It’s multiversal madness in Marvel Studios and Disney Plus’s new super villain series, Loki. In the show, the “sacred timeline” maintains balance and order to the universe, and two powerful Black women, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku, lead the team to protect it.
Mbatha-Raw plays the time judge Revonna Renslayer, a character with a comics history that could mean a lasting impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The literary version of Renslayer has been a romantic interest of Kang The Conqueror, a villain Jonathan Majors will portray in the forthcoming Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantamania. Not much has been revealed about the on-screen iteration of Renslayer, but through two episodes she’s already proven to be a force, dictating the “proper flow of time” through the Time Variance Authority, at the direction of the mysterious Time-Keepers.
“I just love that she’s a boss,” Mbatha-Raw told EBONY. “She has this authority as a judge. She’s respected. To have risen up the ranks and now she’s pretty much at the top of her game. That’s really cool.”
You could say it’s a role tailored for Mbatha-Raw. Loki Director Kate Herron says she pinpointed the actress in her initial pitch. “I’m in love with her,” said Herron. “Everything she does is so different and I just thought ‘I need to work with this actor.’ She’s a fantastic actress. It was a dream to work with her.”
Mbatha-Raw calls her role in Loki a “full circle moment,” because she gets to reunite with her longtime friend and fellow UK transplant Tom Hiddleston. The two went to drama school together. “When I first came to Los Angeles in 2010, I remember Tom was doing Thor at that time,” recalled Mbatha-Raw. “We connected a couple times as Brits newly in LA. And now, ten years later, here we are together working on Loki. So it’s kind of special.”
By her side is Lovecraft Country standout Mosaku, playing Hunter B-15, the lead commander of warriors tasked with protecting time and space. “I love her simplicity of doing what’s right and just sticking to rules and regulations,” said Mosaku. “I love the journey she has in this show. It’s quite refreshing just having one agenda, and that’s to do what you have been told is right and sticking to it.”
The BAFTA winner has been cutting her teeth in British film and TV since she was 17-years-old, but now is enjoying newfound success in the United States, with Critic’s Choice and Screen Actors Guild nominations. American audiences have become familiar with her after credits in Luther, A Black Lady Sketch Show, and now this major superhero franchise tentpole. “Now things that were just on the BBC or Channel 4, they are available in America too,” said Mosaku. “It’s been a journey. I’m learning how to ride the wave.”
Marvel originally slated her role for a male actor. But after Herron met with the team, she convinced the studio to open it up to women. Mosaku’s audition was the highlight of open casting calls. “I think she’s like the next Ripley (heroin of the Alien franchise). Ripley was originally written as a man. She’s kind of in this really cool group of women in sci-fi. She’s a bad ass.”
Neither Mosaku nor Mbatha-Raw are new to sci-fi projects. In addition to Lovecraft, Mosaku is in the Netflix thriller His House. Mbatha-Raw has appeared in the Cloverfield franchise, and starred in the superhuman drama Fast Color.
“We knew with the TVA, there was an opportunity to populate it with amazing actors. And we wanted to make sure it reflected a diverse pool,” said Loki head writer Michael Waldron. “Gugu and Wunmi are amazing and so formidable on screen. To get them as representatives of the power structure of the TVA and this sacred timeline was such a cool thing for us.”
Both ladies are optimistic that roles in shows like Loki are an opportunity to see more Black women in the genre. “I hope it’s just the beginning,” said Mosaku. “I hope this is something that keeps continuing and we are included in all aspects and corner of this industry. We all need representation. We all need to feel seen. It can’t just be the ‘white male, able-bodied’ type.” “I am all for it,” added Mbatha-Raw. “There’s so many amazing women of color in this show, in front and behind the camera. That’s really been wonderful. And I’m just excited for things to keep progressing.”