Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
We all know Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as the untrustworthy, yet charming and vulnerable spirited character in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The eponymous DisneyPlus series, LOKI, digs down deeper into this beloved character’s layers whilst trying to solve a time-traveling mystery. And what results is a super fun, hugely entertaining, wickedly inspired show that keeps us on our toes week to week.
The perfectly-pitched, mischievously clever story begins when the Time Variance Authority capture Loki and Judge Ravvona Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) sentences him to work with TVA detective Mobius (Owen Wilson). They’ve enlisted his help hunting down a variant who’s reeking chaos on the universe’s timeline and threatening to throw off order and balance.
At the virtual press conference, the cast and creators shared a bunch of anecdotes about what went into our new favorite series.
Tom Hiddleston wasn’t sure if he’d be back playing Loki ever again. Considering the last time we saw his character in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, he was very much dead. And when hearing he was wanted back, the affable actor said it was, “A combination of delight and surprise.” He continued, “I was so excited by the idea. That scene felt so final and conclusive as the end of Loki’s story. I knew that AVENGERS: ENDGAME was coming round the corner and in a scene in that film, Loki picks up a Tessaract and disappears in a puff of smoke. Where does he go? When does he go? How does he get there?” He was reassured by Marvel’s top brass that would be the series starting point. “There were so many places we could go. So many possibilities.”
Owen Wilson didn’t understand the level of secrecy of being in a Marvel project. He said it wasn’t until he checked into the fanbase. “[They’re] so revved up and passionate. Marvel is committed to surprising people, so then you get into it. You definitely are walking on eggshells, because you’re thinking, ‘Did this happen in episode 3, or 4, or 1?’”
Wunmi Mosaku was excited to create her character from scratch. Hunter B-15, a TVA authoritarian guard, is a brand new force of nature. She provides the muscles and knowledge, anticipating threats from captives like Loki. She loved being the authority. “No pressure because no one has any ideas of what they want her to be. Being able to have a clear slate and just do whatever I want to do is fun and free.”
LOKI pulls influence from SEVEN, ZODIAC and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Yes, you read that right. Series director Kate Herron explained, “Stylistically, me and my DP Autumn [Durald], we were really inspired by a lot of film noir. You can see that in our lighting. SEVEN is a very heavy influence. There’s a reference to it in Episode 2 with a needle-drop I’m sure fans will recognize instantly.” That referenced selection is a deep cut, Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 Air,” which plays as Loki is in the library researching case files. Head writer Michael Waldron added, “ZODIAC and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were two we were looking at a lot in the writer’s room.”
Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character is in the comics. Judge Ravvona Renslayer is certainly in the comics, however, the talented British actress says she approached it as an origin story. “Kate explained to me this pre-dates some of the stuff in the comics, so all that stuff is there, but there was the opportunity for us starting with something fresh with TVA that hadn’t been seen before by fans on screen. There’s plenty of potential for her in the future as well.”
Wunmi Mosaku didn’t know she was auditioning for LOKI. The HIS HOUSE actress said, “I had been given some sides for an audition and sent it into the ether and thought, ‘Well, this is top secret so it’s probably really important.’ Then I got a call in the middle of the night saying I’d been offered a part in LOKI. I was like, ‘When did I audition for LOKI?!’”
The writers didn’t want to use commonplace historical events or locations to mark time travel. Waldron elucidated, “We had a whiteboard in the writers room and said, ‘Where is the craziest, most expensive places we can shoot at?’ It was walking a line of being a show about Loki affecting historical events and everyone expects Loki riding with Paul Revere. That’s the lowest hanging fruit version of that. We wanted to subvert those expectations and go to places that maybe people knew but didn’t know well and it would be exciting to see. A lot of good ideas from the whole team. Kate was the one who had to figure out [if] we could make it look awesome.” Feige added further, “Early on, we did have the low-hanging fruit ideas that we had for a short film, going back almost a decade for Loki in the 70’s running a Studio 54. I think we had some concept art of him on a horse. Thankfully, thanks to Michael and Kate, the show became infinitely more interesting than that. The time periods are secondary to the story.”
Tom Hiddleston gave lectures on the MCU, termed “The Loki Lectures.” Wilson explained what that entailed. “Before we started filming, Tom, very generously and patiently, taking me through the whole MCU mythology, letting me ask questions. That was really important and helpful to our dynamic once we started filming the scenes. Some of our conversations going over that stuff would work their way in. Going to Loki School was really helpful.” Hiddleston concurred, saying he also found this shared time beneficial. “It was an interesting time trying to compress the experience my time in the MCU and 6 movies and Mobius is an expert in Loki. Owen asked such insightful, intelligent questions that made me re-think various aspects of the characters.” While Mosaku missed the lectures, she said, “I got some gossip though.”
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku went to school with Tom Hiddleston. Mosaku said, “I’ve known Tom and Gugu – we went to drama school together. I’ve known Tom since I was 18, my first year at RADA. It was still daunting, acting with your third year.” Mbatha-Raw called it a “RADA Reunion, or RADA mafia, as someone put it.” Mosuku continued, “Even though it was terrifying, the idea of joining the MCU, knowing I was going to walk into the room and have friends there.
Tom Hiddleston enjoyed asking new questions of his mischievous, mercurial character. He said, “What I love about the series is Loki is stripped of everything that’s familiar to him. He’s stripped of his status and power. If you take all those things that Loki has used to identify himself over the last 6 movies, what remains of him? Those questions were fascinating to ask. If there is something authentic 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 shape-shifter who never presents the same exterior twice? I hope the audience will get a kick out of where we take it.”
‘LOKI’ begins airing on Disney+ on June 9.