With “Glorious Purpose” under the belt, Loki is officially underway and the internet is already going crazy with theories and gobbling up the newest series from Marvel and Disney+. We caught up with the cast and producers behind the series to talk about Loki’s return in the show’s press conference. The group talked about Loki’s anticipated return after his tragic end at the beginning of Infinity War, joining the MCU as new actors, finding inspiration for the series, and attending Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki lectures to get the download on the character.
Loki is Back!
It seems ridiculous to imagine an MCU without Loki, a fan favorite since his first appearance in 2011 in Thor. The god of mischief and younger brother of Thor found his way into the hearts of millions as a mischievous scamp and an anti-hero. When Loki met his final end at the hands of Thanos, it really did feel like we were finally saying goodbye to Hiddleston’s beloved character. But with a tv show announced later in 2018, fans were given hope again.
Hiddleston himself responded to the news with delight and surprise, saying, “I was so excited by the idea. And also, I had to scratch my head of it because that scene in Avengers: Infinity War had felt so final. [It] had felt so conclusive as the end of Loki’s story. But I knew that Avengers: Endgame was coming around the corner, and, in that scene in that film, Loki picks up the Tesseract and disappears in a puff of smoke. And where does he go? When does he go? How does he get there? And Kevin [Feige], Louis D’Esposito, and Victoria Alonso all reassured me that that would be the starting point of the series. There were so many places we could go. So many possibilities to think about.”
Kevin Feige, who serves as the President of Marvel Studios, a producer on the dhow, and Marvel’s chief creative officer, was on hand to talk about the development for the series behind the scenes. “Tom, I think [he] did not know [about the show] when we shot Infinity War, but I think we did know it when we shot Endgame. What that meant and where that specifically would go, we didn’t know,” he said. “One of my favorite things coming out of Endgame was people saying that we forget to tie up the loose end of Loki. Loki just disappears and we forgot to mention what happens to him at the end of that movie. And, at that point, we did know that there was Disney+ coming and the show coming. It became very exciting to make people wait until we figured out what the show would be.”
Enter the Universe
For Hiddleston returning to the MCU is old hat, but for co-stars Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Wunmi Mosaku, it was a completely new experience. “It’s exciting to be a part of it. Just seeing the trailer start to come out and how excited people got. I talked about how I’ve worked on a lot of things. But the secrecy sort of surrounding this, I didn’t quite understand until I saw that,” Wilson said. “The fan base is so revved up and passionate. And Marvel’s just so committed to trying to surprise people. You kind of get into it.”
But entering the MCU comes at a price, specifically, you are now the holder of many secrets that people would go to lengths to find out. We already know about infamously loose-lipped Tom Holland, who was literally given a fake script of Infinity War because he couldn’t be trusted not to slip up, but what was it like to know about the events of Loki and have to keep them under wraps? “Well, you definitely are kind of walking on eggshells,” Wilson admitted. “‘Cause you’re not quite sure. Now, did this happen in episode three or four or one or have they already seen it? And so, I just tend to sort of fall back [when there’s] some very shocking things that are gonna happen.”
With Loki obviously having comic roots, some more diligent fans might have tried to find clues not only in the Time Variance Authority but also in Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer. However, unsurprisingly, this version is a bit different. “Luckily or unluckily for me, Kate [Herron] explained to me that this was sort of more of an origin story for Ravonna Renslayer. You know, predating some of the stuff in the comics,” Mbatha-Raw said. “But there was also the opportunity to feel like we were starting with something fresh with the TVA, that hadn’t been seen before by fans on screen. But there’s so much there that I feel like there’s plenty of potential for her in the future as well.”
For Wunmi Mosaku, her Hunter B-15 character, who is an original character for the show, came with no strings attached and that meant less pressure. “No one’s got any ideas of what they want her to be. I can [just] bring you who she is, and you have to accept it,” Mosaku said. “And I kind of like that because, [you do] feel a bit of pressure when you’re joining the MCU. It’s like, it’s the MCU. And being able to just have a clean slate and just do whatever I want to do with Kate, it’s just — it’s great. It’s fun.”
Inspiration from Fincher
For head writer and executive producer Michael Waldron and director and executive producer Kate Herron, inspiration for Loki came from unlikely places. Herron references finding inspiration from neo-noir films, “You can see that in our lighting and how we approached it.” Among the direct influences, both Herron and Waldron cited David Fincher films. Herron mentioned Se7en, saying that episode 2 has small references to the film. And Waldron mentioning Zodiac and Jonathan Demme‘s The Silence of the Lambs as other examples of films they were looking at within the writers’ room.
