Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Runaways (2017) is the latest web television series created for Hulu based on the Marvel comic book of the same name. Holding closely to its print counterpart, the show follows six teenagers from different backgrounds who discovered their parents are not only part of a criminal organization but also possesses natural abilities and special powers, which they thankfully inherited. So, begins the epic journey where the young heroes try to stop sinister plans plotted by the super-villain team who are also their parents. From there, the story continues to explore the theme of identity and trust, which is best showcased by the only (thus far) alien in the Runaways group: Karolina Dean, who is played by the 22-year-old Virginia Gardner.
So, what does this California native have in common with the Marvel superheroine? For one, they have the same ability to brighten up a room instantly. Albeit one is with her sunny, free-spirited personality while the other with her superpower to emit a rainbow-like glow. That, and the fact that Virginia believes that she would have reacted exactly the same as Karolina should something similar were to happen to her. “I would want to search for answers. I also would kick my evil parents’ butts! Initially, Karolina wasn't quick to believe her parents were evil—I think, I'd be the same as well.”
Prior to being cast in the Hulu original series, Virginia has also appeared on the Disney Channel series Lab Rats (2012) as well as the hit American musical comedy-drama TV series Glee (2013) before getting her first big break with Dean Israelite sci-fi thriller film Project Almanac (2015). Since then, the young enthusiastic talent has guest-starred in How to Get Away with Murder (2015) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2016) while modeling for American fashion retailing chains such as Kohl’s and Hollister.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how did you get the part of Karolina Dean from Marvel’s Runaways?
Well, it's Marvel, so the audition process was very secretive. I did a self-tape in a hotel room at Vancouver at about 1 in the morning, with my computer balancing on a lampshade. I thought it was the worst self-tape of all time but turns out I was wrong!!
Are you a comic fan? Do you remember your first comic?
My first comic was Runaways but since then, I have fallen in love with graphic novels. They’re such an interesting format. Some of my favorites are Hostage and Imagine Wanting More Than This.
In terms of character and theme, how would you personally distinguish Marvel and D.C.?
Hmm what's D.C.??! :)
Tell us what are some of the expectations and realities you discovered after being part of the show.
I was nervous about the people's possibly high expectations for Karolina. And I was so surprised and thrilled to find people reacted so well to her character. It's been really amazing to see their responses. So many people have tweeted me, wishing they had someone like Karolina to look up to when they were in high school. I'm so fortunate to be able to bring her to life.
How different will the series be as compared to the comics? Which do you prefer and why?
I think they are both special in their own ways but we have done a great job on keeping the comic’s spirit alive. We obviously dive a lot deeper into the parents’ stories. While our show is a little more of a slow burn, everything is fleshed out into a greater detail! We also play around a lot more with the various relationships on the show.
Your character is expected to be the first gay on-screen Marvel superhero. Do you feel any pressure or sort?
Of course! Because I want to feel that I have done justice to the character. Then again, I also feel a lot of pride. It's extremely exciting to be able to become a role model to so many people and to promote such a positive image.
What is it about Runaways that you feel is different from the other television series based on Marvel Comics?
I think it has a young, fresh flare and it's unlike any other Marvel shows. It's fun! And I think that's how comic book adaptions should be. That and also the fact that the whole show is set in California. As most people are familiar, the majority of the Marvel shows are dark and shot on the east coast. We definitely have more of a Cali vibe!!
Karolina has the power to absorb solar energy and reradiates it. What will your superpower be and what would you call yourself?
Dog Whisperer. I'd love to be able to communicate with my pup, Levi.
Which do you think you’d be better at? As a supervillain or a superhero?
In some ways, a supervillain and superhero have more similarities than differences. What are your thoughts on it?
I believe Runaways presents that idea very well. Sometimes you may find yourself sympathizing with the parents!! It's interesting to view them as humans rather than just villains. At the end of the day, even the heroes can be flawed!
What are some of the projects you’re currently working on apart from Runaways?
A great, hilarious movie called Little Bitches that is coming out in January and a bad ass movie called Monster Party. Monster Party is a crazy, adventure kind of a movie. I got to play a pink-haired, pregnant stoner, which is something different and fun for me.
Who is your actual hero? And whose hero do you want to become?
My actual hero is my brother Chas! He has autism and has taught me so much. I hope I get to be his hero someday!