Interview with Lyrica Okano and Virginia Gardner of Marvel’s Runaways

Seeing as the first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are available now on Hulu, it’s the perfect time to settle into an interview with Lyrica Okano and Virginia Gardner before starting the series. Their characters are Nico Minoru, who can wield the power of the Staff of One, and Karolina Dean, whose bracelet keeps her colorful powers under control and leaves her unaware of them. Both actresses were excited for the journeys their characters would go on, and had something to say about how those journeys started.

Though neither girl was informed about which role or even show they were auditioning for beforehand, it wasn’t hard for Okano to deduce it. “The one thing is I knew she was Japanese American,” she said. “So then all I had to research what Japanese American Marvel characters there were and then Nico popped up. I figured it out from there.” Meanwhile, Gardner learned that she would be Karolina as soon as she left her audition. “After our test our director Brett Morgan followed me out of the room and he was like if I were you I would start reading the Runaways comics and look at the role of Karolina,” she explained.

Aside from being two strong female characters with super powers, there is also the underpinnings of a romance that blossoms between Karolina and Nico – especially due to the former discovering her sexuality. When asked about the dynamic, Okano gushed, “There’s no work involved there. We’ve bonded pretty much since day one. We were rooting for these two characters.” Gardner was enthusiastic in her response, as well. “The minute we met we were so excited about our storyline and the potential here.” Their obvious natural chemistry aside, it’s a dynamic that comic book readers have been waiting to see develop. “We know how important it is for the fans,” Okano declared. “It’s definitely something we’ve looking forward to exploring.”

When it comes to Easter eggs that might be found in the first season of Runaways, Gardner gave out a few freebies for the first episode. “Our high school is called Atlas and that’s obviously what one of Marvel’s original names was,” she said. “Timely Coffee was one of Marvel’s original names. Which I didn’t know until someone told me.” Alex (played by Rhenzy Feliz) also has a wall of Star Wars Pez dispensers in his room, which is among the many “different Marvel and Disney properties throughout our sets.”

Runaways goes a little deeper than generic diversity. To Lyrica Okano, “It was a huge deal, especially for my character’s family, the Minarus, to actually be played by Japanese-American actors. That doesn’t happen.” Brittany Ishibashi and James Yaegashi are the excellent Japanese-American actors who portray her parents, and they will have more to do on the show thanks to the format of dividing time between the kids and adults.

Though the actresses were tight-lipped on what to expect from their powers, Ginny Gardner did promise that Karolina’s first brush with her light-filled display would not be merely a side-effect of the drugs she takes in the first episode. “I can’t say too much about it, but I can say that fans won’t be disappointed. There’s a lot of rainbow and light in the future.” On the flip side, Nico’s Staff of One is with her from the start. But Okano made it clear that, “You will see it in full power mode. And it will be great.”

You can watch the first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu’s streaming service.

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