“The inspiration was Kate,” Feige added, praising Herron’s pitch for the show. “We knew we wanted to do a Tom Hiddleston Loki series. We knew we wanted to have time travel elements. Our producer, Stephen Broussard, and our other producer, Kevin Wright, and I were always fans of this Time Variance Authority organization from the comics for years and years. We’ve loved the idea of it. But [we] just didn’t know exactly what to do with it before Kevin and Stephen had the idea of putting it as a major part of this show. But it’s really Kate’s meetings with us and her pitch that brought in all those references and allowed us to look at this as a different genre than we were anticipating.”
Knowing that Loki would jump around through time also presented great opportunities in the writers’ room. “The opportunities for chaos and fun within that [time traveling element], it just seemed like it would be a great time as a writer,” Waldron explained. When it comes to deciding where Loki goes in history, Waldron said the goal was to stay away from the obvious. “We wanted to subvert those expectations and go to the places that maybe people knew but didn’t know well and [that] would just be exciting to see.”
And, as exciting as it is to see Loki jump through timelines, some posed ideas included Loki running Studio 54 or posing as Paul Revere, Feige said, “The time periods are almost [always] secondary to the story itself.”
What makes Loki unique for the character’s story is that this is the first time we see him completely on his own. Hiddleston described it as being stripped of everything that is familiar to him. “Thor is not close by. Asgard seems some distance away. The Avengers, for the time being, aren’t in sight. He’s stripped of his status and his power. If you take all those things that Loki has used to identify himself over the last six movies, what remains of Loki? Who is he within or outside all of those things? And I think those questions became, for all of us, really fascinating to ask. What makes Loki Loki? And, if there is something authentic or, something at the center of him. Is he capable of growth? Is he capable of change? Do his experiences within the TVA give him any insight into who he might be? This mercurial shapeshifter who never presents the same exterior twice.”
For Hiddleston, being able to find these new aspects of his character is a gift. “I think he’s a character of huge range. So it never feels like the same experience and particularly this time around, I mean I’m surrounded by these amazing people, truly. Like, it’s not something that is lost on me.”
Having gone to drama school at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art with Mbatha-Raw and Mosaku mean he wasn’t working with strangers, but Hiddleston became the expert when it came to the matter of Loki. Owen Wilson, in particular, who plays Agent Mobius, spends a lot of his time on-screen with Hiddleston. “Before we started filming, Tom very generously and patiently [took] me through the whole MCU mythology and Loki. We were calling them the Loki lecture, and [he let] me ask questions. I think that was really important and really helpful to our dynamic once we started filming the scenes because some of our conversations just when we were kind of going over that stuff would work its way in,” Wilson said.
“It was such an interesting time trying to compress the experience of my time in the MCU and six movies,” Hiddleston added. “Mobius is an expert in Loki. He knows more about Loki than Loki does. So I was trying to help Owen with some of my memories and about my experience. Owen asked such insightful, intelligent questions that made me rethink various aspects of the character. And I think our conversations found their way into the scenes themselves, which is really nice, and then in the interactions because they’re quite intense conversations.”
“We used to talk about it feeling a bit like a play,” Hiddleston reminisced. “Owen was like, ‘Does this, you know — this kind of feels a bit like a play?’ [So] I think maybe there was a germ of an idea that’s settled in Owen’s mind that a theatrical experience might be coming around the corner.”
“It [was] more than a germ of an idea, it was when you gave me six or seven plays to read,” Wilson joked. “It was sort of a chess match a little bit with Mobius and Loki. So it was just trying to stay on equal footing with the god of mischief. I sort of have to rely on this awesome weight of the TVA behind me, and that’s pretty formidable. And Loki is clearly playing catchup. So I thought that [those] scenes were fun to do.” Wilson went on to explain that those longer scenes between Mobius and Loki were the ones that began to feel more like a play, “I think that they have some tension and humor.”
“It’s great just to have Tom on hand, just as our sort of leader encyclopedia,” Mbatha-Raw said, though neither she nor Mosaku had the benefit of the Loki lectures.
“I missed all the Loki lectures,” Mosaku said. “I got a Marvel lecture from Kate from like Iron Man to the season finale with Loki, and how we all fit in.”
Hiddleston is one of the experts when it comes to Loki, having not only played him but also participated in all of the Thor films and two of the Avengers films. So, the idea of a Loki lecture wasn’t out of left field. It wasn’t just his fellow co-stars that got the benefit of his experience, but every department behind the scenes. “I think they were curious about so many different decisions that had been made by everybody who had been the inspiration for what had come before. So from Kenneth Branaugh and Alex Byrne and Bo Welch to Charlie Wen and Taika Waititi, and Joe and Anthony Russo, and all these people who contributed to Loki’s story.” Because a lot of the story involves not only Loki’s story in the present but Loki’s past, it was important to understand everything from a costume change to adaptations in choreography. to changes in Loki’s dramatic arc.
With one episode down and the questions sure to sprout up exponentially as the weeks pass, Loki is sure to be on everyone’s mind by the time it completes its episodic run!
Stream Loki on Disney+ exclusively on Wednesdays!