INTERVIEW: Lyrica Okano and Virginia Gardner Talk Marvel’s Runaways

Before watching the first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways currently streaming on Hulu, check out our interview with Lyrica Okano and Virginia Gardner. The actresses play reclusive and magically-inclined Nico Minoru and repressed daughter of a self-improvement cult Karolina Dean respectively, and they both had a lot to say about their characters and experience working on the show in this fifth interview installment.

The gang all together.

Neither actress knew about Runaways before their audition, nor were they told about the roles, but a little detective work on Okano’s part helped her figure it out before walking into the room. “The one thing is I knew she was Japanese American,” she explained. “So then all I had to research what Japanese American Marvel characters there were and then Nico popped up. I figured it out from there.” For Gardner, it was a matter of acing her audition and being privileged with the information after the fact. “After our test our director Brett Morgan followed me out of the room and he was like if I were you I would start reading the Runaways comics and look at the role of Karolina,” she admitted. Despite already knowing, Okano was also told as she left the audition – which is a pretty cool way to find out you’ve earned a role.

While both feel connected to their own characters, there are other Runaways they can relate to slightly more. In Okano’s case, “maybe Alex. I like to over-analyze things.” Her costar chimed in with enthusiasm, declaring, “You’re really smart and Alex is really smart.” As for herself, Gardner also was ready with an answer. “I think maybe Molly ’cause she’s spunky and fun and has this cool super power. She has such a cool energy.”

When asked about the undercurrent of romantic feelings between Karolina and Nico, Okano declared that as fraught as the relationship may be onscreen, “There’s no work involved there” when it comes to them as actors. “We’ve bonded pretty much since day one. We were rooting for these two characters.” Gardner agreed as well, adding, “The minute we met we were so excited about our storyline and the potential here.” Both ladies see their natural chemistry together, but more than anything they view the relationship as a gift for longtime fans of the story. “We know how important it is for the fans,” Okano said. “It’s definitely something we’ve been looking forward to exploring.”

Good old days.

Though it would be hard to know all of the Easter eggs included in the first season of Runaways, Gardner did tell us to be on the lookout for a few things. “Our high school is called Atlas and that’s obviously what one of Marvel’s original names was,” she confided. “Timely Coffee was one of Marvel’s original names. Which I didn’t know until someone told me.” Aside from references to previous names, Alex has a wall of Star Wars Pez dispensers in his room, and Gardner hints that there are, “different Marvel and Disney properties throughout our sets.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of representation on television lately, but on Runaways it goes a little deeper than generic diversity. As Lyrica Okano gushed, “It was a huge deal, especially for my character’s family, the Minorus, to actually be played by Japanese American actors. That doesn’t happen.” Her parents are played by Brittany Ishibashi and James Yaegashi, two excellent actors that we look forward to seeing more of.

It wouldn’t be a superhero show without some superpowers, but on that front neither actress could give much away. Ginny Gardner did promise, though, that Karolina’s first brush with hers would not just be due to drugs. “I can’t say too much about it, but I can say that fans won’t be disappointed. There’s a lot of rainbow and light in the future.” Meanwhile, Nico’s Staff of One emerges pretty immediately, but Okano teased that, “You will see it in full power mode. And it will be great.”

The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are available now through Hulu’s streaming service.