‘Loki’ EP Explains Why Jonathan Majors’ Arrest Didn’t Affect the Series, Casting Ke Huy Quan and Tom Hiddleston’s MCU Future

Of the eight live-action TV shows that Marvel Studios has produced for Disney+ to date, only one has concluded with the explicit promise of a second season: That would be “Loki,” the outrageously entertaining series about Tom Hiddleston’s god of mischief and his metaphysical exploits in the Time Variance Authority.

It turns out, those plans were already in the works before a second of “Loki” had ever streamed. As executive producer Kevin Wright explains to Variety, he and Hiddleston began talking about Season 2 of the show while in production on the third episode of Season 1.

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“As we were shooting the ‘Lamentis’ episode, Tom and I started having lots of conversations about how this world could build out, how we dive deeper into it,” he says. “A large part of what we wanted to do was not trying to repeat ourselves, and not try to play the hits.” At the same time, he adds, they also wanted to make sure didn’t start Season 2 by “fast-forwarding through the drama” of the Season 1 finale.

And so much happened in that finale. To recap: Loki and his variant-turned-potential-soulmate Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) arrive at the end of time, where they meet the creator of the TVA, He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) — the variant of the supervillain Kang who won a massive multiversal war. To prevent future Kangs from emerging, He Who Remains has used the TVA to maintain a single, sacred timeline — pruning away trillions of potential lives in the process. He gives Sylvie and Loki an impossible choice: Replace him as the head of the TVA, or kill him and bring forth an infinite number of Kangs.

Loki wants the first option; Sylvie wants the second. She wins, kills He Who Remains, and boots Loki back to an alternate version of the TVA, where previous compatriots Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) don’t remember ever meeting him.

Variety has screened the first four (of six) episodes of “Loki,” and without spoiling anything, Season 2 picks up pretty much exactly where the first season left off — before then charting its own storytelling path. The full cast has returned, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw as former TVA judge Ravonna Renslayer and Eugene Cordero as TVA functionary Casey. And Majors returns as well as He Who Remains, in addition to another Kang variant, a 19th century inventor named Victor Timely. They’re joined by new actors including Kate Dickie (“Game of Thrones”), Rafael Casal (“Blindspotting”) and recent Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan as TVA technician Ouroboros, aka “OB.”

Behind the scenes, there have been some changes from Season 1. The series’ original director Kate Herron and head writer Michael Waldron both stepped back to focus on other projects. In their places, “Moon Knight’s” Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have stepped in as lead directors, and Season 1 writer Eric Martin stepped up as head writer for Season 2.

(L-R): Owen Wilson as Mobius and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Marvel Studios' LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.
(L-R): Owen Wilson as Mobius and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Marvel Studios' LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

To delve into the second season of “Loki,” Wright talked with Variety about casting Quan just before his performance in the multiverse spectacular “Everything Everywhere All at Once” changed the actor’s life forever; what the future of “Loki” the show and Loki the character might be following Season 2; and how Majors’ arrest in March for assault did (or did not) affect their plans for Season 2.

What were the discussions like about how to approach Season 2?

I think we had to just keep reminding ourselves that the TVA is a great world, let’s live in the drama of what we’re creating there. Which means not fast-forwarding through the drama that they just decided to stop pruning timelines, but also staying in the emotional turmoil that Loki and Sylvie are coming into this season with.

Also, there were certain things in Season 1 that felt like they were maybe a risk, and we didn’t know how the audience would respond. Once we realized that they embraced it, it felt like a lot of freedom to go further.

What did you feel was a risk?

In a very early draft of the script that Michael Waldron had written, that first Time Theater conversation between Mobius and Loki was maybe a couple of pages. And then a lot of other big Marvel-y action things happened afterwards, and we all went, “That’s not the interesting stuff. This Time Theater conversation is interesting. That’s what the show could be.” If we are really diving into the character-driven philosophy and introspection of self, that’s quite different than the last 10 years of Marvel movies. Would the audience follow us along on that?

Tom Hiddleston famously held seminars on the character of Loki for Season 1. Did he do anything like that for Season 2?

No, because we tried to bring back as much crew as we could from Season 1. It was largely the same team. Obviously, we went from Atlanta to London [for production], but a lot of our department heads carried over, so there was an institutional knowledge that was built in. And Tom is my producing partner in a true sense. Before we had any writers or directors, it was Tom and I for months building this story out. We had a 30-page document that was like, This is what the show is: TVA, He Who Remains — even Victor Timely was in that first document years ago. And it’s just carried through.

So even as Kate Herron kind of handed the reins over at the end of Season 1, there is an institutional knowledge that comes with us being the glue between the seasons.

You mentioned He Who Remains and Victor Timely. You finished shooting Season 2 in 2022, but did Jonathan Majors’ arrest for assault in March result in any changes to the show? 

