Executive Produced by showrunners/writers Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage and Marvel’s Head of TV Jeph Loeb, the Hulu series Runaways is back for Season 2 with higher stakes and greater danger, as this group of teenagers who realized their parents were evil have now left their homes and are learning to live on their own and take care of each other while working to take down PRIDE. At the same time, PRIDE is looking to find their children, and a secret plan has been set in motion that might lead to betrayal from one of their own.
While at a junket held on the set for The Hostel, an underground dilapidated mansion that the runaways take shelter in this season, co-stars Allegra Acosta (“Molly”), Ariela Barer (“Gert”), Rhenzy Feliz (“Alex”), Virginia Gardner (“Karolina”) and Gregg Sulkin (“Chase”) spoke to a small group of outlets at roundtable interviews, and Lyrica Okano (“Nico”) spoke to Collider by phone, about the big journeys that each of their characters will go on in Season 2, how this season is more of everything, getting to explore the character relationships deeper, having a dinosaur for a co-star, and the reaction from fans of the comics.
Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Question: Because these characters all go on such a big journey this season, what have you enjoyed getting to do?
ALLEGRA ACOSTA: I think what I love is that there’s more character development in the storyline. Even though we’ve followed that strong storyline in the first season, we’re going even deeper into what other relationships she has and what she wants. She wants a family that looks like her, and she’s striving for that, this whole season. That’s why she rebels a bit. She wants to find someone who has the same capacity of powers as her. So, when she finds a certain character, she’s like, “Oh, my god, you’re like me! We can fight together! We’re the same!” She’s very curious. We all want to know what our background is. But my favorite part of this season was being able to work with special effects and learning how to make Molly a bad-ass. What I’d love to see in Season 3 is for her to fully come into her powers and be invulnerable, like in the comic books, where she takes on this very super-human path. I’ve done stunts, but the comic book fans always tell me, “I would love to see her invulnerable! I want to know if she’s a mutant!” Hopefully, they can tie that in, without saying the M word. That would be awesome!
ARIELA BARER: This season is very interesting because Gert has always been an activist and social justice warrior, for lack of a better term. She comes from a very privileged lifestyle in Brentwood. In a not racist way, she’s the armchair anthropologist of activism. She doesn’t make weird generalizations about people. Now, she’s living this lifestyle first hand and she’s seeing this real gender and race oppression, but also socio-economical oppression. She’s doesn’t have a home, and she’s fighting for her meals. This isn’t something where she’s ever really considered the human side of that. She’s always known, intellectually, but now she’s living it and it’s different. It’s hard, but she’s living. Of course, it’s through the lens of fantasy, so we don’t have it as hard as a real homeless teenager would because it’s a superhero show. It’s also nice that it doesn’t feel as bleak as it could be, if we really showed the nitty-gritty of getting into that. I don’t think it leaves people feeling miserable. It leaves people feeling hopeful and triumphant.
RHENZY FELIZ: I feel like, at the beginning, Alex isn’t as accepted into the group as he once was. In the first season, if he was the leader, I feel like he’s less so, in the second season. He goes on this journey of finding himself. I think a lot of it has to do with self-identity and trying to figure out who you are, as a person. What every teenager wants to do is figure out who they are. Then, to throw into the mix that, they have to run away now and there are these survivalist tactics, which makes everything that much more complicated. For Alex, it’s a lot about finding himself and a figuring out what he really wants in this world.
VIRGINIA GARDNER: In Season 1, Karolina was just figuring out her powers and what she could do with them, and she was really afraid to embrace her powers. She didn’t want to be labeled a freak or a mutant, or anything like that. This season, she’s stopped caring about anything like that and just hones in on her powers, owns them, is proud of them, and shows them off. I got to fly so much more this year, and there are really intense light battle sequences. On a personal note, she embraces who she actually is and who she loves, and completely explores that. There’s no more fear there. She’s completely out in the open with everything. This season, Karolina has such a fleshed out arc. She’s discovering her powers and her relationships, so as an actor, I really got a lot of fun stuff and a lot of really emotional stuff to do, this season, which was a lot of fun. Hopefully, if we get a Season 3, I’m excited to see where she’s gonna go next because we’re only gonna learn more about where she comes from and her destiny. A lot of stuff that was in the comic books is finally starting to come to a head, towards the end of this season, and hopefully into the third.
