‘Marvel’s Runaways’: Ever Carradine and James Marsters on the Child-Parent Dynamic
November 22, 2017
From showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, Marvel’s Runaways, available to stream on Hulu, tells the story of six teenagers – Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer) and Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta) – who realize that their parents have been lying to them all their lives and that they’re really evil. As a result, this group of estranged friends, who also have secrets of their own, must band together to stop their parents before it’s too late.
On September 26th, Collider (along with a few other outlets) was invited over to the L.A. set of the series to chat with the cast and executive producers and learn about all things Runaways. During a small roundtable interview, co-stars Ever Carradine and James Marsters (who play Janet and Victor Stein, the parents of Chase) talked about the appeal of their characters, the child-parent dynamic, Victor’s dark side and how that affects their family, the roles they play in Pride, working with such brand-new faces, and joining the Marvel universe. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Question: James, what made you want to play this character?
JAMES MARSTERS: I am a science nerd. I didn’t go to school for science or math, but I’ve been fascinated about it, all my life. I love to watch documentaries and read about it, and I have friends who are engineers. Engineers are fascinating people, so to play one was very exciting. I went into the audition and said, “Can I just do a little improvisation for you, after the audition?” And they were like, “Can you keep it to a minute?” I said, “Okay, this is my character coming to work in the morning. ‘Hey, guys, today NASA has contacted us once again. They’ve asked for help. The Mars mission is in trouble. The big problem that they’re having is feces. We have to recycle everything in this spacecraft because we can’t throw anything away. Everything has to be recycled. They cannot get water out of feces, so that’s what we’re gonna be working on this week. And do not come to me with any ideas about boiling it. Any caveman can do that. We do not have the energy to keep boiling this stuff. I need a filtration system. The coffee is free. I need an interesting idea on my desk in the morning. It doesn’t have to be the one we arrive at, but unless I find something interesting by the morning, I’m going to fire somebody. Go!’” And I think that got me the role. I don’t know. I love to talk about science, and to combine that with a fairly ruthless personality is very interesting.
Since you have friends that are engineers, does the show let you interject some of those experiences into your character?
MARSTERS: I’m not an ad-libber. If I’m asked to ad-lib, I can ad-lib forever and it’s really fun to do that, but I find that well-written scripts are put together very carefully. Once you start to ad-lib and add words to sentences, there’s a slacking that happens. When it’s good writing, it’s taut. I’m not judging people who do ad-lib.
Ever, what do you most enjoy about being on this show?
EVER CARRADINE: The best part is that there’s 16 of us, and really everybody totally gets along. Coming to work is a joy. We’re on text threads with the kids, text threads with the women of Pride, and text threads with all of the Pride, talking about stories and scripts. It’s all fun. It’s good to be around good people.
What is Janet’s place in Pride?
CARRADINE: Janet doesn’t seem to be offering anything. She’s not building something and she’s not the brains behind any operation, but she is the rock behind Victor Stein. In some of the flashbacks, you’ll see that Janet is pretty smart, in her own right, and was going places in school, and then gave a lot of that up to be Mrs. Stein and support Victor. The Pride is glued together. They’ve painted themselves into a corner and they’re stuck, and they’ve gotta work it out and stick together.
Some of Pride are there for reasons of family and some are there for altruism. Why is Janet there?
CARRADINE: She’s married to Victor Stein, and he’s in Pride. They’ve all entered Pride together, and once you’re in, you’re in, whether you are inventing something or not. She knows the secrets of Pride, she shows up at Pride meetings, and she participates in whatever it is that Pride does. She’s an active member, she just doesn’t actively create things, like some of the other people in Pride.
Does she want to be there?
CARRADINE: I don’t know if any of them want to be there, really. I think they do and they don’t. It’s a conflicted group. Pride is not without complications.
How much is Pride like a cult?
CARRADINE: There is a ritual aspect and a wardrobe aspect, but I’ve never thought of it as a cult, so much as a group of people who’ve all promised to do this thing together and they can’t get out of it.
What are the qualities in Janet that you like?
CARRADINE: She’s a great mother. I think that she protects and loves her son. I think that mothers who stay at home to parent and run the house are heroes. Sometimes not going to work is a lot harder than going to work, and I love that about her. Throughout the course of the series, she takes one for the team, a little bit.
How much will her secret come into play and cause trouble for her?
CARRADINE: Soon enough that you won’t be like, “Where’s the secret?!” Just when you are ready, wait ten more minutes, and then maybe it will happen.
What sort of relationship does Janet have with her son?
CARRADINE: Chase has a complicated relationship with his father, so she’s much more of a rock for him, and a consistent source of love and support. A lot of the show is very emotionally grounded. You don’t get to see a lot of it, but I hope there are little moments where you see that this is a mother that loves her son and he can confide in her, even if you haven’t seen that. The show is very emotionally grounded. I feel like every character in this show is very three-dimensional and I know who they all are. Since we’ve taken this journey, everybody feels complete.
How does Janet feel about how Victor treats Chase?
CARRADINE: I think she feels terrible. The interesting thing for me, about Janet, is that her job is trying to keep her family together. She can’t leave Victor and she’s not gonna leave her son, so it’s a constant battle of making the best out of sometimes a really complicated or terrible situation.
Is Victor evil or is he just misunderstood?
MARSTERS: That’s a really good question. I don’t think that there are such things as villains. I think that there are just people who are hurting other people, sometimes for the best of intentions and sometimes for the worst. In different times in my life, I’ve been the hero and I’ve been the villain. I also think that we’re all evil sometimes. He’s hurting people, but I think he’s very well understood. I don’t know if he’s misunderstood, at all. I think people know exactly where Victor is coming from.
