“It’s Marvel, so it’s supersecretive,” Virginia Gardner beings. “Even when I was auditioning for the project, I didn’t know what I was auditioning for. It was all code names and all the characters names were changed, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
The actress soon discovered that she was getting herself into the Marvel Universe.
Gardner stars in Hulu’s new teen superhero series “The Runaways,” portraying blonde superhero Karolina Dean. “I went back and I read the comics a good bit,” Gardner says, adding that it was also the first comic book she’d ever read. “I purchased it and read it in a night and loved it,” she continues. “But also, my favorite thing to do when I get a role is to make a playlist. I’m really inspired by music. So my first thing is I go on Spotify and make my ‘My Character’ playlist, of music I feel she listens to.” That playlist included Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” Andrew McMahon’s “Cecilia and the Satellite” and “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga.
The show stars an ensemble of six teenage friends who discover that their parents are part of a criminal group — also, that they themselves have superhero powers.
“At first glance, the characters look like they could all be stereotyped. Like you have the jock and the pretty church girl…but the more you learn about the characters, the more you realize how much depth they all have,” Gardner says. “I think a lot of people in high school — and adults, too — can relate to them.”
Gardner describes the series as a “modern-day take” on the original print comics, which were written more than a decade ago. “If you look at the comic books, Karolina is very, like, Britney Spears 2001 and Avril Lavigne 2001. There’s one drawing where she has arm socks all the way up to her shoulders — so there was a lot that need to update fashion wise, of course, but we also we wanted to keep the spirit of the comic alive, too. So I think it’s pretty accurate as far as the spirit of the comic, it just looks like 2017’s version,” she says.
One character detail that didn’t get muddled while adapting the comic for screen was Karolina Dean’s sexuality; she’s a leading superhero who also happens to be queer, a rarity for the Marvel Universe.
“A lot of people are really excited that we kept her sexuality and people are really excited to see that,” says Gardner. “Even the woman who drew the sparkly rainbow effects in the comic books, she on Twitter reached out and said that she was so happy how we translated that effect to TV. That response was really cool to see,” she continues. “I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me.”
While Gardner and the rest of the cast are waiting to hear about whether the show will get a second season, the actress has several other projects premiering in the coming months, including a comedy she describes as a female “Super Bad” for high schoolers, and an Eighties-style slasher with “Tarantino Flair” and a political message. “I play a pregnant stoner,” she says of that film, “Monster Party.” “So it’s a little bit of a departure, but it was fun.”
The promotional trail this fall also brought Gardner to New York Fashion Week for the first time.
“I’ve always been a T-shirt-and-jeans kind of girl, and my first day of fashion week I played it really safe with what I wore because I was kind of nervous,” she recalls. “And then by the end of it I went to the DVF show and I wore what I would classify as this ‘crazy outfit.’ I ended up loving it more than anything else I wore. It was really fun to just see the amount of art that goes into fashion and what it means to people. I walked away really appreciating the fashion industry so much more.”
More From The Eye: