'Loki' Director Kate Herron On Introducing The Next Major MCU Villain And The Multiverse [Interview]

Now that the first season of Loki is over, director Kate Herron can finally talk about all the spoilery details that she's had to keep under wraps.

After the finale debuted on Disney+, we sat down with the filmmaker to talk about the tricky balance between setting up the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and keeping the focus on Loki and Sylvie's story. Plus, she opens up about introducing Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains, and teases an Easter egg that no one seems to have figured out yet. 

First of all, thank you so much for giving us Loki. It's easily one of my favorite things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe now. You knocked it out of the park. It's outstanding.

Thank you so much!

Obviously, the finale of Loki has huge ramifications for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as a storyteller, you're probably more concerned with Loki and Sylvie. How do you balance those larger moving pieces? Is that something Marvel has to figure out and then you're tasked with executing, or are you part of that larger planning process?

I would say that me and the team were involved in it within our show. [Writer] Michael [Waldron] was writing on our show, but he was also working on Doctor Strange [in the Multiverse of Madness]. He even said in an article that the mess we create he's having to clean up. I think Marvel is really good at managing, and the thing I love about working with them is that you never feel hindered. For us it was really just about – when I started the job, I always knew that they were going to go to the Citadel, they were going to meet He Who Remains, and the multiverse was going to be released. We didn't know necessarily that he was going to die or how they were going to release it, but that's something we found in discussions with the writers in the studio.

For us, that's why it came back to Loki and Sylvie, because it's their story. It's about Loki's journey, and he's a character that wants the throne in episode one whereas by the finale, he doesn't want that. He just wants Sylvie to be okay. I think that was really key for us. What's launching this is led by the characters' development we've seen across the last six episodes.

What are some of the other options that were explored for the ending? I know that you and Michael Waldron had both talked about how you planned for He Who Remains to be introduced and the unleashing of the multiverse, but I also heard that you weren't necessarily sure you were going to be allowed to do that. What were some of the other options that were in play?

We never explored anyone else because I think we just were going to keep – it's almost like someone that gets fired and just keeps going to work. We're just going to keep He Who Remains in there until they tell us to take him out. So I think we just always, maybe not fully sure, I guess, but we didn't have a back-up. We just were like, okay, I hope this is going ahead, and it was. But honestly, the main thing we explored was just how we got there.

I can't honestly remember all the different ones. I mean, one thing I can remember is that we used to have a big action sequence across the beginning of episode six where they kind of fought their way to He Who Remains' office. But I think something we found, and this came out of lockdown, was that I'd filmed the majority of episode one when we got shut down, so I was editing episode one. Something that was really key was, it was really riveting, because we have these amazing actors, seeing them have this conversation. I could change pace, and I could keep the energy going through it, and it wouldn't feel slow, like we need a burst of actual energy here.

For us, it felt like episode five is our massive spectacle. It's super fun. It's got a big monster. It's got all of the kind of crazy comic book references. So it felt like, starting and ending in a conversation, we could just do that. I think, for me, it was way more creepy anyway with them going through this almost abandoned Citadel. It's like a massive tension build until you meet this character. I think if there was action before that, the energy is lost, right? Then you have to build it up again.

Can you talk about Jonathan Majors and what he brought to the table for his performance? Was the depiction of He Who Remains as this variant of Kang the Conqueror something that you helped create or is that something that he brought to the performance himself?

I would say it's something that Jonathan brought. Obviously, we spoke to him. I sent him loads of art of the TVA with Kevin Wright, our producer. Me and him had lots of conversations with Jonathan really just about the story beforehand and because essentially he is the architect of the TVA. So we really wanted to show him the world he'd built and the rules of the world he'd built, because then he can take inspiration from that on building his own psychology for the character. For me, it was more just about talking to Jonathan about who is this character that's living alone at the end of time. The only person you get any kind of idea who he might talk to is a talking cartoon clock. It's like, well, who is this character?

I think there were fun little details that we were all inspired by. Kasra [Farahani], my production designer, he loved the idea that He Who Remains' office is the only finished part of the Citadel because that's where he spends all his time, whereas the rest of it he had plans, but he never finished it because he doesn't go down there, and I think that was really fun.

Also, his costume, for example, that Christine Wada did. She had the genius idea of obviously paying homage to Immortus, and you can see it in his chest piece. But at the same time she liked the idea of playing with the outfit, using ideas from across different centuries to make the outfit because he's a character that is from across all time, and you couldn't quite define or pin him down. Then it also has a pajama-like quality to it because he's at home like so many of us were last year. So I think that was fun as well, just digging into those little details.

With Jonathan, honestly, he's one of the best actors out there. I think you just know, when you're directing someone like that, that you just have to give them space to play and have their back. He's magnificent.

Going back to Loki, the show confirms his bisexuality in the series, which was a big deal. I was curious if the lighting throughout the series was a conscious decision throughout to represent that aspect.

On the train, I think it was an homage... Homage is not the right word, but you know what I mean. It was definitely referencing that. But I think in terms of the planet color in the comics, Lamentis is purple. So that was a happy accident. But we definitely were aware. For us, it was more just wanting to acknowledge it and make it canon and have it in the MCU, which is great.

One last question. In the opening sequence of the finale, as we're zooming out of the universe, we see a lot of things, a lot of planets. We hear the voice of Marvel characters. After a satellite floats by, there's a ship that comes flying towards the camera. What is that ship? Is that an Easter egg? Is that something that's setting the stage for later?

It's not for later, but I would say to Marvel fans, you'll recognize it. If they have a good look at it... It's from previous tales of Marvel.


The entire first season of Loki is streaming now on Disney+.