LYRICA OKANO: As you know with Marvel, they don’t really tell you things until the day comes, so I didn’t really know where they were taking me for the season, but I was just really excited. And then, as soon as each new episode script would be at the table read, I’d be like, “Oh, boy! Wow, they’re really giving me a lot of fun things to play with and work with!” It’s been such an honor to be Nico, in Season 1 and Season 2. Last season was nice because it started out with me doing my job, as an actor, and just using my imagination for the backstory for my character. But as each new episode would come out for the season, I would discover more and more about Nico, and that was always really fun to do. And then, in Season 2, when you think that you’ve seen all of Nico, it gets even darker in Season 2. Nico is in that headspace of trying to keep everyone safe and making sure everyone’s okay. She’s the reluctant leader of the group, and which you’ll see this season. She’s trying to work together, as best as possible, with her friend, Alex. With two leaders in the group, it gets a little messy at times, but Nico is just trying her damn hardest to keep things together for everybody.
GREGG SULKIN: Chase wants to be the leader of the group. Prior to Season 1, Alex was always the one that everybody loved, and Chase had his own group. Chase was too cool for school, and they really loved Alex. And so, Chase deals with trying to be the one that everybody loves and looks up to, and wants to be the leader of the group, which is very fun. I love Rhenzy [Feliz], as a human being. He’s a real friend of mine, so to be able to play that with him is fantastic.
Would you describe this season as more serious?
FELIZ: I think it’s more of everything. There’s more action, there’s more drama, and there’s more plot twists. At every turn, it’s like Runaways Season 1, times three. The action is amplified. The way we move our camera and the sets are amplified. Everything is on a bigger scale, this season.
What has most surprised you about Season 2?
BARER: Everyone is growing, in a new way, together. There are definitely tensions within the house, but honestly, the one that surprised me the most was Chase. The way they go in the comics is beautiful, and I love that for what it is, but on a show, you have to fill in however many seasons you’re gonna get. So, it didn’t go the route that it could have gone, which I’m really happy about because I think it’s really human and beautiful. The way they grow together is very beautiful. You get to see their vulnerabilities together.
OKANO: I’ve never had the chance to do stunt work, before the second season of this show. I trained in martial arts and gymnastics when I was a kid, growing up, and it was nice to use those skills for this season. I’m a little bruised up still, but I’m excited to see how it all looks when it comes out. Nico goes through a huge emotional journey this year, and it was really challenging for me, as an actor. I didn’t know what I was getting into, and once I was in it, it was like, “Wow, okay, so this is Season 2 and 13 episodes. This is the role that Nico is going towards.” It was a lot to work through, and there were a lot of challenges. It pushed me to my limits, emotionally, mentally and physically. I’m sure it’s gonna turn out really well, so I’m very excited.
What are the character relationships you’re excited about exploring, this season?
ACOSTA: For sure. Last season, it was more about Gert and Molly’s relationship, and our family’s backstory. This season, it’s more about Molly’s origin story, but it’s also following the yin and yang of Nico and Molly. Nico is so goth, and Molly is so not goth. Molly is rainbows and butterflies, and Nico is just dark. But it’s interesting, the way the writers have decided to make us very compatible, this season, in different ways. Even though we’re very different, we work really well together when we’re brought together. It’s really cool to work with Lyrica [Okano] in all of these different scenes, and throughout the season. It’s very exciting.
GARDNER: The Karolina-Nico relationship is completely explored this year. It peaks, then it hits the floor, and then it comes up. There ends up being almost a love triangle situation. We see every aspect of that relationship this year, to the point where Alex is sleeping below our bedroom upstairs. Poor Alex, I totally stole his girl. So, we go from softly exploring that relationship to completely exploring it, and not only Nico and Karolina, but what it looks like when any 16-year-old is in their first relationship, with all of the teenage aspects of figuring out how to love and care for somebody, at that age.
