June 20, 2024

SPOILER ALERT: This story includes discussion of major plot developments on “Loki,” which is currently streaming on Disney+.

Roughly 20 minutes after the news broke that the 118-day SAG-AFTRA strike had concluded, the first email I received from an actor’s publicist was for Ke Huy Quan. That’s how enthusiastic the recent Oscar-winning star of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was to talk about his role on “Loki,” the Marvel Studios series for Disney+ that just wrapped up its second season. When he signs on to our Zoom chat for the interview, his face is beaming. 

“I’ve waited a long time to talk about ‘Loki,’” he says. “Like, talking to you right now gives me a lot of joy.”

Quan plays Ouroboros, or “OB,” the head (and seemingly the sole employee) of the Repairs and Advancement Department of the Time Variance Authority — basically, the one person responsible for keeping the TVA’s machinery running. Quan is the most high profile new addition to the cast, which includes Tom Hiddleston in the title role and Owen Wilson as the TVA operative Mobius, and he was anxious at first about joining such a well-regarded show for its second season.

“They already have this camaraderie going on, this beautiful relationship,” he says. “So coming in, I was a bit intimidated. I didn’t know how I would fit in. From the get go, I felt this warmth, this beautiful acceptance with everybody’s wide open arms. They brought me in, and I felt right at home. It was wonderful.”

Quan rarely stops smiling as he talks about how his performances as a child in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and 1985’s “The Goonies” informed his experience making “Loki,” how Marvel Studios’ films took him back into his childhood — and how Hiddleston guided him through mastering O.B.’s dense technical dialogue.

How has it been for you to not be able to talk about this performance?

When I got the role of Ouroboros, we were in London for four months shooting and I couldn’t tell anybody. I couldn’t tell my family. The only people who knew was my wife, my entertainment attorney — which is my “Goonies” brother — and my agents. We had the most amazing time, and I was so proud of it. I would fantasize about being all over the place with Tom and Owen and my “Loki” family to talk about it.

And then all of a sudden, Hollywood shuts down. It reminded me of when I got the movie of a lifetime, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” I finished that with one day to go, and the entire world shuts down [in the pandemic]. But of course, the strike was very important for our union. I’m very proud of the work that they did. And I’m also super happy now that it’s over and “Loki” gets to have the celebration it deserves.

I want to go way back to “X-Men,” because you worked on the stunt team on that movie after you’d basically stopped acting, and that’s when you first met Kevin Feige.

Ah! He was an associate producer at that time, and I was just an assistant action choreographer. It was right after I graduated from USC Film School. I was really nervous, because I didn’t know if I would have a career behind the camera and I was really grateful when I got the call from Corey Yuen, who was the action director on “X-Men.” When I walked on set, I was just blown away. I met this young man and he had this vast knowledge of this universe, and he was so willing and so passionate to talk to me about it. Because I didn’t know a lot about Marvel. I loved Kevin Feige right away and, of course, many years later, when he became this huge producer at Marvel, I always wanted to work with him, but I didn’t know in what capacity. We would see each other once in a long while. Little did I know that 23 years later, we get to work together. I’m just so thrilled.

Did you develop a better sense of Marvel after you worked on “X-Men”?

Well, I was very focused on being on being the action choreographer. When that movie was over, I went on and did other stuff. It was not until Kevin Feige made the first movie, “Iron Man,” and I went to see it and I was just blown away by how entertaining, how fun, it was. I watched every single [Marvel Studios] movie that came out thereafter and became a huge fan of this universe. I know a little bit about this universe, but I can’t say I’m as knowledgeable as Kevin. But I really enjoy these movies. My family are huge fans.

What made you excited to watch them?

I grew up in an era where you go into movies like “Back to the Future,” “Indiana Jones” — all those fun summer blockbuster movies, those big event movies. Those were my happy memories. Going to watch a Marvel movie reminded me of my childhood. Those movies are meant to be shared with a mass audience, that communal experience in a movie theater with 1,000 people. I just love them.

