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[This interview contains spoilers for Loki‘s season finale.]
When Kate Herron joined Loki as director, she knew she had an ace or two up her sleeve that would forever alter the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. And in “For All Time. Always.” — the now season finale — Loki showed all its cards by revealing Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains, a variant of Marvel supervillain Kang the Conqueror, who set the events in motion that would open up the multiverse. Since the character of Kang is a key player throughout phase four of the MCU, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and his team, along with Herron, knew exactly what was at stake with this particular casting.
“Casting was a very surreal experience. When I joined the project, we always knew that Loki and Sylvie were going to go to He Who Remains, and the multiverse would be released,” Herron tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I already knew when I got the job that it was going to be a massive undertaking to do that and a big responsibility for Marvel to get it right. And Jonathan Majors is an actor that we were all just blown away by; I think everyone who knows his work is blown away by him. And when I knew we had Jonathan, he and I were solely focused on He Who Remains and this version of the character, this variant.”
At last December’s Disney Investor Day, Feige confirmed earlier reports that Majors would play Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But since Majors ultimately appeared first in Loki, Herron further clarified the timing of his casting.
“[The Quantumania casting] happened at the same time,” Herron shares. “So basically, [Ant-Man director] Peyton [Reed] and I were in that discussion with Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel. We knew he was gonna be in [Quantumania], and we knew that a version of him was going to be in [Loki].”
As Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie’s (Sophia Di Martino) doomed love story culminated in a passionate kiss, the latter repositioned Loki so she could grab He Who Remains’ futuristic TemPad and send the God of Mischief back to the TVA. Despite Sylvie’s guile, Herron still considers her side of the kiss to be authentic.
“Sylvie is sort of where our Loki was in Thor. She’s driven by revenge, pain and anger, and that’s what he’s saying to her,” Herron explains. “He’s like, ‘I’ve been where you are, and I just want you to be OK. You’re not going to get what you want.’ But on her journey of self-healing, she’s not where he is. So she’s not going to see it that way. So there was a sense that she was turning to get the TemPad, but I don’t think it meant the kiss wasn’t genuine. In my head, it was always a horrible goodbye, really, but the feelings were real.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Herron also discusses her own shocking goodbye to Loki following the surprise season-two announcement. She then offers her take on the final scene and the subsequent questions she hopes are answered in season two.
Brava, Kate. Loki season one was top-tier MCU as far as I’m concerned.
Thank you so much. I love Marvel, and I was just so excited to have a chance to direct for them. It’s been so nice to see everyone enjoying it.
In a complete tonal shift, Friday morning’s news about you not returning for season two makes this victory lap rather bittersweet. After one of Marvel Studios’ best pieces of storytelling, you’d think that getting the band back together would be automatic. So what else can you say about this?
I would say that when I joined Loki, it was always going to be those six episodes. We were treating it like a movie, and we were running it like a movie. We weren’t doing it in the showrunner system. So it was a lot to direct these six episodes, and I gave it all of my energy and everything I had in my soul and in my heart. I threw everything I loved about Marvel at it. So I always intended just to do these six. And it was such a massive compliment and a delight that as we got much later into production, Marvel and Disney were like, “Ah, man. This is excellent, and we want to keep going.” So I just feel like my part is done, but I’m really excited to see where it’s going to go next. So I gave it all that I have, and it came from a place of love. I really enjoyed working on it, and I hope to work with Marvel again in the future. They changed my life, and I just love Marvel as I’m sure people can tell from the amount of Easter eggs and references I did throughout it. But I just feel like I’ve done my part with Loki, at least for now, and I’m excited to see where it goes next as a fan.
Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains. How did this go down from casting to filming?
