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Thor: Ragnarok not only introduces a new female villain, Hela (Cate Blanchett), into the franchise but also a fresh female warrior, Valkyrie (Creed‘s Tessa Thompson). In the comics, Valkyrie is a blonde Norse goddess, but director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) said he had more in mind than just adding diversity to the franchise when casting Thompson. “I’m not obsessed with the idea that you have to cast someone just to tick a box,” he says. “You should cast people because they’re talented. [With Valkyrie] I wanted to make sure we weren’t making a female character that was boring and pretty. What I wanted was someone who was going to play the opposite and be even more of the ‘guy’ character than the guys. Ultimately I thought Tessa was the best person we found.”

EW talked to Thompson about reimagining the role, training like Linda Hamilton, and finding the right sized cape.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Describe this Valkyrie a bit. She’s from Asgard.
TESSA THOMPSON: She is originally. When we meet her and she meets Thor in Sakaar, I can’t really say much about what she’s doing there but she does have a relationship with Jeff Goldblum’s character — it’s a business relationship. She finds Thor and brings Thor to the Grandmaster thinking he might be of interest. The rest is a secret.

What was the training like for this?
She’s a real, real badass. The training was intense. Taika is fantastic. Sometimes with him you’re like are you joking or are you serious? And I was like, What kind of shape do I need to be in? I like to think I’m one of the least athletic people in real life. I don’t do a whole lot when I’m left to my own devices except wield forks and knives.

Taika sent me a picture of Sarah Connor in [Terminator 2]. She’s incredibly buff and really lean and in leather. I took it seriously. I was like, “Cool, I want to look like Sarah Connor and do like 10 pull ups.” By the time I was Valkyrie I could do 10 pull ups in one set and take a break and then do 10 more. I got really, really strong and buff.

Tell me about the outfit a bit. You also seem to be wearing war paint.
That was sort of a Taika remix. Marvel was really great, like “Do what you will with these characters.” In Ragnarok, you’ll see a Banner like you’ve never seen before. You’ll see Thor with the short hair, which happens when he becomes this gladiator for the Grandmaster. But you really do get to see these established characters in a new way. Obviously if they were really dedicated to the source material they would not have cast me.

As far as the armor, she’s such a bad ass that she doesn’t need a lot of metal to protect her. I’m essentially in leather. I have some really cool, like, chain mail like basically with my arms I can sort of shield and use them as weapons as well. I wield two daggers, which are sort of attached to me. And I also have a very special sword.

This must have been so much fun!
[Laughs] It’s so fun! I remember one of my first days I’m all suited up and I have a cape and a sword and I feel really cool. You don’t anticipate things like just constantly tripping on your cape. So it was really fun to have Chris and Tom Hiddleston be like “Oh, get the short cape!” I was like, Oh I didn’t know I could get the short cape!

Valkyrie is blonde in the comics — that must have made this even cooler.
Yeah, it’s really great. We have so many conversations particularly now about representation in film. I think the unfortunate thing about a lot of these fantasy movies is when they’re based on source material a lot of these comics were written in a time when that wasn’t a part of the conversation as far as having representation. Not just having characters that reflect the world we live in but how we represent the characters. If we were also dedicated to the source material, Valkyrie would potentially be a female Thor but she’s fighting in basically a bathing suit, which is also absurd. So we had a conversation of, what is a strong look? Like, she should probably be in pants. That probably makes more sense for the kind of work she’s doing. And we had conversations about her sort of feeling like a tomboy and having a certain masculinity about her while still being very much a woman.

It’s such an exciting time to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like you look at a cast like Black Panther. I think it’s really important for little boys and little girls to go to these movies and see themselves reflected on screen. I’m really excited about this generation of young women that can look at a screen and see some brown people in space. I’m happy to join Idris Elba so he doesn’t have to be the only one. He’s lonely!

Is it possible that Valkyrie could show up in, like, Infinity War? Could she return?
You never know where people will pop up. In the next phase, the hope is to find ways to interweave all these characters, and certainly with Infinity War, those are the culmination of a lot of work since Iron Man. She’s part of the tapestry now. For me, it’s exciting to join at a time with young actors like Brie Larson and Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. We’re all hopefully going to meet in one of these movies.

Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters Nov. 3.

Thor: Ragnarok
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