“Loki” head writer Eric Martin told me that he based Ouroboros on family members of his who were tinkerers. How did you develop a character for yourself? What did you draw off to bring that character to life?

When I first read the script, I instantly fell in love with Ouroboros. You can see who this character is right away — his quirkiness, his humor, his passion for his job jumps right out of the page. In the process of trying to fine tune how I want to play him, something dawned on me. I realized that this character is familiar to me. I think I know who he is. I have to go back 35 years ago, when I play Data on “The Goonies.” 

So many fans have come up to me, and the most asked question was, “Will there be a ‘Goonies 2’? And what is Data doing as an adult?” This character of Ouroboros is kind of my answer to that. I view him as a variant of Data. What’s really interesting is, on my first day, I’m in full hair and makeup and costume. I’m walking to the Ouroboros set. They built this amazing set on the second biggest stage at Pinewood Studios. I look up and I see the name of the stage is “Roger Moore.” Now as we all know, Data loves James Bond. The character 007 inspires him tremendously. So I feel like there’s some cosmic connections to this character and Data. Playing him was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. 

OB has a lot of technical dialogue. How did you master that?

It was hard! Adam, I’m telling you, it was not easy! In the beginning, I kept messing up my lines. My character is responsible for a lot of the exposition. So it would just be pages and pages of dialogue. I didn’t understand, what is the “temporal loom”? What is the “throughput multiplier”? I could barely say it in the beginning. I had to ask [executive producer] Kevin Wright: “You have to show me what it is.” I have to visualize it in my head in order for me to say this dialogue. So he showed me visuals. There was a miniature model of the temporal loom. 

I even asked Tom Hiddleston. In Episode 6, he was just spitting out that dialogue at 100 miles per hour. I was blown away by his performance. I said, “Tom, how do you do that?” It comes so naturally for him. He talked about his method. He showed me how to do it. And of course, you know, I practiced it, and it worked. 

What did he teach you?

Well, I mean, there’s no secret to it. It’s really looking at the dialogue and reading it very, very slowly the first few times, and then as you become more comfortable with it, then you start picking it up. It’s just that repetition, but start very slow. I do the opposite. I jump right in and I’ll practice it as if I will be saying it in camera. But his process is just start very slow and familiarize yourself with every single word. That’s the method that I’ve been using ever since.

After having seen every movie in the MCU, what was the experience of stepping inside one of their projects?

One thing that really surprised me was, when I heard people talk about these movies, they always said, you know, “There’s always a lot of visual effects, a lot of blue screens.” On “Loki,” it was a practical set. Everything was built. The only blue screen that we had was outside the window in the temporal loom chamber. Everything inside was practically built. We could touch it, we could see it, we could step on it. And it was incredible. It also brought me back to the days when we shot “Goonies” and “Indiana Jones.” All those were practical sets as well.

The season ends with Loki becoming the god of stories and in effect sacrificing himself to bring order to the multiverse. What did it feel like to be on the inside of that revelation?

We didn’t get access to Episode 6 until later on. When I read it, I was blown away, because it was not the direction I was expecting. I got so emotional because the character arc of Loki is one of the most beautiful arcs I’ve seen in cinema history. He started 14 years ago as a selfish villain, and to end at the Episode 6 of “Loki” Season 2, how he made this tremendous sacrifice without recognition. Nobody knows he did this, except the team. Nobody on the sacred timeline knows that he’s given up his freedom, he’s given up all these wants and needs, to be on that throne and hold everything together. That is just beautiful. I just love it. I just think it’s so poetic and so beautiful. It’s a perfect ending to a perfect character.

How much of an indication has Marvel given you about OB’s future in the MCU?

I haven’t had any conversations. I love OB. I love playing him. It makes me so happy that the audience is responding to this character. When I first got the call from Kevin Feige and he asked me to come join the MCU family, I asked him, “Is this a one-time thing? Or are we going to be able to see more of him?” Because I loved him on the pages. And he says, “Ke, we always give what the fans want.”

So I hope the fans like OB enough and I want to see him in more MCU movies and television shows. We will find out, but no, I haven’t had any discussions with anybody yet.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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