Chances are longtime television viewers will recognize many of the performers who play the villainous parents on Marvel’s new Hulu series, Runaways, from James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to Annie Wersching (24). But what about the series’ teenage heroes? A mix of newcomers and experienced talent, the six actors who bring to life Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), and Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin) should soon become well known as well.
Not only do the six young cast members of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Strange’s adaptation of the cult-favorite book created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona look almost precisely like their comic book counterparts, their ability to bring their respective characters to life is uncanny. More than finding someone who looks exactly like Alex or Gert, Savage remarks “it’s finding the actor that you think can embody the essential qualities of the character.” We caught up with the Runaways cast at the 2017 New York Comic Con to ask them about their characters and the prospect of leading one of Marvel’s most diverse superhero teams.
Although Alex is as much the leader of this Runaways team as he was in the comics, the show leans heavily on the fact that this is a female-majority group. This definitely sets the series apart from everything else that has come before it. What’s that been like?
Lyrica Okano: It’s much needed. I think this show is coming at a very good time. It brings me joy thinking that young girls — and young boys — can watch Runaways and see powerful teenagers going through the same stuff they are. Sure they have these superpowers, but they’re also learning how to trust each other, work together and achieve a similar goal. I think that’s awesome.
Allegra Acosta: I feel like, because it hasn’t been done before, there is a bit more responsibility with the storytelling. Because when there is less representation out there, it’s a little harder to present a flawed character because you can accidentally misrepresent an entire group. I think that was something I was worried about going into this, that it would turn into catfights between the girls and stuff like that. I can 100% tell you it is not like that. Everyone has been given such well-rounded, deeply human characters to work with. There are no shallow, unprompted catfights or anything like that. Everything is so warranted in the story.
Virginia Gardner: I think it’s exactly what we need right now. Like she said, it’s coming at a really great time. Hopefully, being on a show with a mostly female cast will help us inspire younger generations. It’s also such a diverse group that tries to represent those who need more representation right now. I think that’s really amazing. A lot of this show is about young people questioning authority, and I think that message is something we need right now, more than anything.
Ariela Barer: Also, what I love is that Josh and Stephanie created female characters who are extremely eloquent and intelligent, and who represent a really badass group of females who could take over the world when put together. It’s amazing, and, yes, there is some pressure with that because we’re portraying these specific comic book characters too. Plus, since me and Allegra are the first two Latina superheroes — not the first two Latina superheroes ever — it’s amazing to get the chance to represent this group without being the typical stereotype of the sassy, curvy girl. Instead, we’re an example of how strong, powerful, intelligent and passionate we can be.
Speaking of Josh and Stephanie, let’s talk about them. There’s obviously the Marvel connection to consider, but they bring a wealth of experience from shows like The O.C. and Gossip Girl to Runaways. What was it like to work with them?
Gregg Sulkin: They know what they’re doing, obviously. Their record speaks for itself. Why I love working for them is, they’re character first. They always focus on the characters, and thankfully for us, they put these excellently developed characters into the Marvel universe, with superheroes and supervillains doing battle in Los Angeles. With all of that, you get a really cool show. That’s what makes this so much fun for us, I think. We’re playing relatable teenagers, but at the same time, it’s Gossip Girl and The O.C. cast into the Marvel universe. It adds this special glossy darkness to the show that I don’t think any other Marvel property has.
Rhenzy Feliz: Marvel is in touch with the teenage aspect of it, so it’s cool to be the kids in the big boys and girls’ game. We get to come in and play around, but at the same time, it’s very grounded. It’s very rooted in relationships and their dynamics, but it’s still Marvel. We get to have fun. We get the action, we get the dinosaurs, we get the superpowers. But still, it’s all about the character relationships.
Acosta: You have this really amazing camaraderie in this group, its triumphs of victory, and its struggles with getting over the dilemmas that normal kids generally experience. Having Josh and Stephanie helped us make it all so grounded and relatable. We’re a really diverse cast of characters, and I think it’s really important that we represent that accurately. It’s also honest. The showrunners have an open door policy so we can communicate, so we can talk about our characters and what they’re going through. And since Josh and Stephanie know more about us now, they’re able to write more for our personalities.
Barer: Josh and Steph tend to elevate the genre of whatever show they do. They kind of revolutionize it, actually. So I think the next step was absolutely superheroes. Why not make these teenagers, who usually feel like everything they experience is life and death, really face life and death. Bring that whole new element to it and heighten it.
Gardner: Josh is such a nice guy, first of all. Plus, he and Stephanie are incredible showrunners because they’re so collaborative. They write for us. They listen to us if we have questions. They’re such great collaborators and I think that’s what sets them apart. They also capture nostalgia so well. They capture the attention of younger generations in such a great way that never feels like it’s too on the nose. It never feels like it’s been done before. Theirs is a really unique voice.
Okano: They truly care about the whole “what teenagers go through” theme. They also truly care for each and every one of us, as well as our characters. It’s really awesome working with them. We feel really safe in their hands.
Many of you have mentioned how “grounded” Runaways is. That being said, many of your characters literally have superpowers. What did that do, or not do, for you in terms of handling your characters?
Gardner: In person when we’re shooting it, there are dots all over my body. Tracking marks. Lights that are glued to me. I look insane when we’re shooting it. But it’s really cool to see the whole thing now. While we’re shooting it, people are like, “I promise it will look cool. I know you feel crazy now, but it’s going to be awesome.” Seeing the rainbow glowy light effect is something that I was like, “How the hell is that going to translate to a TV show?” But they do it. Victor [Scalise], the guy that does our visual effects, does an incredible job.
Okano: He does do an incredible job! It’s a lot of guessing and imagining and asking and praying and pleading on set, but it all works out.
Barer: I think it offers a heightened way of finding your sense of self with these characters. They’re a tangible thing to help the story along. These powers are an incredible storytelling device, but they also look really, really cool.
Acosta: Since I was little, I loved Marvel. I’ve always loved action movies because my dad and I were always geeks about it. Every time I see Spider-Man jump or another superhero use a power, I’d always envision myself doing the same. I always saw myself as Scarlet Witch every time she did her thing. I thought, “Oh my God, I want to do that one day.” You feel empowered by it, like something overcomes you — an energy that makes you feel amazing. And the way they’re doing the special effects… I’m so excited for everyone to see it. Old Lace looks great!
Barer: I know what you are talking about. It’s almost like, “We’re superheroes! We can take them.” And people would be like, “You are not superheroes. You will get beat up. You cannot do that.”
Acosta: I’m like, “Fight me.”
The first four episodes of Runaways are now available to stream on Hulu.