The Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4 is officially in full swing in the post-Avengers: Endgame era. With a global pandemic repeatedly delaying movie releases like the long-awaited Black Widow (now expected next month), Marvel's big production TV series have led the way for the content we crave. After the success of WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier miniseries on Disney+, Loki is the latest instalment expanding the MCU and blowing our minds.
At the helm of Marvel's latest venture is head writer and executive producer Michael Waldron. The 33-year-old's rise in the lucrative world of creating Disney content has been nothing short of meteoric. Not only was he tasked with exploring one of the MCU's most beloved hero/villains in Loki, but Waldron has also written the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And after a recent deal with Disney, he's also penning the next Kevin Feige-produced Star Wars film.
If you need a quick refresher of where we find Thor's younger brother and Asgard's God of Mischief, here's what you need to know before settling in for Loki. After stealing the Tesseract in Endgame and escaping through time, the 2012 version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself under arrest by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) for "crimes against the sacred timeline". Newly introduced on screen, the all-powerful bureaucratic organisation protects the proper order of time and space. On trial, alternate Loki is offered the chance to earn his freedom by working with analyst Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) to track down a dangerous time variant causing havoc through different timelines.
After the release of episode one last week, I caught up with Waldron to talk about his writing process for the show, his professional journey, and all things Loki.
IF YOU THINK BACK TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF, FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO FOR A LIVING. COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED WHERE YOU ARE AT AGE 33?
I feel so lucky. I've only gotten here with a lot of luck–right place, right time. And I've been fortunate to be surrounded by great collaborators. That's not just bulls–t. I've worked hard for sure, but you have to work with great people. That's how you end up making great stuff. And that's how I've ended up with one cool opportunity after another. You know, these are the kinds of movies I was a fan of as a kid. I can remember my mum taking me to see Armageddon in theatres (laughs). Armageddon, Top Gun, Terminator 2–those are my favourite movies. I always wanted to do big blockbuster sort of stuff. And to be doing it is exciting, and I try to hold myself to a high standard because I'm a fan of that stuff, too.
WERE YOU A BIG FAN OF SCI-FI AND FANTASY GROWING UP?
Yeah, for sure. I would say probably more sci-fi than fantasy–anything in space. I was always looking up at the sky as a kid. But I remember seeing Fellowship of the Ring when it came out. And seeing that in theatres was another mind-blowing, holy s–t experience. I was really lucky to be relatively young and have the duelling trilogies coming out of The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. I would say I was probably an even bigger Matrix fan than I was The Lord of the Rings. The first Matrix blew my mind.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU WROTE SOMETHING THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS LEGITIMATELY GOOD?
In third grade, there was a project at the end of the year where we had to write a story. We had to write and illustrate it, and it was going to get a laminated cover and everything. My teacher was named Miss Bates, and she was just a very encouraging teacher for creativity. I wrote a story called 'Jim the Fat Cat' about a big fat cat named Jim who loved just sitting on his ass watching TV, watching wrestling, which I was a huge fan of, and eating hot wings. His TV broke, and he had to enter some competition to win a new television. And that was kind of the first time I got enough pats on the back as a kid, and I really enjoyed writing it.
YOU GOT TO WORK WITH KATE HERRON, WHO BEFORE THIS WAS BEST KNOWN FOR HER WORK DIRECTING EPISODES OF NETFLIX'S SEX EDUCATION. HOW WAS THAT WORKING RELATIONSHIP?
Kate's awesome, man. She's young, she's like me. She doesn't have a laundry list of credits. And so, I think first and foremost, for her and I both, we were like–this is our big shot. We're the junior varsity team here, arguably being tasked with one of the biggest properties in the MCU. We really wanted to infuse it with a youthful sensibility and just a lot of energy. She's such an artist and did such a great job of building this world. The TVA in the world of this show, in particular, hinges so much on the aesthetic rendering of it and on the execution of stuff like Miss Minutes, how this exposition is communicated on how the TVA works. It's the director's job to figure out how to better put that on the screen in an interesting way. Kate just did remarkable work. And it's a real test of endurance to direct all six episodes of this during a pandemic. She's a pal, and I'm lucky to know her.
YOU'VE SPOKEN ABOUT YOUR EXCITEMENT FOR THE NEW WORLD OF THE TVA BEING INTRODUCED. HOW MUCH FUN WAS IT TO BUILD THAT WORLD, FROM CREATING AN INTERGALACTIC OFFICE WORKPLACE TO EXPLORING THE MULTIVERSE?
Yeah, man, it was really fun. We got to draw on a lot of inspirations in the writer's room from stuff that are just pains in the ass. You know, your bureaucratic things that have annoyed us in our lives. Anytime somebody had to go to the DMV, or I was going through the process of getting a new passport while we were writing the show–that was particularly inspiring (laughs). There was just something cool to me about taking on the TVA, which, as Loki says, holy s–t, is this the greatest power in the universe? What they do is so remarkable. They quite literally police and manage all of space and time. And making it so mundane that it's just paperwork. That contrast as a writer; it's dramatic and pretty funny.
FROM A WRITER'S PERSPECTIVE, WHAT'S IT LIKE KNOWING THE COMEDIC RANGE YOU CAN WRITE FOR WHEN YOU'RE GIVING LINES TO A COMEDY ICON LIKE OWEN WILSON AND ONE OF THE MCU'S FUNNIEST ACTORS IN TOM HIDDLESTON?
Like I said, luckiest guy ever. Even when I took the job, I knew just working with Tom, I was so fortunate because you have an absolute A+, world-class actor playing this supervillain. And so, I was going to be able to do a whole range of things. I think the great thing about those two guys is comedy comes naturally to them as performers. In fact, I had to just do way less in terms of the comedy. I wasn't ever writing set-up punch lines in this show. If we ever did that, we felt that it wasn't working because it felt too forced. The comedy in this show, to me, just comes naturally from Owen and Tom. And they can take a line that wasn't intended to be funny or wasn't necessarily a joke, per se. And just with their great delivery, they're going to make you smile or chuckle with it. And that's great because that makes the writers look like geniuses.
IS IT MORE INTERESTING TO WRITE A HERO OR A VILLAIN?
I think it depends. Obviously, writing a villain is fun because there's multitudes contained within them. They're driving action through conflict and through the bad things they do. I think writing a force of pure good, a hero, whether they start out that way like Ted Lasso, you know? Or if it's somebody learning to become a hero is also exciting. Look at Ted Lasso, look at coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights–there's just as much drama to be mined from how hard it is to just do the right thing all the time. If you kind of lean in and embrace that, then writing heroes can be really interesting. But anyway, writing a villain. Come on, it's Loki. That's a blast. That's easy.
FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS OUT THERE HOPING TO BE WHERE YOU ARE?
My biggest advice to people who want to be writers: is write. You can do it for free. You can write in your head, walking your dog, driving around at any time, and the only thing that separates writers from not writers is finishing things. Dan Harmon, one of my mentors, always said, prove to yourself what a sh-tty writer you are. Which is just to say write. Write the worst draft of something ever, but just finish it. At the end, maybe you've written a 30-page pilot, and 70% of it is dogs–t. But man, 30% of it, you'll shock yourself that it's actually pretty good. And then you can start the real process of writing, which is revising. So, yeah, if you want to be a writer, if you want to do this, just start writing, start finishing stuff, and then start revising that stuff–that really is the key.
Loki is streaming on Disney+ now. And when you're done, work your way through the best movies on Disney+.
Image Credit: Disney+