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The tactician. The outsider. The golden child. The jock. The social justice warrior. The kid.
These are the simplest ways to describe the six young individuals at the heart of Marvel’s Runaways, the brand-new superhero drama hitting Hulu on Nov. 21, from The O.C. and Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage — but simple doesn’t cut it when it comes to defining these new teenage heroes.
Based on the comic books of the same name created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, Runaways tells the story of six kids forced to band together in light of a terrible realization. Every kid wrestles with the notion that their parents are the worst people in the world at some point or another; but for these six kids, it turns out their parents are actually the worst, or at least involved in some very dark dealings, as members of an apparent red-robed murder cult known as the Pride. After witnessing their parents perform a lethal act, the six teens embark on a journey to learn more about the Pride’s activities. It’s a tall order, considering that for the most part, these people aren’t friends — at least not anymore.
“A slight adjustment from the comics we’ve made is that they used to be friends,” Schwartz tells The Hollywood Reporter about the Runaways, “until the combination of high school and something terrible in their past drove them apart. Hopefully it creates some emotional stakes for them as a group.”
Before considering the Runaways as a group, let’s consider them as individuals. Read on for more details on each character, from the mouths of Schwartz and the six actors charged with bringing these beloved comic book characters to life.
1. Alex Wilder
Played by Rhenzy Feliz, Alex is the son of Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder (Ryan Sands and Angel Parker), and the one most desirous of rebuilding the friendships between the other Runaways, even before the dark realization about everyone’s parents. He’s the coolest head in the room when it comes to dealing with the Pride.
“Alex is the self-appointed leader of the group,” says Schwartz. “He’s the one in the first episode who’s the most driven to bring the group together again. He’s definitely more of the nerdier type, more of a loner, more tech-based. He gets all of the Star Wars references in the show.”
“He’s someone with a strong sense for right and wrong,” Feliz says about his character. “If that means having to go up against his parents, then that’s what that means. If it means going up against the entire world, that’s what he’s willing to do. He cares about people and he cares about life. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the gun. He’s going to do what’s right. When he’s faced with this dilemma of needing to stop his parents, he does anything and everything he possibly can to make sure that happens. As weak as he may feel and as small as they may all feel, he musters it out of all of them. He inspires them. He makes sure they’re going to do what’s right. That’s extremely admirable to me.”
2. Nico Minoru
“She’s the Wiccan Goth girl,” Schwartz says about Nico, played by Lyrica Okano. “She keeps everybody at arm’s length, but is hiding a very big heart. She doesn’t say much when we meet her.”
For her part, Okano has a lot to say about Nico, the daughter of business tycoons Tina and Robert Minoru (Brittany Ishibashi and James Yaegashi). All three members of the Minoru family are dealing with their own personal tragedy, one that fuels much of the action of the first season at least.
“Nico Minoru is a lot of things,” Okano says about what Nico represents. “She’s all of those kids out there who don’t feel like they fit in and they don’t know how to express how they’re feeling, so she hides all of that with her Gothic persona. She tries her hardest to push people away from her, but she has so many layers. She’s really vulnerable inside. She reminds me a lot of myself when I was a teenager. I didn’t know how to communicate how I was feeling to other people, so I would spend hours doing makeup. I think it’s so important to show that characters like Nico exist. She’s a Wiccan, and I think it’s rare we imagine a Wiccan to be Asian-American. There’s this whole tragic story behind her. It’s been such an honor being able to portray that.”
3. Karolina Dean
From the outside looking in, Karolina Dean, played by Virginia Gardner, looks like she has it all, including loving and accomplished parents in the form of Frank and Leslie Dean (Kip Pardue and Annie Wersching), high-level members of a religious group called the Church of Gibborim. On closer inspection? Maybe not so much.
“Karolina is an angelic, smiling, happy daughter of the charismatic leader of a church and a movement,” says Schwartz. “She’s the millennial face of that church, who seems like everything she does is perfect and everything she does is #blessed. She actually feels a lot more like a prisoner inside of her own family.”