OKANO: We left the first season with them running away, knowing that there’s a new relationship between them that’s budding. Season 2 picks up with Karolina and Nico pretty much discovering what it’s like to be in a relationship with each other. And like all relationships, it gets complicated, at times, especially if you’re in a group of runaways together. In a mansion that’s underneath a hill, somewhere in Griffith Park. Things get tough, but Nico and Karolina they have a lot of love for each other, and I’m excited for [the fans] to see their journey together. It’s quite beautiful.
Chase has gone from being the jock in Season 1 to being one of the most vulnerable characters in Season 2, especially with his relationship with Gert. What’s it like to get to explore that in a male character?
SULKIN: My girlfriend says to me, all the time, “Dude, can you please just show some emotion?,” and I’m like, “I’ve been doing that for 12 hours [on set]. Do I really have to do it with you?” It’s funny, and I’m speaking as a male, but I think times are changing and it’s okay to be vulnerable and open up, in the same way that it’s okay for a female to stand her ground, voice her opinion, and feel okay, perfectly normal and happy with voicing what they stand for. Hopefully, it’s coming together in society. Chase is also dealing with the fact that he and Gert are living together. I know, from personal experience, living with your significant other is a whole different ball game, especially when they have a dinosaur that does not like you. This is a very sweet dinosaur, to who it chooses to be sweet to, my character not being one of them. During the second season, you’ll see Chase try to become a good boyfriend. This is Chase’s first real relationship with a woman who stands her ground, and he has to deal with that.
What’s it like to play all of the emotions that come from everything these young people are dealing with?
SULKIN: I’m not sure people know this, but when you shoot, you don’t always shoot in order and, on this season, we’ve had a lot of, “We need to go back a couple of episodes, and shoot this and do this.” This season has been very tough, as an actor, to make sure that the emotional arc matches from scene to scene. The characters had to grow up extremely quickly, within a very short space of time. Being a teenager is hard enough, but they’ve also found out their parents are super-villains. The bond that the runaways form is one where they’re in this together. No one else could relate to this story. They only have each other. And it becomes a matter of life and death. The stakes become very high. These parents are not in a grey area. The advice that they’ve given is actually incorrect. The show is about the parents versus kids, but the kids are right and they’re fighting for justice.
What was it like to walk onto the big, new set for The Hostel, for the first time, and to see what the runaways’ new home would look like?
OKANO: It was during pre-production that I got to walk onto the set, for the first time, and that’s when it really hit me that Season 2 is a whole other animal. That got me really prepared to get the first script. And then, once I got the first script, I put it all together in my head. I miss that mansion already. It was like a second home, this year.
What’s it like to have a dinosaur for a roommate?
OKANO: There’s a tree growing through the floors and the ceilings in the mansion. And then, there are the chandeliers, and the every detail in every room, with a whole story behind it. It’s amazing! It’s really interesting. I could take you on a tour of the mansion and show you all of these little details that I picked up and was like, “Wow, I wonder what happened here.”
How is it to play scenes opposite a dinosaur puppet?
BARER: Honestly, it’s so easy. I wish I could say it was hard, in order to make myself seem like some amazing actor who overcomes CGI, but no, they made it so easy for me. [Old Lace] is this amazing puppet. It literally breaths, and you see her eyes moving, to the point where I am better about it this season. Last season, it was a little weird. I’d walk past and see Old Lace moving, and I’d be like, “‘Sup girl!” That was a little weird. This season, I’ve gotten better about it. I know she’s a puppet. It’s actually crazy fun. It’s almost like doing a monologue, which is fun to do, as an actor. It’s nice to have alone time.
They tell you not to work with animals or babies, but you have a dinosaur. Did you ever worry about not emotionally connecting with her?
BARER: Not really. It’s easy because Gert isn’t immediately like, “This is normal. Cool.” There was an adjustment period that I got to go through, as both Ariela and Gert Yorkes. I got to be weird until I warmed up to her, but now, it’s so easy. I’d say that the only hard part about it is that when you touch her, she’s very slimly, so you get slime all over you. I’ve messed with Gregg [Sulkin], in the past, where we’ll be doing a scene and I’ll hold his hand after, and he can’t do anything about it. He just looks at me.