No. This is maybe — not maybe — this is the first Marvel series to never have any additional photography. The story that is on screen is the story we set out to make. We went out there with a very specific idea of what we wanted this to be, and we found a way to tell it in that production period. It’s very much what’s on screen on Disney+.

It’s clear that Majors plays an integral role this season, and you just alluded that Marvel usually does additional photography on all its titles. So was there any discussion about making changes to the show, given the uncertainty about what was happening with Majors?

No. And that mainly came from — I know as much as you do at the moment. It felt hasty to do anything without knowing how all of this plays out.

How early into the writing of Season 2 did you decide to cast Ke Huy Quan as OB?

We were in London, so I had at least some version of our scripts. The way the process works, they’re always being rewritten, but OB was in there, and his introduction scene was almost exactly as originally written. I would like to say it was in early spring, which was maybe just two months before we started shooting. We were casting, and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was playing in L.A. and in New York, but it hadn’t gone nationwide yet. I think it was going the very next week. We had gotten a call from our casting director who said, “Hey, I’m about to put together a list for OB — just initial thoughts. But before I do that, I really think you guys should meet Ke, and I think it should be Ke. I think you guys should meet with him quick, because probably by Monday, he’s going to have a lot of offers for different things.”

So that that Friday, myself, Justin and Aaron, two of our directors, had gotten on a Zoom with Ke. We pitched him the show and this character. We shared that introduction scene with him and maybe the full script. And then we called in the big guns that Monday; Kevin Feige got on the phone with him and said, “Ke, I know you read the script. I know you talked to the guys. We really think you should do this. I really want you to join the Marvel family.” And he had already made up his mind over the weekend. It was like, “I’m there. I’ve been a huge fan of this for a long time.”

(L-R): Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Ke Huy Quan as O.B., and Owen Wilson as Mobius in Marvel Studios' LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.
(L-R): Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Ke Huy Quan as O.B., and Owen Wilson as Mobius in Marvel Studios' LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

In Season 1, the show explored several time periods and locations outside the TVA, but in the first four episodes of this season, you stick to just 1880s Chicago, 1970s London and 1980s in the Midwest. How did you come to that decision to focus more on the TVA and building out its history?

Because that felt like where so much of our core character conflict was going to come from. There was so much intersectionality of our characters and what they think of the TVA. Sylvie wants to burn it down because the apple is rotten, as she says. Loki sees it as potentially the only form of defense against whatever else is coming in a war with Kang. Mobius and B-15, they’ve dedicated their whole life to it. They’re not quite ready to give it up. Renslayer feels like she’s been keeping it together, and you get a real understanding of why she thinks she should be the one to get this thing back on track.

We want everybody to be in the gray area — they’re neither good nor bad. They might make bad choices or heroic choices, but they are trying to figure out who they are. The TVA felt like the place where we could maximize that storytelling and learn more about those characters through that. But also stay tuned, because we are going to more places [in Episodes 5 and 6].

Do you think the TVA could start to appear in other titles in the MCU?

I would love that. Look, I’ve been siloed in on “Loki” for almost five years now, by the time this show finishes, and with every filmmaker who has put their hands on the show, we’ve all had the same conversations: It feels like the TVA could really be this exciting connective tool for all of this storytelling. And we’ve only seen a fraction of it. We’re dealing very specifically with this one smaller department with Mobius and B-15 and Renslayer, but you look out at those vistas — this place is infinite. The exciting thing to us is there certainly are more stories to be told there. We’ve carved out our own little corner of the sandbox and built something cool. We’re hoping that other people want to come and play with it.

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about “Loki” is how it’s telling its own story, but have you considered bringing more of the MCU into it?

Yes, in both seasons of writers’ rooms. It always felt wrong to go too far outside of the box of things that would directly contribute to Loki’s character arc in these two seasons. So that’s why we get [Jaimie Alexander as] Sif in there [in Season 1], we play with the variants in the void and various levels of Asgard-specific storytelling. But while we’ve had nearly 12 hours of storytelling, it never feels like we have enough time. Eventually, just handling the stories of our ensemble and not shortchanging them has always been priority number one.

Now, Season 1 and 2 were always built to be two chapters of the same book. The hope would be going forward, there are more books that we can tell these stories with. I certainly think that we could start doing that.

Would there be a Season 3 of “Loki”? Is the future of the show finite or more open-ended?

I think it’s open-ended. We certainly did not develop this season going, “We have to tee up Season 3” — in the way that we did with Season 1, where there was a very specific, “Hey, we’re coming back.” But I also think that where this show goes, there certainly can be many, many, many more stories told with Loki in the “Loki” world, and in other worlds connected to Loki, the character.

Do you think Loki would ever rejoin the larger world of the MCU? 

That’s the hope. I don’t want to — yeah. I think the the sun shining on Loki and Thor once again has always been the priority of the story we’re telling. But for that meeting to really be fulfilling, we have to get Loki to a certain place emotionally. I think that’s been the goal of these two seasons.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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