Loki introduces us to a strange world filled with equally strange new characters, but one of the most mysterious and intriguing so far is the Time Variance Authority’s Judge Ravonna Renslayer, played by Doctor Who and Fast Color’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw. While Ravonna’s name might be familiar to Marvel Comics diehards, Mbatha-Raw’s character is anything but, and io9 got to chat with Mbatha-Raw all about that and more on the Disney+ Marvel series.
“It’s been amazing and really refreshing, I think—I’ve never done anything like this before and even though this is the MCU, the Time Variance Authority is really a departure from any sort of MCU look or feel we’ve seen before,” Mbatha-Raw recently told io9 over Zoom. “I really loved the fact it was a familiar sort of character with Loki, but then also a really unfamiliar world.” To find out more about her time on Loki and diving deep into some obscure corners of Marvel’s comic book history, check out our full interview with Mbatha-Raw below!
James Whitbrook, io9: Who is Ravonna Renslayer to you?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Well, for me, we really approached this as an origin story for Renslayer, predating a lot of what we see in the comics, so that was kind of liberating, in a way. It felt fresh. And also, talking to Kate Herron, our director, about her backstory and about her later in the series, she started off as a hunter, so she has a military background. She was a fighter and she sort of worked her way up to becoming a judge. So, she’s incredibly ambitious, she knows how to fit in and work the system, and she’s a high achiever and that was something I wanted to explore. But also, the public and private costs of that, I think, where we see her in her Judge persona or in the corridors of the TVA and she got to present that strong, high status. But then cutting to her in her office with her old friend, Mobius, and we’re a little bit more relaxed. A little bit more open and a sense of humor—that public, private cost of being a woman in power. She’s still a human being. She’s sort of complex and has to make a lot of morally difficult choices.
io9: Owen Wilson’s an actor you spend a lot of time with early on in Loki. What was that relationship like on set, and how do you think Renslayer sees Mobius?
Mbatha-Raw: It was so much fun. Owen is such a great actor. He’s got great comic timing, he’s very good with improv ... and I think there’s a sort of wit and charisma to him and Mobius that really tries to ruffle Renslayer’s feathers, a bit, in terms of getting her to loosen up and get his way with Loki. So, it was a really fun dynamic and we actually shot a lot of the scenes in my office all in one week when we came back from a five-month hiatus because of the pandemic. So, it was like from nought to 100, having to do all these scenes with Mobius. But it was really fun to chart the development of their relationship and also know that it’s based on great mutual respect and regard for each other.
io9: What do you hope fans who know Renslayer as this comics entity take away from your version of her?
Mbatha-Raw: Well, I hope people will be drawn into that world—the TVA—and just sort of understand how epic in its scale it is. In terms of Renslayer’s world, and the ideas and the concept of free will and the sacred timeline and how things are meant to be, she’s someone indoctrinated with the Time Keeper’s ideology that there is one way things can happen. That’s interesting and definitely gets challenged with the chaos that Loki brings, so I hope people will be excited to see her—and though we see her behind the dais and the desk, she does get to get out there and escape and get some action for herself, as well. She’s cool.
io9: What can you tell us about Renslayer’s journey and relationship with Loki as the season progresses?
Mbatha-Raw: Well, initially, she has no time for him whatsoever. He’s just another variant that happens. In that case, she stacks loads of paperwork—stack loads of cases every day—Loki’s nothing special as far as she’s concerned. That’s instantly a fun premise because obviously, audiences are sort of cheering for Loki, knowing him so well, and she’s very dismissive of him and doesn’t trust him, and really doesn’t think he’s worth Mobius’s time to investigate. So that’s our fun way into it. Obviously, her assumptions and the way that she thinks about the whole structure of her world sort of shifts once he comes into it, which is interesting.
Loki is now streaming on Disney+.
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