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Marvel's Runaways' new villain Elizabeth Hurley on playing megalomaniac Morgan le Fay

By Jenna Busch
Elizabeth Hurley as Morgan le Fay in Marvel's Runaways

Elizabeth Hurley has played evil characters before, as in the TV series The Royals and the film Bedazzled. Now she's playing the role of the villain Morgan le Fay in Marvel's Runaways, which is returning soon for its third season on Hulu. Although loosely based on the legendary enchantress from Arthurian myth, Marvel's version of the character was created by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely. In the comics, she's a powerful sorceress and can control minds and cast illusions — meaning she's going to be a big threat for the Runaways' resident magic-user, Nico Minoru.

SYFY WIRE got a chance to sit down on the set and chat with Hurley about playing a Marvel villain, visiting a Dark Dimension, hand acting, and whether we're going to see a positive side of her.

How much did you know about the character?

Well, I heard about Morgan le Fay, of course, for forever. And I've seen various manifestations of her, like I saw Helen Mirren play her in Excalibur. But the Marvel Morgan le Fay is particular, and she's special. So the first thing did was Google images of her, and I love — really, really loved how she'd been portrayed in the Marvel Comics. And then, of course, I dug into the research a little bit more, and it's blended with fiction all the way through. But I found out some really good things about her. I liked the fact that she's almost always portrayed as a megalomaniac. And she always, whenever she crops up somewhere, she usually wants to take over the world. So what's not to love? That seemed to tick every box I wanted.

What are you getting to do with this role that you've never gotten to do before?

Well, I've never visited a Dark Dimension before, to be really honest. I didn't really know what Dark Dimension was, until this job. So now I have been educated. And I think I'm understanding the Dark Dimension a bit more. I've done more blue-screen work on this show than I'd done previously. Which is very much a different sensibility as an actor. It's hard, actually, it's quite difficult. And I know, there's some movies that are shot almost entirely on blue screen. But for me, I've only done tiny little bits and pieces. So that was a new thing for me. And I think trying to educate myself about how the dimensions work with real life was something very new for me. And it's always quite nice when there's something new to think about, and to research and to watch. So I think all those elements made it exciting for me.

Mordan Le Fay

Is there a good amount of hand acting?

Yes. How did you all know that? I didn't know that before. Yes. It's called tutting in that case.

What was that like, trying to get into the moves?

Not as difficult as learning Latin. That might be a bit of a giveaway, but I've had to learn quite a lot of Latin. And, in fact, [I'm filming] a scene where I have 18 lines of Latin. It takes a while to learn. It's like learning Jupiter-ese.

Which characters do you interact with the most?

Well, in order to leave the Dark Dimension and come into this world, Morgan uses one of the Runways as a conduit. Whichever one that is, which I'm probably not allowed to say, I interact with that character quite a lot, until I'm in this world. And then I get to see all of them and work with all them.

What does she think of this world?

She wants to take it over! I think she wants to bring elements of how she thinks the world should be run into how it is today.

How does she think the world should be run?

The Morgan way! Well, you know, some myths say that she should have been ruling a long time ago but was cast out by Merlin. And, for us, this is how she fights her way back in to this woman. So she's been away thousands of years, for she emerges in Runaways.

You mentioned Excalibur. Did you take anything from other portrayals of her?

I didn't, actually. I mean, in that she speaks Celtic. I speak Latin. And there's two types of Latin, I've now discovered. And we do the first one. To be honest, it was more important to me to be influenced by the Marvel portrayal of Morgan le Fay. And I just love the way that she'd been drawn. I loved it. And the costume lady on this is fantastic. And she's made -- she'd sent me a sketch, I was very nervous about how it looked. Because you know, once you set that Dark Dimension look, that's your look. So it's important, and you do it in a rush in your first week, and I am thrilled with it. She did a fantastic job. I'm really, really happy. I think the fans of the comic will see what they want to see in the real-life version.

You've played a lot of deliciously evil characters in the past. What's going to surprise fans about this character?

Well, I have played bad many times. I think she's probably more bad.

More bad than the Queen from The Royals bad, or the Devil?

It's very interesting. The way the Devil was portrayed in Bedazzled was that she very rarely showed her real form — it was ludicrous. It was comedy. The interesting thing about that movie was, with all the test audiences, wanted him [Brendan Fraser] to end up with me. I was like, no, no, no, no! That's not the point! That's how she chose to act for him to give up his soul. She's not really like that. She really [has] horns and a dagger. That's just how she manifests, but nobody ever really got there. She was just being charming, and nice, and vulnerable and seductive, and obviously evil — comedy evil — underneath.

But Morgan is a lot darker than that at least she shows more of her dark side, or rather, as the season progresses, you see a more complex character. And even though she is absolutely convinced that what she's doing is for the greater good. Like all good villains, her actions are questionable at times.

One of the things Runaways does well is twist villains around so you see both sides of them. Do we see a positive side?

I think you do. In some ways, I think she's not a black-and-white villain. She has a little vulnerability. And she has a kindness in her. And I think when she interacts with kids, she genuinely doesn't understand why they shouldn't immediately follow her. Because I think she thinks she's got all the answers, and will make everything fantastic. And she does her utmost to be convincing. And she believes it. She believes it totally.

Season 3 of Marvel's Runaways will premiere on Hulu on December 13.