Marvel's Runaways: Julian McMahon dishes on his surprise debut
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Runaways and the 2003 comics on which the series is based. Read at your own risk!
Julian McMahon officially made his Marvel’s Runaways debut during Tuesday’s episode — though viewers had technically seen him from the beginning.
After The Pride was finally able to offer up a sacrifice via the young gang member Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) had shot, the Gross Flaky Guy hiding in the bowels of Giborrim was made whole again. Surprise: His name is actually Jonah, and he’s not so gross after all! Not only that, but he’s also appears to be Karolina’s (Virginia Gardner) real father! EW turned to McMahon to get the scoop on Jonah, and whether the Fantastic Four alum was actually suited up as GFG. (Plus: Check out an exclusive photo from next week’s Runaways above!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Jonah is Gross Flaky Guy.
JULIAN McMAHON: Don’t write Julian McMahon: Gross Flaky Guy. I don’t want to get that reputation. [Laughs]
Tell us about Jonah as a person.
He’s such a complicated character. He was constantly evolving as I was playing him. A lot of these things you go into knowing what you’re playing, to a certain extent, but because of this type of show and this type of character, and also because of the Marvel world, you don’t really learn things until you experience them. So this is an interesting one because the journey of playing him was really telling me who he was as opposed to preparing for something and knowing who it is the other way around. Really the development of who he was was through the scripts. But he’s a charismatic individual who comes into the show as an outsider to all of the other characters. As we progress, we learn that Jonah has a motive that is maybe separate to the rest.
This is your second supervillain after Victor Von Doom. How do you think those characters compare?
Well, I’m playing them, so there’s the comparison right there. Victor Von Doom was this wealthy individual who had a very specific way that he looked at the world and wanted things to be, and that created the rift between him and Reed Richards and then him and the Fantastic Four. This guy is a little similar. I don’t know where this guy gets his cash from, but he’s obviously a very well-to-do guy and he uses his finance and his power to get what he wants, so there’s that similarity there between Victor Von Doom — the one that I played in the film, not so much the Victor Von Doom from the comic book, which I’m a big fan of as well — and the character of Jonah.
Can you talk about Jonah’s dynamic with Leslie (Annie Wersching)? Not just romantically, but also the power dynamic between them. Viewers have looked at Leslie as the head of Pride, but his introduction should presumably shake things up.
Yes, you’re correct in that assumption. Jonah comes in and very much shakes things up. Jonah is a guy who has been around for quite a while, and we learn that he has relationships with the church that go beyond Leslie, who is now head of the church. His connection and his influence on that has been around for a long time, and a lot longer than what we’ve seen so far with Leslie.
The first thing he says is he wants to meet her, presumably meaning Karolina. What kind of relationship does he expect them to have?
It’s an interesting question, because I remember when we were playing that, I was asking the same thing. It really came from the near-death experience that he had. He’s been doing this rejuvenation type thing for a long time and it has always worked. Everything was simple and easy, there was never anything close to failure. Then, all of a sudden, he has what I would call a near-death experience and that’s when he starts to look at things differently. So I think it’s that that sets him on this path of, “Okay, I need to do things differently.” You always hear people have experiences that scare them or threaten them, like, “There are things that are important to me and I have to get them done,” and that’s what happens to Jonah.
What kind of dynamic will he have with Frank (Kip Pardue) considering Jonah’s ties to both Leslie and Karolina?
It certainly throws a spanner in the works, doesn’t it? He’s not the type of guy that’s used to hearing the word no, and he’s also the type of guy who accomplishes what he needs to no matter the cost, so that is a fascinating character to bring into the mix of that dynamic they already have between those two. That brings things to an uncomfortable place.
Do you think Jonah considers himself a good guy? Is he the hero of his own story?
No, I wouldn’t say that.
Do you then consider him a villain?
When we discussed the character, we discussed the idea that there were no villains and that every character had their own capacity for certain levels of good and bad, to a certain extent. So everybody was equal, to a certain extent. Is he a villain? Oh gosh, I don’t want to use that word; you can use that word if you want to, but I don’t want to use that word.
What does Jonah ultimately want?
Jonah ultimately wants something that none of us would expect.
How familiar were you with the comics before you signed on?
I was not familiar with the comic book at all. I had to quickly scour the internet and brush up on it. Ultimately, I’m a comic book fan. I was a big comic book fan when I grew up, but it’s just not what I do anymore. I’m a little bit older and a little bit busier in different facets of my life, so unfortunately I’m not doing that all the time. I didn’t know the comic book, but it’s a great book. I love watching these kids and the parents, too. I came into the show a little bit different than everybody else, so I got to see it as an outsider. Just to watch the dynamic of the parents, which just gets better and better, and the kids together, and their individual personalities, their styles and their vibes, it’s really unique and really, really well done. There’s some visuals in this show that you could literally pull out and place it on the front of one of those comic books, because it literally is exactly the same. It’s a really good depiction.
**COMIC BOOK SPOILER WARNING** What’s interesting about the comics is that the bad guys of Gibborim are actual giants. Is there another reveal coming with you?
There’s pretty much a reveal every episode in regards to this character. The good thing about it, too, is it’s a reveal from the audience’s perspective, but it’s also a reveal in regards to all of the other characters.
How much was it also a reveal to you? How much did Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage tell you before you came on board?
Nothing, I tell you, nothing! [Laughs] Things are trickier than they used to be in the old days when I first started in this business. You used to get scripts and things. You don’t get those these days, so you have conversations and they’re slightly hedgy. We discussed it, to a certain extent, but Jonah was an evolving creature and he became what he became at the end of it, as opposed to the beginning. And he wasn’t one that was originally from the comic books, so we developed this pretty cool dynamic character that really influences the series in a pretty positive direction.
Were you actually the Gross Flaky Guy?
Was that me? You mean me lying there?
Well, look, I’m an actor that likes to do my own stunts. That was a joke. No, that was not me. The first day on set I walked in and that guy was standing in the trailer and I said, “Who are you?” and he goes, “I’m you.” I said, “Oh God, thank God I didn’t have to do that. How long have you been here [in makeup]?” “Like five hours.” “Thank you very much.” No, that was not me.
A new episode of Marvel’s Runaways is released Tuesdays on Hulu.