Prior to Marvel Studios’ “Loki,” not only had Owen Wilson never been in a superhero project before, but he’d barely ever done television: Just a two-part episode of IFC’s “Documentary Now,” a segment of Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” and an uncredited cameo on “Community.”
“Loki,” however, is uncharted territory for the star of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Wedding Crashers” and the voice of Pixar’s Lightning McQueen. He plays Mobius, an agent within a sprawling entity know as the Time Variance Authority, an inter-dimensional bureaucracy tasked with the awesome — and formidable — responsibility of maintaining a single, sacred timeline and pruning away all “variants” that could lead to the multiverse. When Tom Hiddleston’s Loki used the Tesseract to escape from the events of 2012’s “The Avengers” — from within the events of 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” — the god of mischief became such a variant, and draws the interest of Mobius and the TVA.
Wilson’s laconic persona might not be an obvious match for Hiddleson’s high-strung impishness as Loki, and yet it turns out that the two actors make for a highly entertaining pair. In advance of the show’s June 9 debut on Disney Plus, Wilson talked with Variety about what it was like to step inside the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time, how he navigated the tangled exposition his character has to deliver, and how his stint on “Documentary Now” inspired a crucial aspect of his character on “Loki.”
You’ve said that you really focused on your conversations with Tom Hiddleston to understand your character and the show. Were you looking at the comics as well?
I wasn’t looking at the comics. I think maybe someone showed me some of what my character looked like. But it was really talking with the director, Kate [Herron], and reading the script, and then, you know, going over it with Tom Hiddleston before we started filming, and him explaining all this mythology and letting me ask questions about what Loki thought about this or that, his relationship with his brother. All that stuff ended up being really useful. I think there were even things that we would start talking about that then would make it into the actual scenes, because I would jot things down. Tom’s very articulate, and the way sometimes he explains something is very good and I would use that sometimes for Mobius, to parrot it back to him about himself.
You have a lot of dialogue as Mobius in the first two episodes in which you’re explaining what the TVA is, and the complicated rules of how they and time travel operates — how much do you feel like you had to fully understand that yourself, to deliver that kind of stuff?