It seems as though Victor leads with his dark side, especially with his family. What’s fun about playing that and still keeping him grounded?
MARSTERS: Self-doubt is a little painful. Victor does not suffer from that. Victor is convinced that his way is best and that he knows the best way forward. That kind of thinking has built an empire for him. At work, he’s trying to save the world and he’s primarily concerned that the human species will survive for at least two generations. Once the human race is going to survive, then the nice people can have the reigns again. But until we survive, someone has gotta be ruthless about it. If he’s remembered as the mean guy, fine. I’m a dad, so I know how easy it is to tell my kids, at all times, that they’re perfect and that every single thing they do is great, even when I know that they’re not doing their best. Then, I’m liked, and that feels good. Maybe the better thing to do is to say, “That’s not your best. You’re capable of more than that. That’s not enough.” Maybe that’s being a better parent. That’s definitely Victor. He may be going a little too far in that direction, but is it worse to go too far in that direction, or to always tell your kid that second best is good enough?
The show is about the parents vs. the kids. What’s fun about tapping into that, in a superhero/supervillain context?
CARRADINE: I love that the kids are looking at their parents and trying to figure things out. The parents don’t know what the kids know, and the parents don’t know what the kids know. Everybody has secrets and everybody is driving their own engine, a little bit. I think that every parent’s job is to prepare your children to be able to go off into the world. As a parent, you want to have faith that you did a good job and that your kids can make good decisions and go off on their own, but right as that’s happening, these children are looking differently at their parents. I think all children idolize their parents, and these children are learning that their parents aren’t exactly everything that they thought they were. That makes for really good television.
James, is it fair to say that Victor is as hard on himself, as he is on his own family?
MARSTERS: He’s probably harder on himself than he is on his own family. He’s probably actually trying to be patient with his family. He’s harder on himself. He perceives that he is being too soft with his son, that he loves him too much and that he is not doing right by him. He is a better father than his father. He’s taken what he has been given, as far as parenting skills, and he’s trying to do better for his son than what was given to him. Victor is hardest on himself, definitely.
What’s been the most exciting thing about working with a cast of almost brand-new faces?
MARSTERS: How talented they are. It’s scary. I come from stage, where I took years to get a certain skill set, then threw away most of those tools ‘cause they don’t apply to film, so I had to learn all over again. Then you’re faced with someone who’s just starting out, and they’re completely keeping up with you, effortlessly. It’s a little strange, in a really good way. In all honesty, I wish I had more scenes with them. I’ve had a lot of scenes with Gregg Sulkin, as Chase. Gregg is awesome. Gregg is uncorrupted by fame. He’s been really popular, for a long time. Wherever he goes, the girls are screaming, but he just wants to do a good job at work. He wants to make sure that everybody in his environment is feeling good. If someone is having trouble, he’ll extend a hand to help. He’s just a good, decent human being, who’s still grounded. Frankly, that speaks of a psychological strength. If you have a psychological weakness and you go through fame, it starts to show pretty quickly. Fame is not necessarily that healthy of an experience. It tempts you to think that you’re different. Gregg is just a normal dude. I’ve had a great time getting to know Gregg and working with him. We’ve had some really good scenes because we’re both willing to really be there for each other. I’m really impressed by him. I can’t wait to act with the rest of these young people. I watch them on screen going, “Oh, my god, it’s not even fair.” I worked really hard to get where I am, and they’re just doing it.
There are a lot of different messages in this. What do you take from the themes in this show?
CARRADINE: I’m not trying to throw gas on a fire, but I think questioning authority, questioning parents that you’ve idolized, questioning close friendships that you thought were rock solid, but then learning something about that person that changes everything, questioning the truth, and just questioning and sticking to your own personal judgement.
What’s it like to join the Marvel universe?
CARRADINE: The biggest challenge is trying to learn how to put the Marvel email on my iPad, with the password and the passcodes. There’s a lovely man at Marvel I.T. who all of Pride has to call while all the kids are like, “Here, let me fix it for you!” That was super challenging. I learned very quickly that I can keep my mouth shut. It feels very much like a family. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to your big, scary friend’s house. You feel like you’re invited over and should be there.
How hard has it been to try to keep things about this show a secret from the outside world? How protected are your scripts?
CARRADINE: They’re emailed on a special server. Honestly, it’s almost easier to know that you can’t say anything. I’ll go home and my husband is like, “What did you do today?,” and I’m like, “Well, we had sushi at lunch.” People don’t mean to spill the beans, if you tell them something, but it can just happen. Things get out very quickly, so I totally respect the Marvel universe and let them distribute this when they’re ready. The fans will prefer to not know. I, as a viewer, prefer to not know. When people ask me what the show is about, I basically say the logline because I know that’s been in print and I’m allowed to say that.
James, you’re very accustomed to dealing with fandoms, but is there anything about entering the Marvel universe that is either intriguing or scary to you?
MARSTERS: Nope. Having been a fan of Marvel for a long time, I’m excited to actually start producing entertainment based on this stuff. Marvel has always had well-rounded, three-dimensional characters. Spider-Man is a real teenager. He’s got real stuff going on. Wolverine has got some real stuff going on. He went through enough pain, early on, that you understand why he acts the way he does. All of them are like that. It’s very hard to take a one-dimensional or two-dimensional character and flesh it out, but if the characters are already three-dimensional, you have a much larger playing field. That’s very exciting. And I find fans to be smart and funny, and they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is a recipe for my favorite kind of person. I’ve had nothing but good interactions from fans, to tell you the truth.
Marvel’s Runaways is available to stream at Hulu.