Like many around her, British TV director Kate Herron has been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for the last decade, but more importantly, she is a bigger fan of fan favourite villain turned anti-hero, Loki, so when the Sex Education screenwriter heard that Disney/Marvel Studios was looking for directors for the then upcoming Disney+ series starring the God of Mischief, she put together a proposal and pitched her way to the big chair.
And while she had a plan, it didn’t mean that she knew everything about Loki, so she was first to sign up for star Tom Hiddleston’s School of Loki, where she worked closely with the British actor to further define the God in Phase 4 of the MCU. And after that, she encouraged the 40-year-old star to do the same with the crew of the show.
“We had this amazing walk around New York where we spoke about the character, and I remember that we both were really excited about the same idea about identity, and he’s this wealth of Loki knowledge,” revealed Herron during a roundtable video interview with Geek Culture.
“I remember saying to him ‘You should talk to the crew about this’ and he was like, ‘Oh, okay’.”
Recalled Herron, “The idea of that between us both just evolved into what I always call the ‘Loki Lecture’ and as a fan, it was very exciting because he was talking about his experiences across the last 10 years. His acting choices like how he thought Loki felt in each moment had an effect across all the departments, it sparked ideas for everyone. He’s been an amazing creative force.”
And with the second episode making its debut this week, the subject of identity will play an even larger role, especially since the show has identified who Loki and the Time Variance Authority (TVA) are hunting down across time and space.
“Our show is about identity – the grey area that I think Loki exists very comfortably in that space. And we never know if he’s going to be good or if he’s going to be bad. And I think a question for me at the core of the show was really is anyone truly good or truly bad? And are we all just in that grey area?,” raised Herron.
“This isn’t the Loki that’s had this amazing journey across the MCU in the last 10 years. This is the Loki from Avengers and I think the exciting thing for me was that we’re going to take this Loki from Avengers who’s like the height of his villainy and put him into this whole new environment. You know, he’s not going to be arrested and go to Asgard and go down that path that he was supposed to. So will he be the same? Will he have a similar journey or won’t he?”
With six more episodes soon to air, Herron is less tight-lipped to talk about the latest Marvel series to follow Jac Schaeffer’s WandaVision and Malcolm Spellman’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and is ready to unleash her own mischief having learnt a trick or two from the God of Mischief.
In the series, fans follow Loki and his new found frenemy, Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) on a journey across time and space to catch a Loki variant who has been wreaking havoc across the sacred timeline. The two are a joy to watch, and according to Herron, the dynamic was naturally created on set between the two actors, especially with Hiddleston giving Wilson a more intense course from his ‘School of Loki’ masterclass.
“Owen did the Loki lecture school with Tom, which was great because he’s meant to be obviously a Loki expert, and so Tom basically did the same talk that he did for the crew for Owen,” shared Herron. “Beyond that, we just did a lot of rehearsal and I went through the scripts with the actors, it was almost like filming a play.”
It also helped that both acting veterans loved bringing their own personalities to the characters, and would improvise on set.
“To be honest, sometimes he would improvise stuff because that’s Owen, but the joy of it was that Tom has been playing Loki for over a decade so he very quickly could improvise something back in character so I think that was the real fun of it. I think the interesting thing is that Tom is like a classically trained Shakespeare actor whereas Owen is like this indie darling and did a lot of comedy films. I think bringing those two very different backgrounds and personalities together, they’re very different, right so I think that makes a great chemistry on screen.”
A day on set of Loki for Herron, was a peek into the brain of Hiddleston who’s played the same character across the last 10 years. The director assures that there were no creative differences or spat and was in fact, more than happy to learn more about the character via Hiddleston too. As for putting her own stamp on the show, Herron wanted to rope in as many sci-fi elements into the series, to give it a unique touch so as to avoid the typical ‘superhero’ genre aesthetics. After all, Loki isn’t a superhero so he needed something to set himself apart. The director also wanted Loki to be a big love letter to sci-fi, and set her way to establishing so via the TVA.
“In terms of the aesthetics, I just wanted the show to be like this big love letter to sci-fi so I stole from everyone – Blade Runner, Alien, and the book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I think it’s just because we’re going to this really interesting place, right that it’s outside of time and space. It’s not in the past and it’s not in the future so I was like, ‘Okay, how do I show the history?” because it’s almost like this vaguest office space in the sense that there isn’t day, there isn’t night and I definitely pulled from the comics a lot, because they have these amazing images of rows of desks going off into the infinite and you see that in the first episode,” expressed the director in a geeky manner.
“I didn’t really want it to feel super futuristic. I thought it was more interesting that, you know, pulling from these different areas like the brutalist architecture, where I think really complements the timekeepers because they’re these Gods looking over the TVA, whereas the Midwest style is very heroic and very classy and I thought that was quite fun to represent, the heroism of the TVA.”
Loki recently premiered its first episode on 9 June, and with Marvel fans being Marvel fans, fan theories have been dominating social media. Unable to resist her curiosity, Herron admits to reading the theories, though wouldn’t want to comment on any of them, nor pick out a favourite.
“I don’t think I could say but I definitely read them, and I really like reading them! The fans of the MCU are so smart and it’s really fun seeing some of the stuff they notice in it that I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, like, that’s really interesting’ and almost some stuff [are things that] maybe the creative team hadn’t thought about in that way,” chuckled Herron.
“But I mean, I always like that, because like I said, we can present one version of the story and everyone brings their own unique experience to it. And I think that’s kind of the sweet stuff, right? Like seeing how everyone connects with it in different ways.”
Loki is currently streaming on Disney+ and releases new episodes every Wednesday.