Runaways is a pretty easy show to explain in a sentence. What if it turned out your parents were actually supervillains? If you were a TV executive in an elevator, it might get pitched to you as The O.C. but in the Marvel Universe. And while that’s all true, that’s just scratching the surface of Marvel’s first show on Hulu. We’ll let the cast break it down in their own words.
Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz)
“If there’s one word to describe the show,” says Feliz, who plays the Runaways’ leader, Alex, “it’s friendship.” When we meet the six kids, they are trying to rebuild a relationship after a tragedy has torn them apart. “It’s that friendship, that bond, that drives the show, and around them happens to be a crazy Marvel Universe with insane special effects.”
Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin)
Some of those friendships blossom into something more, though Sulkin warns that fans of the relationship between Chase and Gert in the comic book will have to be patient. “We know how much the fans want to see that relationship, but we didn’t want to come out the gate and just throw it against the wall. The storyline needs to be carefully protected,” he says. But, he promises, “The fans won’t be disappointed.”
Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner)
“It’s very Stranger Things in the tone of the show,” says Gardner. The tone moves between heavy drama and light comedy without staying too long in any one place. “It has elements of everything.” Unlike the more adult-oriented shows on Netflix, Runaways is aiming younger. “I think it’s one of the first Marvel shows to tie in a young audience the way that we’re doing, but also, I don’t think we’re going to lose an older audience.”
Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano)
Marvel is notoriously paranoid about its security, which means that auditioning for its projects often means you don’t even know what role or show you’re going out for. That is, unless you do a little detective work — and get lucky — like Okano. “All I knew was that it was for a Japanese-American role to be a part of the Marvel Universe. That doesn’t take much research to figure out,” she says. She ran out and picked up a copy of Runaways before the screen test. The audition scripts were vague, but, Okano says, “Because I was able to read the comic book, it was easier to piece together.”
Molly Hernandez and Gert Yorkes (Allegra Acosta and Ariela Barer)
“I thought I’d have to win an Oscar before I got to do a Marvel movie or a show!” Barer says with a laugh. There aren’t many Hispanic superheroes, so the options were limited. “I thought I’d be America Chavez,” she says, referring to Marvel’s alternate-universe Miss America. But show creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage did indeed cast her as Gert and rewrote the role of her adopted sister, Molly Hayes, as Molly Hernandez and cast Acosta.
Diversity and representation have always been an integral part of Runaways, so that’s not such a big step away from the original. “Brian K. Vaughan is a visionary,” Acosta says. “It’s amazing how he wrote this such a long time ago [the comicdebuted in 2003] and still he has the P word hat that Molly has.”
Victor and Janet Stein (James Marsters and Ever Carradine)
The worldview of parents isn’t quite so rosy. “You have to break eggs to make an omelet, ya know?” says Marsters, who, fresh off the set, is ready to make an impassioned defense for the occasional human sacrifice. “I play a character who’s trying to save the world, trying to make sure the human race survives, and is very comfortable with not being liked.”
Pride, the supervillain organization that all the parents belong to, was put together for these ostensibly altruistic reasons. Even still, says Carradine, “I don’t know if any of them want to be there.” Not that that matters. With a group like that, “Once you’re in, you’re in.” Janet wants to leave, but can’t abandon her family: “So it’s a constant battle of making the best out of a really complicated and terrible situation,” Carradine says.
Tina and Robert Minoru (Brittany Ishibashi and James Yaegashi)
“I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the material. How much will there really be to sink my teeth in as an actor?” says Yaegashi, who grew up in Japan, where comics are an even more integral part of culture than here in the U.S. As it turns out, he says, “It’s been so rewarding. There’s been so much layering the writers and creators have put into each of our characters. It’s very satisfying.”
For Ishibashi, it really is a metaphor for parenting:
“That’s what’s so wonderful about this show and how Josh and Stephanie are developing it. The characters are all so wonderfully complex that way. You can go about and do something seemingly dastardly or evil, but at the end you come home and you just want to connect with your husband. Or you see your kid crying and you want to give them a hug. Ultimately, all that other stuff falls away, and all that remains is just preserving and protecting your nest.”
Leslie and Frank Dean (Annie Wersching and Kip Pardue)
Both Wersching and Pardue have kids who already know the Marvel Universe — even if they’re too young to grasp quite what it is their parents have to do with it. “My son is only 2,” says Pardue, “but he knows what he calls Bitsy Bitsy Man — which is Spider-Man. He’s kind of put that together.” Wersching went out two Halloweens ago with her husband and two children as Marvel superheroes. So they both appreciate the accessibility of the show’s tone. “Runaways, tonewise, it’s got a lighter, brighter, more comedic side to it, as opposed to the other Marvel TV shows,” Wersching says. “Similar to the way that Spiderman: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy do in the film world.”
Catherine and Geoffrey Wilder (Angel Parker and Ryan Sands)
Parker is new to comics, but she’s learning. “I’ve got an 11-year-old boy who’s teaching me, and I’ve got this big boy here,” she says, nudging Sands, “who’s teaching me Marvel.” Sands, even well into production, exudes the glee of a lifelong fanboy getting to live a dream. “The kid in me [gets excited] whenever there’s powers,” he says. “But I think what I look forward to the most is the interpersonal relationships when all of Pride is together.” The writing leads you in one direction, he says, “Then, there’s a sharp right turn and oh! It’s a surprise. And everything you thought you knew is out the window.”
Dale and Stacey Yorkes (Kevin Weisman and Brigid Brannagh)
Dale and Stacey are somewhat hippy-dippy parents, so it’s no shocker that there’s just a little bit of that in the actors in real life. Teen rebellion is an important thread of the show, but, Brannagh says, “‘teen’ themes are universal themes.” It’s really about challenging all kinds of authority. “In the late ’60s and ’70s,” says Weisman, “music was that voice. The Grateful Dead. The Allman Brothers.” After that, movies like Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces explored that idea. “Now television is the voice with Handmaid’s Tale and these shows that are just trying to give you another perspective,” he says. “So I think, hopefully, this show can allow people to think about that issue differently.”
The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are now streaming on Hulu.
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