Yes. When you’re filming they take it from so many different angles and they need a few shots of the same angle, so I ended up eating 14 donuts with ketchup, which I don’t recommend. I mean in the end, you know, ketchup is quite sweet, so it was a bit like having vinegary doughnuts for a while. It’s not great. I’m glad I made it look like it was delicious.
Halls: I’m not the biggest fan of ketchup personally so I was like “Ah man, I hope they didn’t make her eat it for real!”
Thibeaux: Yeah, I did eat it for real, but I mean it’s one of those things I’ll remember I think for the rest of my life.
Halls: As you mentioned earlier Runaways hasn’t officially been picked up for a Season 3. For you personally, what would you want to see for your character, or just in general, in a Season 3 scenario?
Thibeaux: I’d love to see Xavin really helping out the Runaways who are left in the house because I mean at the end of Season 2 it’s kind of like this haphazard group now. We’re all splintered. Everybody’s gone. I hope we can save Karolina, and Chase, and Chase’s mom from the other aliens – the Magistrates. I’d love to see for Xavin specifically her/him kind of learn how to blend in a little better, maybe just trying to act more human, as much as possible.
Halls: You did such a good job! They didn’t market your character at all [to keep their reveal a surprise] – so when you showed up it was this amazing moment.
Thibeaux: I’m so happy to hear that! I think she is really amazing and this season was so action packed that I’m really excited to see where Xavin fits in, in Season 3, and how they decide to tell the story.
You can catch Clarissa Thibeaux as Xavin in Marvel’s Runaways Season 2 which is now streaming on Hulu.