Gugu Mbatha-Raw On Why She Sees Her Loki Character As More Than Just A Villain - Exclusive

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has quite a talent for playing complicated characters, and Judge Ravonna Renslayer, her character in the Disney+ Marvel show "Loki," is no exception. Throughout the first season, Judge Renslayer was hard to pin down. At times, she seemed like an ally to Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but by the end of the season, she seemed to show her true colors. 

For now, it seems that Renslayer is firmly in the villain column, which makes sense to fans of the comics who know that she has close ties to other Marvel villains, according to Looper. However, Mbatha-Raw doesn't really see her character as a villain. She insists that Renslayer is "more complicated" than the black-and-white concept of villain and hero, even if her actions so far make her look like the big bad. 

In an exclusive interview with The List, Mbatha-Raw explained her take on Judge Renslayer and how she approached her performance.

Understanding Renslayer's choices

As Gugu Mbatha-Raw prepared to portray Renslayer, she focused on figuring out why the character made the choices she did throughout the first season. In uncovering Renslayer's backstory, the traumas and deceptions of her past, and her motivations, Mbatha-Raw began to understand that each of Renslayer's choices was completely justified — in her mind — given what had happened to her. For Mbatha-Raw, that meant that Renslayer couldn't be a true villain.

"When you're playing those kind of characters that make seemingly bad choices, you have to dig a little deeper ... If you can understand somebody, then nobody is ever completely villainous," Mbatha-Raw explained. "Everybody makes choices for a reason. They may be traumatized reasons, [or] they may be reasons that are messed up from a perspective that a more grounded person might not understand."

Mbatha-Raw added that in order to portray Renslayer authentically, she needed to find a way to "get behind" Renslayer's choices and see the "humanity" in everything she did. Luckily, that was fairly easy for Mbatha-Raw because of her perspective on the human condition. In her mind, no one is all good or all bad, and even people who seem bad usually aren't bad intentionally.

"A lot of people are doing the best they can in really difficult circumstances," she explained, and she sees that to be true of Judge Renslayer.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw's new thriller series, "Surface," premieres on July 29 on Apple TV+.