‘Loki’: Behind the Scenes of the Crumbling Time Variance Authority
Find out what Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Owen Wilson, and Tara Strong all have to say about the TVA.
The Time Variance Authority sure seems like a cool and fun place to work! That is...until you start peeling back the layers of the previously unseen and unheard-of organization, and realize that they’ve been lying to everyone this entire time. Welcome to the TVA, y’all!
In Episode 4 of Marvel Studios’ Loki, “The Nexus Event," the truth starts to come out, and when it rains at the TVA, it pours. Where to even begin?
For starters, the Time Keepers did not create everyone working at the TVA, and it turns out the employees walking the halls and filing paperwork are all variants — with their memories scrubbed, of course. And if that’s not enough to swallow, the Time Keepers are actually robots and completely useless figureheads. Oh, and Mobius and Loki find themselves pruned at the hands of Judge Renslayer. That’s still just scratching the tip of the TVA iceberg!
So what’s it like when everything you thought you knew about your job turns out to be a lie? Marvel.com chatted with Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Judge Ravonna Renslayer), Wunmi Mosaku (Hunter B-15), Owen Wilson (Agent Mobius), and Tara Strong (the voice of Miss Minutes) about bringing the TVA to life, and what happens next in the series.
JUDGE RAVONNA RENSLAYER
Renslayer wasn’t always sitting behind a big desk in a big office at the TVA. “She has worked her way up to the top. She wasn't born into power. She started as a Hunter,” Mbatha-Raw tells Marvel.com. As viewers see at the start of Episode 4, Renslayer was the Hunter tasked with grabbing the Loki variant — aka Sylvie — from her timeline to stand trial.
Now that she’s in a higher position, she’s not going to veer off her straight and narrow path.
“She's really worked hard to get where she is, so she's not going to be reckless with the power that has been hard-earned for her,” Mbatha-Raw continues. “She, in some ways, is deeply indoctrinated with the ways of the TVA. She's completely conditioned by their thinking and the idea of the Sacred Timeline, and the concept of free will is quite alien to her. She's a believer. She believes in law and order, and it's done quite well for her so far in terms of getting her to where she is. She's not going to abandon her philosophy lightly.”
We see this in action when Renslayer realizes that Mobius has gone behind her back trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Hunter C-20. After a meeting with Renslayer, Mobius swipes her TemPad and discovers that the young Hunter was questioned, and in the process confessed that she knew they were all variants. And the person interviewing her? None other than Renslayer herself, who ends the interview abruptly. This is the sort of information Renslayer does not want to get out.
“It was fun to start off with everything being sort of very orderly and black-and-white for Renslayer. As her reality begins to crumble, we discover that alongside her. She has put everything into this. This is her whole world. Her career is her life.”
Renslayer isn’t going to let anything and anyone stand in the way of what she’s worked hard to accomplish, and that includes Mobius. Mobius tries to confront his superior about Hunter C-20, the variants, and the TVA, and in a shocking twist, Renslayer orders the agent pruned for being compromised!
“Her only friend, really, is Mobius, and she kind of betrays him,” Mbatha-Raw says. “Or she sees it as he betrayed her, and they have this massive schism. And you sort of think, gosh, where is she going to go now? Who's going to be in her corner? Who's she going to have a drink with at the end of the day. It's a lot of stress!”
Someone else who has led their entire life believing in the TVA and what it stands for is Hunter B-15. The part of no-nonsense Hunter, originally written as a male character, ultimately went to Mosaku after her audition.
While reading the dummy sides (fake scenes for the audition), Mosaku and director Kate Herron determined the gender didn’t alter who Hunter B-15 is at the root of the character. “Despite being written a man, Hunter B-15 is a Hunter and works for the TVA. It didn’t change the scripts. I have free reign because she's new. B-15 doesn't exist in the MCU, so I really got to start from scratch and explore different ideas and themes, and take her wherever Kate and I wanted to.”
But, one thing the character couldn’t do? Be swayed by Loki’s charms. Mosaku was excited to step into this role, and not take any nonsense from Loki.
“It's very rare to have a [character], especially as a woman, [who doesn’t want to be] sweeter, nicer, or make people like you. She's not interested in that at all. And therefore, she's not interested in [Loki] — and Loki is very interested in that. He's charming and all that stuff, and it's all about luring you in. She just doesn't take any of it. It's not attractive to her. It's not intriguing to her. She's just, ‘Let's get the job done, please.’”
