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How the Marvel series ‘Loki’ based TVA on actual office work

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As a teenager, Kate Herron was obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies.

In particular, she remembers going to the movies several times with friends who shared her passion to see Les Deux Tours (2002), the second installment of director Peter Jacksons’ trilogy based on JRR’s epic fantasy novel. Tolkiens. She even wrote Lord of the Rings fan fiction.

It was very silly, insists the British filmmaker, revealing that one of her stories saw the heroic Fellowship walk through a magic fountain and get trapped in New York. Honestly, I was just writing the stories to make my friends laugh. I guess it was sort of that first foray for me: How do I tell a story?

Years later, Herron is again embroiled in the tale of a displaced protagonist from the world he knows. But this time his audience is a lot bigger.

Herron, 33, is the director of Loki, the Marvel Studios series that follows the adventures of the titular evil god after he was ripped out of time by an agency tasked with maintaining the sanctity of the timeline. So the six-episode series, which debuted earlier this month on Disney +, features a slightly different version of Loki that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have grown to love since he first appeared in Thor (2011). to Avengers: Endgame (2019).

A portrait of a woman looking into the camera

Loki director Kate Heron.

(Sophie Simmett)

I love bad guys, Herron said during a recent video call from Atlanta, where she puts the finishing touches on Loki. I think if a villain is doing well, you don’t have to necessarily like their actions, but you have to understand them. And I think Tom [Hiddleston], over the past decade, has brought so much empathy, wit, and pain to a very real character for so many people. I just wanted to be a part of anything [Lokis] the next chapter was going to be.

The series, on which the self-proclaimed Loki fan is also an executive producer, is Herrons’ most publicized project to date. His previous credits include directing on Netflixs Sex Education, as well as Five by Five, a series of short films produced by Idris Elba.

Growing up in South East London, Herron never considered filmmaking a career. Her love of cinema manifested in the aspiration to become an actress, and she often inspired her peers to stage plays or make films using a friend’s camcorder. It wasn’t until some astute and supportive teachers at Herrons High School pointed out to her that she seemed more interested in the storytelling that she changed course.

By introducing Herron to new texts, these professors, along with a film studies course that covered films directed by Stanley Kubrick and Akira Kurosawa helped broaden his perspective.

I just didn’t realize you could have a voice and authorship on a movie, which probably sounds a bit silly. But I just hadn’t really thought of movies that way, Herron says. Soon she was on her way to film school at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham, England, where she obtained a degree in film production.

Herron laughed, remembering that she thought she would just go look for a job in the cinema right out of school. Obviously, that didn’t happen, she says.

A woman seated in front of three large statues

Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in Loki.

(Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios)

Without a post-graduate roadmap (or job posting) to help him break into the industry, Herron eventually began writing and directing cashless shorts while juggling a day job as a ‘temp worker. Both experiments provided Herron with material for Loki, who introduces a new bureaucratic agency called the Time Variance Authority to the MCU.

I worked in a lot of random places, which weirdly influenced Loki in some ways, because we kind of have that office culture, Herron says. I have worked in a lot of offices.

In order to give the retro-futuristic offices of the VAT a real experience-[in]Office-inspired feel, Herron incorporated details that viewers could recognize in the real world, from paper files to posters on the walls, and gave them a fantastical touch worthy of the superhero series.

One of the most exciting things for me about Kate is that she has this incredible attention to detail, says Kevin Wright, Loki’s co-executive producer. This is something we saw on his very first pitch [and] it makes its way in every frame of the show. Every monitor, every piece of paper in the VAT, she’s reviewed and approved everything you see.

In an email, Loki star Hiddleston described Herron as a dream collaborator who possesses a unique combination of extraordinary diligence, endurance, energy, respect and kindness.

His affection and understanding of Loki was so deep, deep and expansive, Hiddleston wrote. She built a new world in which these characters can play with incredible precision, but she was also extremely sensitive to their emotional journey.

A man in a jumpsuit standing next to another man in a business suit

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), left, and Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) in a scene from Loki.

(Marvel Studios)

The Herrons’ affinity for strangers is evident throughout our conversation. There is of course his love for Loki, the heir to the King of the Frost Giants raised as the Prince of Asgard who has gone on to become one of the MCU’s most beloved villains turned antiheroes. Herrons’ first introduction to the world of Marvel as a child was through X-Men: The Animated Series, about the superhero team made up of people with powers that set them apart from average humans. . Herron even cites Lisa Simpson, the overperforming and opinionated middle child from the animated sitcom The Simpsons as the reason she is vegetarian and can play the saxophone.

And while Herron describes herself as shy, it doesn’t live up to the passion she brings to discussing film and television.

She calls the 2001 Wes Andersons film The Royal Tenenbaums, co-written by actor Loki Owen Wilson, a perfect film. As well as being obsessed with The Simpsons, Herron turned to genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Battlestar Galactica update, and The X-Files while growing up.

As Herron enthusiastically dives into Loki’s influences including Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Brazil (1985), Metropolis (1927) and, yes, even Teletubbies, it’s easy to see why Wright knew that she was the right person to bring Loki. to life from their very first meeting.

Upon learning that Marvel was developing a show about Loki, Herron tasked his agents to call Marvel every day until they met her. And it worked.

I was so excited for someone to continue with the project, Wright says. Which sounds crazy, that Marvel would be excited if anyone sues us. But those were the early days when we were trying to get this Disney + streaming content off the ground, so people were very hesitant not to know what it was again.

Herrons’ enthusiasm for the show earned him a video reunion with Wright and executive producer Stephen Broussard. Believing that this might have been his only shot on the project, Herron came armed with so many stills and clips to illustrate his discussion of the scripts sent that a single meeting turned into a conversation of four. hours.

Man wearing horned helmet and business suit holding arms open

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a scene from Loki.

(Marvel Studios)

Over the next week, Wright says, it was really about figuring out how to set Kate up for success when we brought her in front of Kevin Feige to present this.

Herron has put together a 60-page bible of ideas for characters, story, visual references, and more. The rest is Marvel history.

She learned not to wait for permission, she says, after graduating from film school and getting involved in improv and stand-up to develop her acting skills and meet fun collaborators. for his short films.

I think I would always find excuses, almost, [to not do it], said Herron. It was that thing to be like, well, I’m not ready. So I’ll wait. I’ll wait until I’m perfect and then I’ll go do it.

Taking inspiration from Robert Rodriguezs Rebel Without a Crew and an opening keynote from SXSW by Mark Duplass, Herron realized she just needed to start doing things. She figured it didn’t matter if the movies were messy. If a short film was bad, no one had to see it. If a short film was half good, she would submit it to festivals.

It is this tenacious creativity that connects the dots between his early fan fiction, his short films, his pitch presentations and now Loki himself. It’s a trait that has helped her navigate the industry to her current success, even during the most frustrating times. As a director, I’ve sometimes been asked for crazy things in interviews, she says of life on the festival circuit. I remember being asked: Are you sure you are ready? Are you sure you are ready? And my male colleagues have never been questioned on this issue. I think that’s probably why I was so motivated to go out and do stuff.



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