Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a force to be reckoned with. She has starred with Jude Law in Hamlet on Broadway and alongside industry heavyweights Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in Apple TV’s hit series The Morning Show. She’s also a BAFTA-nominated actress and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017. But what she’s probably most known for now is playing the morally ambiguous and authoritative Ravonna Renslayer on Marvel’s Loki opposite her old Royal Academy of Dramatic Art classmate Tom Hiddleston.
Related article: In Conversation With Tom Hiddleston And Owen Wilson Of ‘Loki’
For the uninitiated: Ravonna Renslayer is a fictional character in Marvel’s Loki, and is a respected judge in the Time Variance Authority (TVA). She’s also one of the few in rank to stand in the presence of the Time Keepers themselves. In the series, she oversees the investigation of Variants—most notably, Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (played by Sophia Di Martino). We see her go head to head with both Variants, and even her colleague Mobius (played by Owen Wilson).
Ahead, Gugu Mbatha-Raw talks about joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Ravonna Renslayer and working with co-stars Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson.
ON JOINING THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
“Being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t really something I pursued, but when this series came along I was really excited to learn more about the role. Our director, Kate Herron, pitched the whole six episodes to me over the phone in about two hours, which was kind of mind blowing—especially the scope and scale of the Time Variance Authority.
The idea of being a part of the Loki—an anti-hero, mischievous character who everybody knows and loves—series, and to be able to see new layers to his journey was really cool. And then my character Ravonna Renslayer, a role I wasn’t necessarily familiar with but understood that she’s a judge, authoritative, respected, and powerful. I found the whole thing really intriguing as well as the chance to do some action, comic book kind of stuff was really enticing as well.”
Related article: ‘Cruella’ Is Reportedly Getting A Sequel, Dahling
ON RAVONNA RENSLAYER
“What attracted me to the part of Ravonna Renslayer was really the fact that this is almost her origin story, if you’d like, because she’s had this whole life in the comics. I’ve never really played a character like her before—an authoritative figure who is powerful, respected and with that kind of gravitas.
I was up for the challenge, and also the fact that she has this kind of backstory as a hunter who rose up in the ranks through her own sheer grit and determination was really exciting. Then there’s also the dynamic with Mobius—Owen Wilson’s character—which I thought would be really fun.”
ON WORKING WITH TOM HIDDLESTON AND OWEN WILSON
“I had such a great time working with Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson. Tom, who I knew a little bit from drama school so many years ago, plays the God of Mischief who’s cheeky and breaks the rules. And Renslayer’s sort of the opposite end of that spectrum: She’s very sort of straight, steady and respects the rules and authority—she is the authority, in this case. So when they first meet, it’s kind of a fun personality clash because he doesn’t have any of his powers at his disposal, and she’s not used to anyone being disrespectful towards her which made it really fun in the courtroom.
And then in terms of Owen’s character, Mobius, that’s a slightly different dynamic but still really fun because Ravonna and Mobius have this long standing friendship from having worked together for many years. I also think that she has a soft spot for him in her heart because of that, but she’s also very professional—she worked her way up and isn’t going to let anyone or anything compromise where she’s got in her career.
That said, Mobius is still able to kind of charm her and sort of disarm her in a way that allows him to get away with a bit more than she would allow the other agents in the TVA to. So that’s kind of fun.”
Related article: ‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch’ Is Your Next Binge-Worthy Show On Disney+
ON THE PRODUCTION SET
“The sets on the show were amazing, and they were so detailed. I have to say that the production design was kind of like stepping into a drawing. It was so transformative—especially Renslayer’s office with the Time Keepers’ statues, the big desks, the drink cabinet and the real to reel tape player. It was almost Mad Men-esque but obviously with a TVA twist. There’s just such a big scale to them, which is really exciting.”