When Sophia Di Martino first auditioned for the Disney Plus series “Loki,” it was in September 2019. A working actor since 2004, the British native has appeared on several British TV series, including “Flowers” and “Election Spy,” and she had supporting role in the 2019 film “Yesterday,” but she hadn’t ever quite landed the breakout role that could move her career to a larger stage.
Enter Sylvie. Introduced at the end of Episode 2 the Marvel Studios “Loki,” she is a “variant” of Tom Hiddleston’s beloved god of mischief, someone who had the same inception point as Loki but whose life unfolded much differently. In Episode 3, Sylvie and Loki spend pretty much the entire hour getting to know each other — and making clear just how critical Sylvie is to the larger story.
Naturally, this kind of role is a massive opportunity, which made how Di Martino ultimately landed it even more shocking to her.
“It was the shortest casting experience I think I’ve ever had,” she says with bewilderment. “I did an audition tape with a very short scene. I wasn’t asked to do it again, and I couldn’t meet anyone because I was heavily pregnant at the time and I couldn’t travel. Tom was in the U.S., everyone else was in the U.S. So we didn’t get to screen test or anything. So I just got the job on the back of this tape, which never happens, and especially with a job like this! It was extremely quick and quite surprising to all involved. Me and my agent were both like, ‘Really? Are you sure? This is crazy? Okay, fine! We’ll do it! We’re in!’”
Once she got the role, however, Di Martino stepped inside Marvel Studios’ vibranium-clad cone of silence. And while she says she’s good at keeping a secret, finally getting to talk about the experience is a massive relief.
“I got this job in September 2019 and only today is the first day I can talk about Sylvie,” she says. “So it’s been quite hard!”
Sylvie really does not see herself as a “Loki.” So how much did you draw from Tom Hiddleston’s performance in his role as Loki when shaping your character?
I looked at his performance, but I try not to be shaped by it too much. Sylvie has had a very different backstory to Loki. She’s a different person, and that was really important to us right from the beginning. When [director] Kate [Herron] pitched me the idea when I finally got the job, and she was able to tell me a bit more about it, it was very clear that Sylvia was Sylvie. And she’s not Lady Loki from the comics. I mean, the show is inspired by the comics, but this is a brand new backstory in a brand new story. And so I wanted to make her my own.
You will see, at times throughout the series, that Tom and I do very similar things, like our physicality is similar or when we choreographed fight scenes, we’ll mirror each other. And that’s all purposely done. And then the rest of it I’ve kind of just made up as I go along.
Tom Hiddleston conducted his famous Loki lecture in advance of the show — did you have a chance to go to it?
Yeah, I was there. It’s one of those things where you can say, ‘I was there!’ It was super interesting and important for me to listen to. He knows so much about the character. He’s been with that character for 10 years. He knows that character unlike anyone else in the world. And to hear all of that information and be able to ask him any question was just really, really important and fun. Like, what a great way to start a job. It got everyone really excited about the show.
How did you and Tom and Kate Herron talk about the scene in which Loki comes out — to the audience, anyway — as bisexual?
I remember Kate being really passionate about it, and that she wanted that to be represented in the show. I think people have been waiting a long time for it. The comic books allude to it and even the Norse mythology, I think. It’s been around for so long, and it was really important to her to have that in the show. But we tried not to let that affect the way we were playing it, you know. We’re just playing it like it’s quite natural conversation between two friends — well, two acquaintances, at that point. So we tried not to give it too much weight, but we knew in the back of our minds how important it was to a lot of people. And I’ve got to say how happy it makes me that people are happy to see that.
A lot of people noticed that the lighting on Lamentis-1 was reminiscent of the bisexual flag. Did Kate take about that being on purpose?
I can’t remember her actually talking about being on purpose. But I know Kate Herron, and I think it probably it was. I think she was probably like, this is gonna be purple, pink and blue, guys! I mean, it looks beautiful.
Tell me a little about yourself. I’d read that you had always even since you were young been really keen on acting?
Yeah, I was one of those annoying kids who’s always like trying to get my sister to do plays in the living room, and always casting myself in the better part and having her play like the Cinderella character. I think it was just an excuse to boss her around. [Laughs] I was one of those really bossy kids. I’ve always I always enjoyed acting at school — I didn’t really know that acting was a job that I could do until I was a little bit older. I wasn’t the kind of kid who would say I want to be an actor, because I think my parents would have just laughed at me. A ridiculous idea! No one in my family is in that world, and it wasn’t really within my grasp. So it was always a little dream that I kept to myself, really. And then I’ve just been quietly chipping away at it for the past 25 years, and here I am!
Owen Wilson has talked about how he was aware of the MCU, but not necessarily the most super knowledgeable person about it. Where do you fall in your awareness and knowledge of of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Kind of similar to Owen. I’d seen a few movies, and I was aware of it. And a few of my friends are really into it. And I know that a lot of people are, but I didn’t know that much, to be honest. I’ve learned a lot more being on the show. And from Tom, who is very knowledgeable.
How much of the role did you get to do before lockdown?
I don’t want to get this wrong, but I think it was like three or four weeks of filming. It wasn’t very much at all. It was enough just to start getting in the flow of things and just to start enjoying it before we had to shut down.
In that sort of time period where we were all just sitting with our own thoughts and contemplating the world, did you think more about Sylvie and anything else that you wanted to do with the part?
It was a really great time for letting what we’d already shot sit and percolate. I know Kate and the writers did a lot more work on the storyline when they’d seen what we’d done, you know, cut together so far. From a personal perspective, it was great just to have a little bit more time to think about it. Because the beginning of the shoot, everything happened so quickly. I carried on training with my stunt double, Sara. We would meet up once or twice a week on zoom, and that was really helpful as well, just to physically get into the body of the character. So I had a lot more time to get fit after having a baby.
Part of the pandemic experience for a lot of people has been thinking about the road less travelled, which in Sylvie’s case is the most extreme example — of this person who shares some similar essence with Loki but lived a completely different life. Did that resonate at all for you while playing her?
It’s so interesting to see two characters who are so similar and so different. It was really important to me to reflect the kind of life that Sylvie has had. The costume reflects that as well with the broken horn and the slightly disheveled costume. And little things like keeping more of my regional accent, and not trying to sound too posh or too well spoken, because it just wouldn’t suit the experience that Sylvie’s had. All of those things were were parts of creating this character and this relationship between Tom and I.
So how does how does one audition for a particularly physical role while pregnant?
Well, luckily, the scene that they gave me, I think, ended up being the scene on the train when they both sat down having a conversation. So I didn’t have to stand up. It was just head and shoulders. So you would never know just by looking at the tape. And then I don’t exactly know how it happened. I think it was just lucky that it wasn’t a super physical scene that I had to act out. Trying to do stunts or something, that would have been terrible!
When you got this role, what really were the parameters of who you could talk to, and who you couldn’t, before today?
I can talk to Tom and I can talk to Kate, but I just wasn’t really supposed to say anything else to anyone else. And I’m really good at keeping secrets, so I just didn’t talk to anyone else about it. Tom and I would just call each other and be like, ‘Oh, we need to say all this stuff, because we’ve got to say to anyone else! Ahh! What about this scene and this bit and this bit?!’ And you know, we’d meet up with Kate and do the same thing. So it was kind of just the three of us.