INTERVIEW: ‘Runaways’ Virginia Gardner on Karolina’s suspect behavior and her relationship with Nico

In season 2 of Runaways, we find our heroes at the point where they’ve run away from their parents homes, and are now being hunted by the authorities. For Virginia Gardner’s Karolina, this comes at a time when she’s trying to understand her newly discovered powers and parentage, and a budding relationship with Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano). We talked to Virginia Gardner during a visit to the Runaways set about the challenges facing Karolina in season 2.

“Season one Karolina was, um, was just figuring out her powers and what she could do with them, and I think she was really afraid to embrace her powers, cause she didn’t wanna be labeled like a “freak” or a “mutant” or anything like that, says Gardner. “And this season, she stops caring about anything like that and just hones in on her powers. And not only hones it, but owns them and is proud of them, and shows them off. And I got to fly so much more this year, and there’s like really intense light battle sequences and all that stuff. And then on a personal note, I think it’s kind of, they’re kind of parallel in that way – where she was afraid to embrace who she actually is, who she loves and explore that relationship in this season. She completely explores it and there’s no more fear there. She’s out in the open with everything.”

It’s that later story that much of the Runaways audience is so interested in seeing developed. With the silver screen Marvel stories choosing to stay away from any kind of LGBTQ+ storylines, Runaways is embracing the love story between two of its lead characters, and even after only one season, its having an impact. “The feedback has been amazing. I’ve had women come up to me and tell me that because of the show, they came out to their parents, and they’re no longer afraid to embrace who they are in their relationships also. So the response has been as positive as I could have hoped. It’s really really cool that we’re on a show that actually gets to make an effect and help people and make them feel, you know, understood, which has been really huge.”

Of course, there’s been a bit of a jump from where the characters were in season one, with Nico and Karolina going from acknowledging their relationship, to living together. So what can we expect from this relationship going forward? It’s not going to be smooth sailing the whole way through, according to Gardner. “Well now I think, that relationship is completely explored this year. It peaks, and it hits the floor, and then it kinda comes up, and then there ends up being almost like a love triangle situation. So we see every aspect of that relationship this year. Um, I mean to the point where Alex is sleeping below our bedroom upstairs. So poor Alex; I like totally stole his girl. Um, but we kinda go from like softly exploring that relationship to like completely exploring it. And not only Nico and Karolina, but what it looks like with any 16 year old is in their first relationship and all like its teenage aspects of like you know, figuring out how to love somebody and care for somebody at that age.”

But it’s not all love for the Runaways, as they continue to deal with the aftermath of discovering their parents are murderers, and conspired in an attempt to create a potentially catastrophic earthquake in the middle of Los Angeles. For Karolina, with the added anxiety over her newly discovered powers, this means balancing her newfound knowledge of their devious ways, with a desire to understand who she is. Does that make her easier to manipulate?

“I think it can,” agrees Gardner, “Because I also think she’s someone that wants to see the best in people all the time. So she’s very eager to trust people and very eager to believe whatever it is that they say. But I think that living on the streets and having her parents end up being teenage murderers obviously you’re kinda like, ‘maybe I shouldn’t trust everyone that I meet.’ So I think season 2 she takes everything with a little bit of a grain of salt, and is always like ‘I will listen to you, but I’m also going to protect myself.’ So there’s more separation this year.”

Karolina won’t be the only character struggling with her place in this new world, and the pull back to the parents she can no longer trust. “We’re here living on our own, obviously we think our parents are evil and are very anti-everything that they’ve done. But you see us all miss our parents. And miss like, we’re living in this beautiful hostel, but with cobwebs and nasty floors. You know we miss our cushy lives and our families. So in some way, every character is kind of pulled back to their family for a little bit, because they do miss that comfort.”

Season 2 of Runaways is streaming now on Hulu.