In the comic book version of Runaways, Karolina is the only openly gay member of the initial group, which looks poised to stay intact for the series, based on what Gardner tells THR: “The character’s sexuality was something that stood out to me immediately and made me feel like it was an important role to play. It’s a group that needs representation. Being able to provide that, hopefully an up and coming generation of women and men will be able to look at Karolina and relate to her and maybe feel a little bit less alone.”
4. Chase Stein
“Chase is our jock,” says Schwartz, speaking about the heartthrob of the group, played by Gregg Sulkin. “On the surface, he seems like your classic lax bro. He’s smarter than he wants other people to know, and he’s hiding a darker family secret that he doesn’t want people to know.”
Some insight into that dark family secret: Chase is the son of Victor and Janet Stein (James Marsters and Ever Carradine), the former of whom stands out as “the douchiest” member of the Pride, in Marsters‘ own words. Victor is also perhaps the most committed to the Pride’s dark cause, which gives way to a deeply fraught relationship with Chase.
“Chase is a star lacrosse player who seems to be living a perfect life,” says Sulkin. “However, he’s dealing with issues at home which no one is aware of. When Chase finds out that the Pride isn’t who they say they are, he is conflicted as to whether the group should turn them in to the police, or to try and see the good in his father and perhaps protect him.”
5. Gert Yorkes
“Gert is our self-effacing, sarcastic social justice warrior, looking to take down the patriarchy — which is very fitting in today’s times.”
That’s how Schwartz describes the purple-haired teen, played by Ariela Barer, which the actress herself completely backs up: “Gert’s a total badass in every sense of the word. She’s relatable, she’s smart and funny and quick, and also a little mean — but only with good reason! She’s flawed, but finding power in all of that.”
Each member of the Runaways grapples with different issues in different ways, and for Gert, that means wrestling with anxiety. For her part, Barer hopes the character will help toward a larger social effort of “removing stigma from mental illness, and showing that people with mental illnesses are just as capable as people without.”
“This is going to sound so cheesy,” she says, “but even though Gert has anxiety, anxiety doesn’t have her.”
Here’s another thing Gert has: a dinosaur. Eventually, anyway. More on that in the not-too-distant future.
6. Molly Hernandez
The final member of the Runaways is also the one who is most changed from her original comic book incarnation: Molly Hernandez, played by Allegra Acosta. In the comics, she was known as Molly Hayes, named after Brian K. Vaughan’s own sister. For the show, her name and background was changed, largely due to the original character’s status as a mutant, which falls under Fox’s X-Men purview and therefore can’t exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition, Molly’s ethnicity has changed from the comics to the screen, as has her family backstory: When we meet her, Molly is living with the Yorkes family as Gert’s adopted sister, her biological parents having died due to mysterious Pride-related activities many years earlier.
“Molly is just such a badass,” says Acosta. “I’ve always been so attracted to strong female characters who can be strong by showing their vulnerabilities and being a kid, and what also attracted me to her is that they changed her to a Latina. I think it’s so important we have so many characters of different ethnicities. We need to represent more on TV, and I’m so honored to be playing her.”
“She reminds me of Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass,” Acosta continues. “She’s so strong and beyond her years and mature. I couldn’t believe I was going to play someone as cool as Molly is. We have a lot of similarities. She’s super driven and passionate and curious. She’s kind of the muscle of the group, and a detective all around. I love her. I love playing her.”
As for the real-life Molly Hayes, Vaughan’s sister on whom the character was originally based? According to the comic book creator, she’s given her seal of approval: “If the woman who inspired the original Molly gives the thumbs-up to this Molly, then we’re on the right track.”
Marvel’s Runaways premieres its first three episodes Nov. 21 on Hulu. Let us know what you think of the Runaways cast in the comments below, and stay tuned for more coverage of the series, including a closer look at the members of the Pride.
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