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Tom Hiddleston on Loki’s gender fluidity and getting to ‘time travel’ back to the old God of Mischief
Loki, the God of Mischief, is back. Except, as you’ve likely seen in several dozen helpful online explainers or heard from your most MCU-obsessed friend, it’s not actually that Loki we’ll be seeing when his self-titled TV show premieres on Disney+. The original Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston ever since 2011’s Thor, died at Thanos’ hand in Infinity War, putting an end to nearly a decade's worth of character development. This Loki is from another timeline, and the series picks up with him right after the Endgame-influenced events of The Avengers. This Loki, still more of a villain than an antihero, will need to contend with the Time Variance Authority, which protects the proper flow of time. There’s plenty of time travel within the show, but playing an “older” version of Loki was a throwback for Hiddleston as well.
“It was almost like time travel in itself to unstitch some of the evolution that Loki has progressed through [and] go back to where he was in the first Avengers film,” Hiddleston tells SYFY WIRE during a press junket the Monday before the premiere.
“Something that was really important to [Hiddleston] and I was making sure it was clear that the Loki we’re seeing in that first episode is The Avengers Loki,” echoes director Kate Herron. “He’s not the Loki that we’ve seen before. We would always talk about moments from Avengers to kind of get us back into the headspace. The Loki we’ve all seen go on this amazing journey is a very different character by the time we see him in Infinity War.”
This means that instead of helping Thor only to fake his own death in The Dark World, deciding to ultimately do the honorable thing and come to his peoples’ rescue in Ragnarok, and going out a hero by trying to take out Thanos before his death in Infinity War, the Loki in Loki is still a would-be tyrant coming off a devastating defeat. The upswing? He’ll have six hours’ worth of all-new escapades to chart a new path.
“It’s almost like a fork in the road. Rather than take that particular avenue, he takes another one,” Hiddleston says. “What was thrilling to me was being able to take him back to that starting point and take him on a new journey with new revelations, new discoveries, new curiosity. That felt no less meaningful. But I hope we’ve been able to pay respect to that evolution within the first few hours of this series.”
One of the new revelations in the series is Loki’s genderfluid identity. In the comics, Loki has always been a shapeshifter, but in the mid-2010s, various arcs canonized that Loki is truly genderfluid. The show will do the same for the MCU’s version, though Hiddleston says it’s not news to him.
“It’s always been there, in the history of the character, in the mythology and in the comics. I was aware of it from the moment I was first cast. So it’s a thrill that we get to touch on that in some way,” he explains, though he’s hesitant to spoil anything. “How we do [touch on that], I think I want to leave the audience to find out.”
Loki also marks the first time we’ll be spending any length of time with the God of Mischief without the God of Thunder being nearby. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor (as far as we know) does not directly appear in the series, though Hiddleston says Thor still occupies an important part of Loki’s mind.
“We all carry those closest to us and those closes to us,” he says, though Loki offers a whole cast of new characters for Loki to bounce off of. “I found it really interesting to see him in new dynamics with Owen Wilson as Mobius, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer, Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15, and many, many more.”
“She’s by-the-book and does not change or bend the rules at all. That’s just who she is, that’s how she’s been trained,” Mosaku says of her character, whose job is to protect the timeline and enforce the will of the TVA. “And, Loki is the opposite. He’s the God of Mischief. They don’t see eye to eye.”
In addition to finding himself surrounded by unfamiliar company, Loki is also in an unfamiliar place. Though the series bops around various historical and futuristic events, the bulk of the action in the early episodes takes place in the headquarters of the TVA. And, despite being full of references to groundbreaking sci-fi titles like Metropolis, Blade Runner, Brazil, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the TVA is… quite a lot blander than you’d expect, and certainly more buttoned-up than the God of Mischief’s usual haunts. The nature of the TVA’s work is secondary to it being the ultimate bureaucracy. This, Herron says, is by design.
“For me, it always comes back to emotion,” she explains. "It was important, for example, [in the first episode] when Loki’s first arrested by the TVA and going through their processing system, that it felt like somebody going to the DMV or me trying to go through customs at an airport. You can put people in a fantastical situation but you have to ground it in something that we can all relate to.
“Even the technology within the TVA, I was really inspired for it to feel quite retro-futuristic and maybe not look so updated, because I’ve worked in a lot of offices before I was a filmmaker and some of the technology was sort of archaic,” Herron continues, explaining why the TVA’s office aesthetic looks like what they thought the future might be back in the ‘60s. “The computers, I was like, ‘These should have been replaced years ago,’ but some offices are like, ‘Well, it’s not broken, so we’re going to stick with it.’ I think that was king of the fun of it for me, was giving it the reality of a real office space in an organization that was obviously very fantastical.”
There’s one other major thing that’s new for Loki in his very own show, one that’s perhaps easy to overlook because it’s so obvious: Loki is indeed the star of his very own show. Rather than be the antagonist or supporting player, Loki is the hero — well, maybe “hero” is the wrong word for this version of Loki, at least for now, but he’s the main character. It’s not always easy for a character to make the jump to the protagonist without sanding down the rough edges that made them such an engaging foe or supporting player. Hiddleston, who has played Loki for a decade now, is up to the challenge.
“It was important to me to retain the integrity of the character. We were all aware that, even if he were the protagonist, we can’t jettison all the things that make Loki Loki,” Hiddleston explains. “Seeing his perspective more often was interesting. Loki’s in the driver’s seat of the story, and I hope the audience is seeing things through Loki’s eyes. Loki’s journey is a difficult one. Sometimes he makes it difficult for himself, but you can at least understand the choices that he makes because of it, I hope.”Loki premieres on Wednesday, June 9, on Disney+. New episodes will debut on subsequent Wednesdays for the next five weeks.