Ah, so casting was a very surreal experience. When I joined the project, we always knew that Loki and Sylvie were going to go to He Who Remains, and the multiverse would be released. So I already knew when I got the job that it was going to be a massive undertaking to do that and a big responsibility for Marvel to get it right. So when we were casting, it was basically me, Kevin R. Wright, my co-executive producer, Kevin [Feige], Lou [D’Esposito], Victoria [Alonso] and Peyton [Reed]. So we were all just talking about actors, and the amazing thing about Kevin Feige is that he’s so collaborative. He wants everyone at the table to have a voice, and he wants to see what they think and how that fits into his plans for the character. And Jonathan Majors is an actor that we were all just blown away by; I think everyone who knows his work is blown away by him. He’s an amazing actor, and the thing that I love about him is that he’s this chameleon. He’s so different in everything he does, and that’s exciting, obviously, when you’re asking an actor to play a character who’s going to have a lot of different versions of himself. So for us, that was a thrill. And when I knew we had Jonathan, he and I were solely focused on He Who Remains and this version of the character, this variant. It was just fun digging into him. We have this character who’s so lonely and isolated, and the only character he probably interacted with is Miss Minutes, which is what we imply. At the beginning, you see that he’s surrounded by all this noise in the universe, but he’s quiet and he’s alone. So how introverted or extraverted is a character like that? What makes that personality? So it was really fun digging into it with him.
So even though Jonathan’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania casting was announced first, your team technically cast him first, right?
[The Quantumania casting] happened at the same time. So basically, Peyton [Reed] and I were in that discussion with Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel. We knew he was gonna be in [Quantumania], and we knew that a version of him was going to be in [Loki].
So once a big movie or show is finally released, fans like to comb through trailers for any unused footage. So was that “King Loki” moment supposed to be a quick insert for when Loki is tempted with a throne by Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) and He Who Remains?
So that moment wasn’t actually King Loki. It was just meant to be a memory from our Loki’s past. It was basically going to be in episode one because we had a lot of memories in that episode. But it was honestly a tonal thing. The scene was actually quite a funny scene, and it was really beautifully written. But he was about to see his mother die, and it didn’t feel right to have something so comical next to a gut-wrenching moment like that. So it’s just the nature of making any film, really. Unfortunately, you sometimes have to kill your darlings. (Laughs.)
Did He Who Remains put a Time Twister on the edge of his desk, or a TemPad? Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) called it a TemPad even though it looked like a Time Twister.
(Laughs.) I love weaponry and technology so I’m just like, “The fun thing with this is…” So basically, it’s meant to be a futuristic version of the TVA tech. So that was the fun idea of it. When He Who Remains tells his story about his other variants meeting, you see bits of the TVA technology. So our idea was that it does both things. With the TVA technology, you see that the Time Twister hooks into the TemPad, but it’s these two separate, clunky things. But whereas with He Who Remains, he has more advanced technology than the TVA So it has both functions, basically, which we see him use. The difference is that he’s in control of the twist; it’s twisting him. Whereas when we see the TVA use the Time Twister, it’s with a Time Collar as they’re controlling a prisoner.
As Loki and Sylvie kissed, she repositioned him so she could grab the futuristic TemPad and eject him back to the TVA. So do you consider the kiss to be genuine on Sylvie’s part despite her calculation during it?
Honestly, the way I always read that kiss is that her feelings were genuine and that it was a goodbye. Sylvie is sort of where our Loki was in Thor. She’s driven by revenge, pain and anger, and that’s what he’s saying to her. He’s like, “I’ve been where you are, and I just want you to be OK. You’re not going to get what you want.” But she’s not there yet. On her journey of self-healing, she’s not where he is. So she’s not going to see it that way. So there was a sense that she was turning to get the TemPad, but I don’t think it meant the kiss wasn’t genuine. In my head, it was always a horrible goodbye, really, but the feelings were real.
Since the TVA resides outside of time, what can you say about the mechanics of the final scene?
So the way I see it in my head is that the TVA exists outside of space and time, but reality and everything as we understood it has completely changed in the last few minutes. With the multiverse branching, how do we know the TVA still exists in that way? We don’t know, and I suppose that’s a big question that will be answered as the show goes on. But in my head, the intention is that Sylvie thinks she’s sending him back to the TVA, but because of the way time and branches are crossing each other outside the window, Loki has unfortunately been sent back somewhere very different. So reality has shifted just by the nature of what He Who Remains said, and the idea is that he’s in this alternate TVA now.
We have to wrap, but is Eugene Cordero’s Casey OK? He went missing after episode two.
(Laughs.) Yes, Casey is fine! I love Casey, and I hope there will be more Casey to be enjoyed.
Well, congratulations once again, Kate. And if you do return to the MCU someday, please make a Miss Minutes slasher movie since she’s utterly terrifying.
(Laughs.) I would love to! That would actually be my dream.
Loki season one is now streaming on Disney+.
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