Warning: Slight spoilers are discussed in this interview.
With James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 now playing around the world, I recently sat down with Elizabeth Debicki to talk about playing Ayesha in the Marvel sequel. During our wide-ranging conversation she revealed how she got involved in the project, when she found out she’d be gold, the amazing costumes, if she filmed the Adam Warlock tag during principal photography, if she’ll be back for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and future projects like Steve McQueen’s Widows and Julius Onah’s untitled Cloverfield movie.
As all of you know, Christ Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Sean Gunn (Kraglin/On-Set Rocket) and Michael Rooker (Yondu) all return for the sequel, which also features Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Tommy Flanagan as one of Yondu’s ravagers, and Kurt Russell as Ego, the living planet. The sequel features the Guardians fighting to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. For more on the film you can read Haleigh Foutch’s review.
COLLIDER: When you were originally meeting with James, you’re talking about the role, is he like, ‘By the way, I totally am envisioning you in this movie, but we’re gonna cover you in gold’? Did he explain what you were gonna get yourself into?
ELIZABETH DEBICKI: I think he did in a roundabout way. When I think back to the first time we were speaking after he had offered me the part, the details are sketchy. I can’t remember exactly. I remember that’s when I really was told who I was playing, what my role is in the film, and I’m pretty sure he said gold. Because, obviously, my first question would’ve been, ‘What color am I?’ As soon as you’re in Guardians, my whole litany of friends are like, ‘What color are you?’ Even to the point where I was shooting — because we shot this in Atlanta — and then I came back to LA and I was having lunch with a friend who’s a really big Marvel fan, and he spent the whole lunch looking for like, paint leftover. It’s so great, because I couldn’t tell anybody. I didn’t know, because I hadn’t seen the artwork for Ayesha yet, the scope of what they had in store in terms of the scale of the costumes and her look.
The costumes and look of her is very impressive. It was very thought out.
DEBICKI: It was so thought out. So Judiana, who’s the costume designer, is a genius. I think she’s incredibly talented. And James is a visionary, and is bold, and the two of them together and then the hair and makeup departments were incredibly talented. So when I first saw the artwork for Ayesha, I remember going into James’ office and it was all up around the walls, all the characters, and there was the Ayesha section, and I couldn’t really have imagined it more sort of wonderfully, I suppose. It was so exciting for me to get to this blend of Elizabethan kind of period dress, metallic, sort of Amazonian, and is very operatic and very theatrical. I love that as an actor, it’s great.
I’m going to ask you a question which I will not be running until after people have seen the movie.
Yes. When did you first learn about the Adam Warlock stuff and the significance of what you were doing? Were you familiar with that character?
DEBICKI: I was, because when I did my little baby research at the beginning before I sort of got proper research from James Gunn, I learned that she has this relationship within the universe with this character. I didn’t really know, I always thought if they were going to progress with Ayesha that the story would probably go there. It was only sort of after I’d made the movie and shot that tag that I understood, through my Marvel-crazed friends, the importance of Adam Warlock and what that means for the movies and where they can go with them now. But I’m still the first person to put my hand up and say I am a Marvel rookie, I’m learning everything on the fly.
Did you film that tag during the regular filming?
How recently did you film it?
DEBICKI: A few months ago. Last year, but not when we were shooting the film.
When you signed on, I’m assuming you signed for — everyone who signs for Marvel movies signs a multi-picture deal. James has said that Adam Warlock is the guy for Guardians 3.
DEBICKI: James has said that?
DEBICKI: So you know more than me.
Oh, I’m letting you know?
DEBICKI: Tell me what my year looks like, basically.
That’s what I was going to ask you, have you spoken to James? Did you have a really good time making it, to the point where they say you’re coming back —
DEBICKI: I’m coming back, yeah. 100%. I loved being apart of it, I love working with James. First of all, he’s a super great guy, but he’s an excellent director. His set is fun and free and very liberating, and I think with Ayesha, how I feel about her as an actress, is that it feels like the tip of the iceberg of where that character can go in terms of her emotional journey, I suppose, and what she’s trying to achieve in the universe. That excites me.
There’s a lot of room to grow. With Marvel, sometimes these villains come out and they end up being in one movie, and I don’t view your character as a villain, per se, but you know what I mean.
DEBICKI: Antagonist, sure.