INTERVIEW: Runaways James Marsters on the father-son relationship between Victor & Chase Stein

Our second in our series of interviews from the set of Marvel’s Runaways is a sit down with actor James Marsters, who plays scientist Victor Stein.

Though the comics do little to develop the parents as characters in their own right, preferring to focus on the children and their escape from their evil parents, Marvel’s Runaways has expanded the parental roles. Going so far as to have the first and second episodes of the series tell the story of the same time period, with episode one focusing on the perspective of the children, and episode two showing the perspective of the parents. It’s a novel concept that allows for a more fleshed out story, and understanding of the situation the Runaways find themselves in.

Victor Stein is the father of Runaway Chase Stein, a genius scientist who has no equal, and, well, let’s say bully would be a kind word. He’s an abusive jerk who seems to use intelligence as an excuse for his bad behavior. Think the genius who is so smart no one can match him, and knows it, so he looks down on those around him. Except the son who might just be more intelligent than he is. To Chase, Victor is an abusive father who believes he’s just punishing his son for not living up to his potential.

Of course, Victor doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior.

“I think my character is mostly concerned that the human race survive for at least two more generations, and it looks like that’s in doubt,” says Marsters. “And, kind of, I’m feeling like, you know, ‘After we accomplish survival, the nice people can take over again. That’s fine, you guys can just make each other birthday cakes, and do the back rubs, and everything, but right now, the human race needs someone to get it done. And if I have to break some eggs, or make some enemies to do that, that’s okay’.”

Speaking of Victor’s relationship and treatment of his son, Marsters continues, “Chase is very good socially. He is very good physically, but most importantly, he’s a genius. He’s got an IQ that surpasses technical genius level. So, technical genius level is 160, 165. Chase is probably 175. And Victor is 175, and I think that he recognizes that his son is every bit as smart as he is, and his son also has that rare combination of the horsepower, the intellectual horsepower, with creativity. And when you have both of those things, like Einstein had, you really get interesting ideas, and it’s very rare. Chase has that. Chase is not necessarily living up to his potential at this point, and so I’m pushing him. And sometimes, being a good parent is allowing yourself not to be liked.”

Marsters states that he drew from his own experience as a parent when playing Victor. “I think the most important thing when I play any character, and this sounds really weird, is to recognize that I am like that. I’m not an abusive parent, but I’m not a perfect parent, I don’t think anybody is. I think that Victor is trying to make his child the best that he can be, and I think that he’s not perfect in doing that.” He continues, “It’s a really hard question, I mean, I guess, the thing that I love about acting is that for me, it’s an empathy machine, and because I’ve played so many villains I have been forced to be empathic for people who are making huge mistakes. I don’t think there are such things as villains in the world. I think there are human beings who are hurting each other, out of the best intentions sometimes. Sometimes we really are less than our best selves.”

That leads to an interesting question. Does Victor see Chase as a possible collaborator, a threat, or perhaps even his better?

“I don’t think that [his] ego would allow [him] to say that he is a better,” Marsters answers, “But I think that [he] definitely sees him as an equal, a potential equal who is not working hard enough. And definitely a collaborator, a potential collaborator. The thing is when you are really smart, it’s a little bit lonely. ‘Cause the feeling, when you’re really smart, it’s not that you feel smart all the time, it’s that everyone else is an idiot. And, you just have nobody to talk to really, or you talk to people, but the way that you really want to talk, very few people are able keep up with that.

And, so you know, Chase comes along, and you can recognize intelligence, when you’re intelligent, you’re like, “Yeah, you’re intelligent, I get it.” I think that [he] saw that from a very young age. And [he’s] been looking forward to him blossoming, and becoming the full man that [Victor] can really talk to, and [he] dreams about what [they] might make together.”

The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways drops on Hulu on Tuesday, November 21st.

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