'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Star on Her Most Powerful Scene

Hannah John-Kamen Ant-Man and the Wasp Still - Photofest - H 2018
Hannah John-Kamen shares an unlikely moment with one of the film’s key figures: “that connection is really there.”

[This story contains spoilers for Ant-Man and The Wasp]

Hannah John-Kamen has been working with legends for the past year, starring in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One in March and sharing a surprisingly touching scene with a childhood hero in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

John-Kamen plays Ava, also known as the antagonist Ghost, who is looking for a cure to a disease caused in a scientific experiment gone wrong years earlier. When Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet Van Dyne returns from the Quantum Realm after being lost for 30 years, instead of fighting Ava, she attempts to assuage her pain. For the younger actor, that scene was a landmark moment, as she grew up watching Pfieffer's movies.

"She just gives so much. So much, that it was so easy to get there, to get to that place," she tells Heat Vision of shooting that moment. "And that connection is really there. There’s a roar in her eyes, in my eyes. It was just  kind of telepathic. It was definitely this presence that she carries when she comes on the set and when she's in the role."

John-Kamen worked hard to prepare for her stunt scenes, and though this was a quieter moment, this was one she was particularly nervous about.

"I actually literally felt like Michelle Pfeiffer had eased my pain and calmed me," she says. "It kind of mirrored what was happening in real life."

The star, whose SYFY show Killjoys debuted its fourth season last week, also spoke about being the first female villain of color in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the humor behind that memorable Ant-Man interrogation scene. Read the full conversation below.

How do you get in the mind-set of playing a character whose motivations are more in the gray area versus the standard black-and-white super “villainy” motivations?

I absolutely love her and I think as an actor, you have to like the character you're playing; you have to find the good. And whether it’s bad what they're doing, the motives have to be valid. And I read her character and I just instantly saw her vulnerability and the strengths as well, because she's in constant pain and kind of driving and striving through that, and that determination that she has. It's a real power move. And I love that. I love the juxtaposition that she has within herself and the comfort that she has within herself.

And yes, she's not a supervillain at all, she's definitely got a clear objective in the movie, she's got a clear goal in the movie, and it's out of sheer desperation in the movie that she needs to get it. And I think everyone's trying to get it, so I think it's kind of like who deserves to get it, really, is what it comes down to.

But to approach that role, I love playing a conflicted character. And I think that's the message of the movie as well, it's like what is good and evil? And even in Infinity War you have moments with Thanos where you kind of slightly sympathize with him and I think that's just so much more interesting as well and so beautifully written so the audience [can] see all the conflict. And it's not clear. Life isn't like that, life is gray.

The Ant-Man franchise in general, outside of having these unique characters, is also known for its humor. And can you speak a little bit about how was it on set playing that humor up, especially during the hilarious tie-up scene with Cassie Lang and the phone call?

The funny thing is, on set on the actual day, I didn't know what the ringtone was. So it would be [director Peyton Reed] shouting out, "OK, phone." It was OK to play it on the day, but then obviously watching the film and the hilarious quaky duck [sound] makes it that much more hilarious.  And that's just the common goal as well: of course there was this platform, this beautiful appreciation to go into Ghost's origins and story in the movie, but then it's like, "Well, it's Ant-Man and it's funny." And it's just playing with that push and pull of emotion, which just kind of goes all the way through film.  

Within the MCU, this film in particular hits some huge milestones with The Wasp being the first female superhero title in the film, and your character being the second female supervillain after Cate Blanchett's Hela. Ava is also the first female supervillain of color. In your words, how important is it to kick ass and show complexity as a woman of color in this superhero world?

I think it's so important. I think the MCU is a huge, huge place of many worlds and many, many characters and many stories. I mean, let's start with Black Panther: a beautiful, diverse cast, and wonderful world. It's kind of like, "Yes! more please, more. It's about time." I mean, the ratio of men to women superheroes, it's not equal. So I think definitely having more female characters can inspire kids as well. To have kids and people inspired by their favorite superhero [that’s a] woman of color, [that’s a] female. It's a very important thing. It's an inclusive thing, it's important, it's progressive. And I think onward and upward, please more.

Your career has been pretty consistent in the nerd space. Obviously with SYFY and Killjoys to Ready Player One, which a nostalgic nerd fest and now being in the MCU. What about the nerd space is inviting to you and makes you want to take more roles there?

I am a nerd. I love my comic books; I really did growing up. I love my imagination, I love escapism, I love fantasy, I love making up your own rules. That's always what's drawn me as a kind of fan to these movies, to these genres.

So yeah, it's so much fun. I mean, when you're playing a character, especially like Dutch in Killjoys and you're talking about [The Quad] system and “we're going to fly Lucy’s ship to Leith.” It's amazing, it's like who says that, who gets to do that? It's literally like you get to play in this whole new world. And same in the MCU, you get to play this whole new world. And with Ready Player One and with Black Mirror, we get to play in like this future, this kind of dystopian future. It's just wonderful and it's just kind of really bulks up your imagination.

But the thing is, I'm not excluding anything else. If an indie movie came about, I'd love to do that as well, absolutely. I just don't know where the wind's blowing me next. I take things in stride and I take things each step at a time. And at the moment, I'm still not even over the fact that I've worked with Spielberg, I'm still not even over the fact that my movies have come out this year, and I'm still not over the fact that I've just worked with Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Paul Rudd, Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne. It's a lot. But definitely kind of moving forward, I want to explore a lot more genres in my career.