While Hunter B-15 starts off all commanding and tough, slowly she, too, begins to realize that not everything is what it seems at the TVA. After she’s enchanted by Sylvie at Roxxcart, Hunter B-15 has memories come rushing back to her — but what are they, and what did she see? That’s still a mystery for Mosaku, too, who explains, “I'm as intrigued as you are to find out what that backstory is.”
Whatever she saw, it propels her to take a stand against the TVA. This meant Mosaku went through training — in more ways than one, “They drilled us on the physical vocabulary of the TVA and the fight sequences that we had.”
At the end of Episode 4, Hunter B-15 comes to Loki and Sylvie’s aid when they come face to face with the Time Keepers, throwing the latter her machete (which she’s clearly stolen from Renslayer’s office). What follows next is a battle for power in front of the Time Keepers, one in which not everyone survives.
“We did have a trainer to make sure that we were physically capable of doing it all and not injuring ourselves,” states Mosaku. “I really loved that, because I love to box. I felt really strong and able to use my physical power in a way that I hadn't been able to before.”
Agent Mobius is having a day. Not only is he watching his whole life and career crumble around him, but he then winds up on the wrong end of a pruning stick by the end of the episode. While he might have started off as a through and through company man when we first meet him, after Loki tells him they’re all variants, Mobius starts to think about where his true allegiance lies. (And if he ever had a jet ski??)
The biggest revelation in the episode for Mobius is not necessarily that he’s a variant, but rather that his closest friend, Renslayer, has been concealing the truth from him this whole time.
“The relationship between Mobius and Renslayer, it's the way you might have with your boss. Or when you're back in school with the principal or someone in a position of authority and having to sort of try to charm them so you're able to pursue your projects,” Wilson tells Marvel.com. “That's the dynamic between Mobius and Renslayer. She sort of loses patience with Mobius and with another one of his schemes. But, I think, she also sort of enjoys that he's a little bit of a rascal.”
That certainly might have been true at one point in time, but after Mobius swipes Renslayer’s TemPad, as Wilson continues, “by the end of that relationship, it has become something very different”
Mobius might have caught Renslayer in a lie, but it’s Renslayer who orders him pruned — and Loki witnesses the whole thing.
“The betrayal of Mobius by Renslayer is pretty shocking. And it's a little bit of a hall of mirrors within the whole series, that people aren't quite who they seem to be. In the same way that Loki, when he lands in this bizarre place called the TVA, Mobius will have sort of the same struggles. What is this organization? And is it something that is worthy of his devotion?”
There’s one other very important person at the TVA: Miss Minutes! She’s not really a recording, and she’s not really alive, she’s sorta both! So what’s going to happen to the organization’s spokesperson as the TVA starts to fall apart?
Coy with her response, Tara Strong, who voices the perky clock, explains, “It's safe to say that Miss Minutes knows absolutely everything, and it's also safe to say I wouldn't mess with her too much.”
Recording for the character, Strong actually watched episodes (over video chat), and synched up her dialogue with the action in each scene.
“The show was already done before I stepped in, which was such a great gift,” she explains. “Had I gone first and watched a placeholder, it wouldn't have been as magical. But getting to sit there and witness the animation, and how cute it is and how stylized it was, and of course, to play off Tom Hiddleston, who's so brilliant, it was really a gift to have it all come together in front of me.”
For every scene, Strong recorded dozens of different versions of dialogue “to play with for the production crew to see what would fit in the best and what would make the most sense.” As the show was coming together, Strong knew she had the difficult task of giving Miss Minutes life and unloading “exposition while still making it fun and playful.”
“Everything she says is important and funny and interesting. I also love that even in the very beginning, when she's like, [Miss Minutes’ voice] ‘Don't hesitate to let us know how we're doing. We could explode you in a minute, but drop a line to let us know how you feel about it!’ It's like the perfect mix of who she is that she can be giving you such dire information with a smile on her face, and you still want to sit down and have a cupcake with her.”
Considering what she knows, and how many times she’s now dumped information, how else might she be able to step in and help Loki?
“She knows so much about the TVA, and it’s her job to relay this information to Loki,” says Strong. “[She needs] him to get past some of the things he's done [in order] to improve himself as a member of this universe, and how to grow and help. I [navigate] these moments with him, careful to not give away how much I actually know in the world.”
Marvel Studios' Loki is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
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