Watch: Gugu Mbatha-Raw shares what she can about the future of Loki
The first hour-long episode of Loki was packed with more shocks and surprises than an average Agatha Christie story, and that hit rate is set to continue throughout every episode says Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
"Every episode comes with a surprise, or something exciting, or jaw-droppingly unexpected," she tells Yahoo Entertainment UK. "In every episode there's something new."
The first time we meet Mbatha-Raw's Ravonna Renslayer in the MCU’s latest Disney+ offering, she is in her element.
A high-ranking Judge in the Time Variance Authority – an organisation that protects the flow of time in the Sacred Timeline – it’s her humongous courtroom that Tom Hiddleston’s titular trickster strides into early on in the series premiere. He’s used to getting his way, but he’s in for a rude awakening.
It’s a scene that Gugu Mbatha-Raw was looking forward to shooting: “It was a few months into shooting that we actually shot that scene”, she tells Yahoo Movies UK, “so I had envisaged it and I'd seen the concept art and I’d seen the set. Getting to finally step behind that desk and literally look down on everyone was really fun!”
It was no doubt helpful that Mbatha-Raw had the perfect song to get in the right mindset for the character: “My Judge Renslayer theme song was ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ by the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, and Dave Stewart. I would play it in the mornings in my trailer, and I would just play it like on my earbuds on set, because there's sort of a sort of boss energy to that.”
When she’s not passing judgement on variants from a lofty perch in her courtroom Renslayer is in her office in the early episodes, and those scenes are shared with Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius.
From their conversations it’s clear the two have a history together that allows them to be more playful and frank with one another, despite Renslayer’s boss status: “Imagine one of your old friends that you're fond of, and now you're the one in charge… it's a fun dynamic because he can challenge her in a way and kind of get her to loosen up.”
Watch: Gugu Mbatha-Raw discusses her character's story
The chemistry between the actors is an early highlight, so surely Mbatha-Raw now has a perfect Wilson impression ready for use at a moment’s notice? “I don’t!”, she exclaims. “Renslayer is more of the straight woman to his charm, so I couldn’t fall into that.”
In the comics Renslayer has a long history that may ultimately make its way to the big screen – she is Kang the Conqueror’s lover on the page, and the villain is set to make his MCU debut in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – but Loki is somewhat of an origin story for the character. Before she was a judge, Renslayer was out in the field tracking down variants much like Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15.
So while she has risen up the ranks and now wears a different type of suit, we can expect to see those instincts put to good use later on in the season:
“I think in her muscle memory, there is definitely still that hunter energy”, says Mbatha-Raw. “She's very skilled, and she's elegant with her fighting style, so she doesn't need to be scrappy. She can be really precise and she doesn't waste her energy. There's usually lots of other hunters to do the dirty work, but when she does get in there, she's very specific and lethal.”
As for when we might be able to see that lethality up close, Mbatha-Raw teased that the later episodes are especially intense for Renslayer: “Things start to get really juicy around episode four and five.”
There’s a good chance that part of the reason for that will be because a certain Asgardian God is causing mischief. Loki and Renslayer don’t interact much in the early going, but there’s a good chance that will change sooner rather than later.
For Mbatha-Raw, there’s an added significance: while she and Hiddleston were at the same Drama school at the same time, they were in different years and so hadn’t gotten to act together. Until now.
“We walked the same corridors. We have the same acting tutors. But this is the first time really that we're having scenes together. So it's that sort of circle of life, I guess, of shared experience, which is really fun.”
New episodes of Loki stream every Wednesday on Disney+
Watch: Gugu looks at what's to come for Renslayer