Richard E. Grant on alligator whispering and his pitch for a Loki spin-off show
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Loki episode 5.
The penultimate episode of Loki introduced several new variations on its titular mischief-maker — including Jack Veal's Kid Loki, Deobia Oparei's Boastful Loki, and Tom Hiddleston's ill-fated President Loki. But of all these new faces, perhaps the most memorable was Richard E. Grant's aptly-named Classic Loki — an older, world-weary version of the Asgardian god we know and love.
Decked out in the familiar green-and-yellow suit from the comics, Grant's Loki is older and perhaps a bit wiser than his younger counterparts. Years of isolation have left him disillusioned and lonely, missing his brother Thor, but that spark of mischief is still buried deep underneath — and he ultimately sacrifices himself to help Loki (Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) escape the Void.
It's a delightful showcase for the 64-year-old Grant, who says he's thrilled to be able to carve out his own chaotic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ahead of the series finale this week, EW caught up with Grant to break down his big sacrifice — as well as his newfound friendship with Owen Wilson and his pitch for a Loki spin-off series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To start, I have to ask about your costar: How was working with Alligator Loki?
RICHARD E. GRANT: Alligator Loki was fantastic because in reality, he was three stuffed sofa cushions that had been sewn roughly together to react to. [Laughs] The fact that I was the only person that could understand what he was saying was just fantastic. I think it's the perfect segue into having Classic Old Loki and Alligator Loki as a sub-series to go to next.
So it's safe to say that you would be willing to reprise this character down the line?
If I had a muscle suit, most certainly. I was denied that. I saw the costume design, and I was very familiar with Jack Kirby's original illustrations from the '60s, so I thought, "Ah, this guy's got muscles!" As I had been born without any, I was finally going to get in a muscle suit. I got to Atlanta [to begin filming], and they said, "There's no muscle suit! You're just wearing this!" I said, "But I look like Kermit the Frog!" They said, "Nope, you're not having a muscle suit." So I was very, very upset about that. [Laughs] Short-changed!
I was going to ask about your first impression when you first put on the costume!
That's what I asked: Where are the muscles? Where are the Stallone/Schwarzeneggers here? Because they're missing! This is what people will expect! This was in the costume drawing, and they're not here, and I don't have them! I was very upset.
When they first asked you to join the show, what was that initial pitch like?
I had known Tom Hiddleston socially for some years, and we'd always joked that we could feasibly play father and son because of our vague physical similarities and hairlines, certainly. So when I got this offer at the beginning of last year, before COVID, I thought, "Alright, this is that moment that I had hoped would come at some point." I thought I would play his father, but I'm playing a variant of him. So that's how that came about. I was thrilled.
Tom has been playing his version of Loki for a decade now. Did you get any guidance from him, or have any conversations with him that you found particularly helpful?
He is a walking Loki-pedia, so he was very, very informative about the whole etymology and the history of the Norse gods and Loki. He's also brilliant at imitating people. He goes on chat shows and imitates famous actors absolutely to the letter. I don't have that talent. So when I read the script of episode 5 that I was offered, I saw that [this older version of Loki] described himself in his backstory of being the god of outcasts — rather than the god of mischief, which is so absolutely embedded in Tom's interpretation of the role. So I thought, well, [if he's] the god of outcasts and is somebody who's been isolated for years and living on these planets and is willing to betray himself by going back and being arrested by the TVA and making the ultimate sacrifice, offering himself up to Asgard, I thought, well, this is somebody who is more in the twilight zone of his life, as am I. As opposed to a young man, who's full of mischief still.
So, I thought that was a way into interpreting this character, rather than trying to do — and something I couldn't possibly succeed at doing — a pale imitation of Tom Hiddleston.
I'd imagine that would be tricky, but it would also be a fun challenge: You're basically sharing scenes with all these different versions of the same character.
Exactly right. And I love the fact that he was the one person who could communicate with the alligator. I love that.
So would you now consider yourself fluent in alligator?
Indeed. I am the Doctor Dolittle of the Marvel universe when it comes to speaking to alligators. I speak alligator fluently. Put that in the contract of when I'm doing a series as Classic Old Loki, with muscles and the alligator. It'll have subtitles, so the audience can hear what the alligator is saying, and everyone else is saying, "What is he saying? What is he talking about?" That'll be the way.
I also wanted to ask about your big finale, where we see your Loki conjure Asgard. What do you remember most about filming that final moment?
Huge wind machines, blue screen in every direction, and following a camera on a crane that was maneuvering around the ceiling of the studio, and then swooping down. I was having to shout at it, and then finally laugh in the face of my own immolation. So it was a great thing to do, with these huge air turbine wind machines that were blowing four tons of air at me from every direction. It was exhilarating.
Did you have any practical elements around you at all, or did you have to imagine and conjure it all yourself?
Most of it you had to imagine. The actual landscape that you walked on was real grass and this sort of rocky landscape, but all the other elements — all the ships and all that stuff — was put in afterwards. We didn't see any of that.
The Loki palace that looked like a sort of bowling alley, that was all for real. Everything that you see in that scene was actually built and practical.
Was it chaotic to film in the bowling alley with all those different versions of Loki, bickering and bantering?
Because there was so much action involved, it was paint-dryingly slow, because action takes much longer to do than five pages of dialogue. I prefer talking, as I'm not exactly an action man, as you can see. [Laughs]
Was there anything about joining the Marvel universe that you weren't expecting or that really surprised you?
I didn't expect to find true love with Owen Wilson. We're having a surrogate baby together in October.
He was just so hilarious to work with. He's just one of the greatest characters I've ever met. He is so open and curious and amenable, with this sort of dry sense of humor. There seemed to be no divide between Owen Wilson acting his part and then just being Owen Wilson. I don't know if he was scamming me, but he was an absolute delight. I loved him.
Was there a particularly memorable day on set with him?
Yes, when we conceived our twins. [Laughs] No, my daughter encouraged me to post this thing on Twitter and Instagram, where he said, "Richard, I'm going to give you some acting advice. Put your camera on." I said, "Yes, okay!" I owe him for that because it got like 640,000 views already in a few days, which on my Instagram feed is off the chart. It's nothing for Beyoncé, but for mine, I'm pretty gobsmacked.