Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Marvel’s Runaways. Read at your own risk.
Marvel’s Runaways unpacked a lot of mythology in its three-episode premiere, but none more mysterious than the man locked away in the depths of the Church of Giborrim.
Over the first three episodes of the series, the titular Runaways witnessed their parents commit a horrific act, seemingly sacrificing a woman in the name of Gibborim. Though it ultimately didn’t work, Destiny was placed in a pod that matched a similar one housing an as yet unknown man currently located in a protected part of the Church of Gibborim — Leslie (Annie Wersching) had visited the man in the premiere, but his true identity is being kept under wraps.
“It’s intentionally mysterious,” says executive producer Stephanie Savage, who jokes that Wersching has dubbed the character “Gross Flaky Guy.” “It’s mysterious even to Pride. Really, Leslie’s the only one that has any access to him.” Hence, EW turned to Wersching to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s really going on with the Church of Gibborim?
ANNIE WERSCHING: There’s definitely going to be a lot of parallels drawn with Scientology. As it was presented to me by Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie is that it’s actually quite different. It’s all based in science and it’s all about the UV rays and everything you can see in your spectrum and what’s beyond that. But, yeah, it definitely has a little bit of a creepy vibe, has a little bit of a cultish vibe. The smiles that they wear, I think in that alone, they’re a little bit creepy.
What can you tease about the Pride’s ultimate goal and its ties to Gibborim?
Leslie is really the only one who truly knows what Pride is for, and I think she lets a lot of other characters believe that they are the leader of Pride, but she really is pulling all the strings. She’s the only one who knows the bigger plan, and what truly Pride is being used for.
So she’s all in? Because in the second episode, it almost seems like she’s pained by tricking Destiny into coming back to be sacrificed by the Pride. Does her loyalty waver at all?
Her loyalty does not waver. She’s doing everything that she has to do, even though some of them are awful things, but she believes they’re for the greater good. Later in the series, you learn more her reasoning and what she believes, and so the things that she has to do are horrible and she feels them very deeply, but she knows that they have to be done and no one else really is going to do them if she doesn’t.
So she’s not necessarily a mustache-twirling villain?
No, no, definitely not. I mean, I think that’s what’s really cool about her is that a lot of the stuff that you see Leslie do, if you were seeing, say, a Lady Macbeth or a Claire Underwood, you wouldn’t also see them break down and cry about it. I think what makes her unique and different is that she has so many facets to her and she feels everything very deeply even though she can be very manipulative and does these terrible things.
Let’s talk about Leslie’s relationship with her husband because this is very different from the comics. He is not even part of Pride. Why is there that separation there and what does their relationship look like moving forward? She seems to wear the pants in the relationship.
Yes, to say the least. Poor Frank. [Laughs] I always pat Kip [Pardue]’s shoulder and say, “Oh, Frank, you’re pretty, it’s okay.” Leslie 100 percent runs that relationship and is the head of their household. The Deans are very, very different from the comics, and I think it makes them an interesting pairing just because they are separate. Every other pairing of the adults, they’re all together in Pride. It’s interesting that he’s different. It definitely happened for a reason that he’s not in Pride, and there may have been a time that he was that he may not remember.
Let’s talk about this mysterious man. Stephanie says you call him “Gross Flaky Guy.”
I think in the script he’s described as mysterious man, but I opted for Gross Flaky Guy. [Laughs] Everything that Leslie does is for an absolutely gigantic, bigger, deep reason, and a lot of it has to do with the mysterious man that you see. The meaning of him and their relationship that they have is something that is beyond anything else and very much has to do with her purpose. Her reason for almost everything she does is tied into the mysterious man.
Ultimately, do the parents think what they’re doing is right?
Again, I think Leslie’s really the only one who knows what the ending is, so she knows that what they are doing is for the bigger picture and, in a sense, to save humanity, but no one else has any knowledge of that, so I think the rest of them are pretty much in the dark and definitely think what they’re doing is awful. Not that Leslie doesn’t think it’s awful, but she knows that it’s a necessary evil that has to happen in order for the greater good.
Can the parents trust each other? Will there be questions of loyalty within the group and different alliances?
Definitely. I mean, I think Josh and Steph write that kind of show so well, a show where one episode you think you know exactly who the heroes and villains are, and then three episodes later you’re like, “Oh, wait a minute, you’re kind of flipping that around.” There’s definitely a lot of distrust and arguments among the Pride members. Everyone thinks that their way is a better way to do things or to handle things, and a lot of people don’t necessarily want to be involved in Pride, and Leslie is the one who kind of has to tweak things and do a little bit of dirty work to keep everybody focused on the task.
She’s a master manipulator.
Yes, but with a smile.
Ultimately, what do you think she’s motivated by?
I think she’s motivated by, again, the idea of the greater picture. She really sees things down the road. She’s definitely motivated by doing what is best for not only her family and everyone in the world, but she’s very connected to the mysterious man. She’s motivated very much by the mysterious man’s same things that drive him and keeping humanity safe.
It’s interesting because you would think a lot of parents would just say they’re motivated by their child, and yet that’s not Leslie’s first answer.
Well, I think it is in the bigger picture.
How close do you think Runaways is staying to the comics?
They’re keeping all of the things that would be the things the fans would be upset about if they didn’t keep. You know what I mean? I feel like the kids are so spot on. They’re cast so amazingly well, there’s Old Lace, just so many of the things that you just have to have. Then, I think the ways that they’ve changed it are brilliant as far as keeping it something that is actually able to be sustainable on television and making it more two-sided in terms of the kids and the parents. It’s so great that they’re showing that the villains aren’t just straight up villains; you get to see a little of the gray area. Josh and Stephanie are so good at stories like that, like The O.C., where you have the adults and the kids, and being able to blend the worlds is so good, and I think that’s going to be a really fresh take that the fans are going to really like that is a little bit different from the comics, but they’ve kept off the magical parts.
Even though the show has Old Lace in it, does it feel more grounded than the comics?
A hundred percent. I mean, when I was very first finding out about the project in general, that was sort of the pitch. It’s like, it’s a comic book, but it’s super based in reality. Just the fact that the Minorus go from wizards to owning Apple, basically, just all the little ways they tweaked it from the super heightened to our real world, that was just brilliant. So you’re certainly going to get your crazy, heightened, superhero type things that are going to happen in the story, but at the same time, you want the kids to [go to] the homecoming dance. It’s really relatable, but yet still stays in the Marvel world I think.
How do you think this is a different Marvel show than we’ve seen before?
For Marvel, I feel like it’s definitely more in tune with Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s lighter, brighter, there’s a lot of jokes. It definitely separates itself from the New York shows that they have so many of, so I really feel like it stands alone, that it has a cool energy to it.
New episodes of Marvel’s Runaways will be released Tuesdays on Hulu.