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MARVEL’S RUNAWAYS Talk Defying Stereotypes in Superhero TV

Marvel’s Runaways has always been more inclusive than your average superhero comic. With a team filled with diverse young heroes–whether it’s group leader Alex Wilder or resident sorcerer Nico Minoru–the group has always been more than your usual whitewashed male centric hero team-up. When it came to the show, the creative team ramped that up even more, casting Latinx actors to play both Gert and Molly, upping the diversity and making Runaways one of the most inclusive superhero shows on television.

With the teens’ parents playing a much larger role than in the books, the show has ended up with an ensemble cast that reflects the realities of Los Angeles far more than the average Hollywood production. We sat down with the cast on set in the City of Angels to talk about how important that representation is to them and how much of an impact it’s had on the show.

For James Yaegashi–who plays Nico’s father, Robert–after years of acting on stage, being part of this show has been unexpectedly groundbreaking. “This has really been an incredibly satisfying experience, both in terms of complexity in the characters but also because I’m not familiar with an Asian American leading man who’s just simply a leading man type. Simply going through life dealing with family stuff without the action slant or the nerd slant or the comic relief either. Just someone to be taken seriously,” Yaegashi explained.

Brittany Ishibashi has one of the most complex roles as Nico’s mother, Tina Minoru, and for her, the chance to play outside of stereotypes was a powerful experience. “How wonderful is it to see on TV a Japanese man married to a Japanese woman with a Japanese daughter? A black man married to a black woman? You know, it’s always interracial! So it’s really nice to see that in here because all my roles before this, for the most part, have had that extra little, ‘Well, but she’s Asian, so why don’t we like, um, maybe, maybe you’re fluent in a bunch of languages or maybe you’re also a classical pianist or maybe you were a doctor first? But then you really discovered your passion!’ So it’s nice to step into this role and play someone who’s clearly an unapologetically strong woman,” Ishibashi stated.

The show creates a new relationship between Molly and Gert, with the Yorkes adopting Molly at a young age after her parents’ mysterious deaths. Allegra Acosta and Ariela Barer who portray the powerful pair are just as passionate as their on screen counterparts, with both of them excited about the chance to represent the Latinx community and be part of such a diverse cast. “We represent the Latina community. We’re representing a stronger voice, and we’re not your basic stereotypes. We’re so much stronger in reality. And we don’t have this pressure to represent and be the perfect models. We’re representing human beings,” Acosta passionately told us.

Her on screen sister agreed. “The great thing about having multiple people of each ethnicity is that it never falls into tokenism. No one has to represent this blanket version of this race, and no one has to be this perfect role model. You know when you just have one person of color, then any problematic thing they do now represents everyone. And it’s like, ‘Oh man, you ruined it for the rest of us!’ But because there are so many of us, we’re allowed to be human and make our mistakes,” Barer enthused.

In the books, Nico and Karolina have a close relationship that plays a large part in Karolina’s personal journey with her own sexuality. For the two actresses portraying the fan faves, this was a hugely exhilarating prospect. “We’ve read the comics and we’re rooting for these two characters. We know how important it is to the fans,” smiled Lyrica Okano, who plays Nico. “We’ve bonded pretty much since day one. The minute we met we were so excited about our storyline, and we’re still really excited about it now. Plus, we have natural chemistry,” Virginia Gardner joked.

Ryan Sanders and Angel Parker play the parents of de facto Runaways leader Alex Wilder. It was a chance for them to play nuanced and complex characters that don’t fit into the mold of your average bad guys. Another huge draw for the pair was getting to portray a loving Black family. “To be an affluent Black couple who are successful and who love each other–because the Wilders do love each other, there is a genuine love in that family, and they love Alex–it’s definitely not a whitewash of hero and villain. To get to play a strong black woman who’s in a loving relationship was key for me,” Parker revealed to us.

Ryan Sanders shared a personal story about his experience as a lifelong Black comic book fan, and how important it was for him to be involved in a diverse Marvel show. “In my office I have a framed comic book where I took my Crayola crayon and colored a character brown because in that moment I was angry. All the characters I was drawing, I realized none of them looked like me. So it’s just there as a reminder in the terms of the art I may create. But now we’re in a place where Marvel has done such a great job that not only do we have some of those childhood favorites like Luke Cage and Black Panther, but we’re actually seeing them now on the screen. We have Falcon and now we have Alex Wilder. There are kids who are growing up who won’t have to get their brown Crayola crayon. We’re being represented and it’s just, right,” Sands shared.

It’s not merely on screen diversity that the show has, with Yaegashi revealing that he was impressed by the show’s huge variety off screen, too. “I feel like the diversity has also been reflected in the directors they’ve chosen as well. A lot of women, a lot of minorities. So you know it’s the Marvel culture, which is pretty great,” Yaegashi shared.

Are you excited to see the diverse world of Runaways come to life? Can’t wait to see your favorite character on screen? Run into the comments and let us know!

Images: Hulu/Marvel

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