Richard E. Grant on Classic Loki’s ‘Glorious Purpose’ & Working With a ‘Passionate’ Tom Hiddleston
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Loki Season 1, Episode 5, “Journey Into Mystery.”]
In the penultimate installment of Marvel’s Disney+ series, Loki gave truth to the phrase “the more the merrier,” as several Loki variants made their marvelous debut in The Void at the end of time.
Convening in the literal dumping spot for all things pruned by the TVA, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) met a horde of variants ranging from Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant) and Kid Loki (Jack Veal) to Boastful Loki (Deobia Oparei) and the ever-popular Alligator Loki. The Void is also where he reteams with Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) with the goal of uncovering the truth behind the TVA’s control.
In order to get there though, Classic Loki made the ultimate sacrifice of distracting The Void’s all-powerful Alioth just long enough for Loki and Sylvie to enchant the smoke monster creature. Although brief, Classic Loki’s appearance was certainly impactful. Below, Grant opens up about what drew him to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in the first place, his Classic Loki costume, and what it was like working with Tom Hiddleston — a performer he’s admired for years — and fan-favorite Alligator Loki among other things.
What initially drew you to the MCU?
Richard E. Grant: [Tom Hiddleston]… I jumped at it. He has an encyclopedic depth of knowledge of all things Norse and Loki, he was a walking, talking resource. You could ask him anything and he could explain everything with great articulation and he’s passionate about everything. He was very, very informed. So that made it a delight to do.
And taking that into consideration, Classic Loki is a variant. What direction did you take when tackling the role? Did you refer to the comics or take inspiration from Tom Hiddleston’s role?
Well, I was inspired by Tom and led entirely by what was scripted. I was very struck by the fact that, in one scene, I had to talk about not being the God of Mischief so much as being the God of Outcasts. I thought that that was the key to who he was in this episode, that he is very isolated by living immortally, and that he’s arrested by the TVA when he gives in to his need and desire to have human connection again.
My major disappointment was that I didn’t get to have muscles because in the Jack Kirby drawings and the original sixties comics, and certainly in the costume design that I was given with my face on it, I thought that I was going to be stepping into a muscle suit. I was born without any, so I was fairly rattled that I didn’t have that. I thought, “well, how am I supposed to fight as an Asgardian when I’ve got only my own muscles?” They said, “Don’t worry about that.” It did worry me, and it still worries me.
The costume still worked though, something that not many could pull off either. Was it fun getting into that or was the helmet as heavy as it looked?
The helmet is heavy, but more than anything, it was just very tight. But I was on it for such a short time, and it’s my job. So actors like to complain about things, but yeah, it was all fine and handleable. I so longed to be able to step into a muscle suit. I didn’t have to go to the gym. I’d have biceps and big shoulders, but that was not to be.
Well, really your Loki’s strength lies in his magic. What challenges did you face working in such a special effects-laden episode? Was there any tricks behind the scenes to help get you into the role and moments like the final face-off with Alioth?
Well, Alligator Loki looked like something made from three stuffed cushions that had been sewn together with a head and then a body and four little legs and a bit of a tail. So that was something that could either be dragged along next to us or thrown when it bit Loki’s hand off. But, otherwise, everything else had to be imagined. It’s the nature of your job that you have to use your imagination, so the magic is really what the CGI and the production designers come up with. The special effects were apparently extraordinary. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen stills, and it does look amazing.
It really does look amazing. But were the sets as complete looking as they did appear on screen? All the Lokis convened in the bowling alley and it just looks so impressive. What was it like to step onto a set like that?
The bowling alley set was all intact. Everything that you saw, we saw. When we were in the Void, we were on a football-sized landscape of grasses and mounds and things. But all those derelict ships and things that you see, we didn’t see any of that or the distance. It was all blue screen. So all that came afterward.
For the most part, all of the Lokis were there for you to interact with. What was it like getting to work together and expand upon this character fans have loved for so long?
Tom Hiddleston is the beginning, the middle, and the end of it all for me, so anything that Tom approved. If Tom felt that it was all right, and Kate [Herron, the director], who was so invested in it thought it was steering in the right direction, then I thought, oh, I must be doing something that they think is all right.
It’s a very odd thing when you come into a world that is so established, and then into a series that has been ongoing for episodes prior to your arrival, and then you leave. So you’re sort of parachuted in and then out of it. So you look for reassurance, and I suppose, some kind of stability from the people who are doing it all the time when you’re not. A bit like being a new person at school, thinking, have I got the right uniform on? Am I going in the right place or do the right things? It’s fear-filled at the beginning for me from that point of view.
As you mentioned, it’s a challenge bringing a new character into an established world, but Classic Loki really did make his mark. Do you think he really found his “Glorious Purpose” in sacrificing himself?
Yeah, helping [Loki and Sylvie was] the thing he was meant to do. Making that ultimate sacrifice.
You spoke earlier about working with Tom Hiddleston. Some cast members have mentioned his “Loki Lectures” on set, were you one of the lucky listeners and if so, how did it help you get into the head of the God of Mischief?
I did. Tom came and saw me on the first day that I worked, and I think he spoke almost nonstop for about two hours in sharing all his knowledge and wisdom about playing Loki. So it was incredibly helpful and useful. That was like an introduction into this universe from the man himself. That’s never happened to me before, and then I had that privilege of being in a situation like that. I’m very grateful for it.
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