LOKI Interview: DeObia Oparei On Boastful Loki's Nexus Event, Working With Kate Herron, Thor Theories, & More

LOKI Interview: DeObia Oparei On Boastful Loki's Nexus Event, Working With Kate Herron, Thor Theories, & More

In this exclusive video interview with DeObia Oparei, the actor breaks down his role as Boastful Loki, sharing some insight into what it means to him to play a Variant of the God of Mischief, and more...

Loki has now reached its conclusion, but fans are still talking about "Journey Into Mystery," the fifth episode of the Disney+ series that introduced us to a number of Loki Variants. Among them was DeObia Oparei's Boastful Loki, a version of the God of Mischief who claimed he had vanquished Captain America and Iron Man before claiming all six Infinity Stones for himself. 

So, you can see why he earned that "Boastful" moniker, and it's hard to think of a better actor than DeObia (whose past credits include Game of Thrones, Dumbo, and Sex Education) to bring this Variant to life. In this lengthy video interview, he breaks down his MCU debut and what it was like to bring Loki to life in the show.

The actor also opens up on what it meant to him to play a Loki and how his emotional decision to come out last year factored into what he brought to the table as the iconic Marvel Comics character.

While this interview took place prior to the Loki season finale, DeObia also talks about his possible future as this Loki, the experience of reuniting with Sex Education director Kate Herron, his impressive co-stars, and those big fan theories that he was playing an alternate version of Thor following the release of the first trailer. 

Needless to say, we want to extend a huge thank you to DeObia for taking the time to talk with us about his role in Loki, and you can find him on Twitter @DeObia and Instagram @deobia.oparei.
 


Earlier this week, Funko revealed some Pops and there was no sign of Boastful Loki. Last night on Twitter, [it was revealed] he is coming, so how does it feel to be an action figure?

It feels great...even though I was late to the party! [Laughs] It does feel really good. I felt like it was glaringly weird that I wasn't part of that and I'm really grateful that the fans jumped on it and said, 'Hey, we don't like this!' It's a positive thing and feels fantastic. Those figures are gems. Firstly, it's great to have an emoji and it's great to have a Funko figure. It's amazing. 

I know I can’t wait to add it to my collection as, like many fans, I was [saying], ‘Where is he?’ It just didn’t seem right!

I bring all that and [Laughs] you try and keep me out? That's what's so great about the times we're in now. People don't let anything slip and they pick up on stuff, especially if you've made an impact which is what I love as an actor. Back in the day, that wouldn't have happened. People get right in there: 'We want Boastful Loki! Where is this figure?' Also, the MCU fans...phew, they're hardcore! 

I’m sure it must be a big adjustment for you, and I know when that first trailer came out, we saw you very briefly swinging the hammer around and everyone was saying, ‘He must be another version of Thor.’ Did you follow that speculation and were you surprised one shot of you in the trailer led to all this speculation?

Yeah, I did. It was fascinating. Everyone really knows the canon and it reminded me slightly of Game of Thrones where everybody knows the backstory and the little minutiae. When I got cast, I remember Tom really being great and going through the journey he’d been on as Loki and that was great. Then, it was another level when Loki came out and getting on social media. My social media is still blowing up. I love that. I really do. There’s a real investment in these stories. 

I know you worked with Kate Herron on Sex Education, but what that part of what led to you joining this project and how long was it until you found out that, actually, you were playing Loki?

I still auditioned for it so I didn’t get it because I worked with Kate on Sex Education, but I think she’s a brilliant director. My best work comes out from me with her because she lets you have the floor and, at the same time, you really trust her eye and ear. That was exciting. When I auditioned for it, the role was called something else so I had no idea what it was. I think it was a fitting when I arrived in Atlanta from London. Then, I heard the name ‘Boastful Loki’ and was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re kidding me!’ That was a trip. So, I’m a version of Tom Hiddleston? Alright! I’ve got the booty. I can pull it off. 
 

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Loki is this hugely popular character and I can imagine for you, as a Black actor, I can imagine it must be quite momentous to come into a series like this and to be playing Loki?

Can you unpack that? 

Sure. I don't know how aware you are, but with superhero characters, we don’t really see their races being swapped and, when they are, there are certain fans online who don’t like that and you get a lot of unpleasantness. It just seems like a lot of studios still shy away from casting these Black actors as these major characters, so I’m curious what it meant to you to come into a series like this and play someone like Loki?

I think it was really important. [Those are] really good points you’re bringing up. For me, when I did find out, it was very important because I know representation matters. We had just come out of the George Floyd protests and that stuff never happens in a vacuum and it’s all part of the system and what’s baked into the culture. I had made a decision that summer while I was marching in those protests to come out as a queer man. I found myself screaming ‘Black Lives Matter!’ but as I was doing that, I realised, ‘But I’m hiding. I’m hiding my sexual orientation [and] my gender.’ I don’t agree with gender dividing, so I see myself as gender fluidity expressed and I was hiding all of that. That was a huge, momentous time for me and when I did come out publicly, I thought because I’d played hyper-masculine, leader-type roles and heteronormative, heterosexual roles, I thought, ‘Oh shit, maybe I won’t get cast again!’

So, when this did happen, that was great. When I found out that it was a version of a white superhero and here I am as a Black, queer actor, that was really important to me. There were attempts on my behalf to speak that into the room in terms of rehearsal. What was so great was the reaction that came back at me when episode four came out. I had so many people of colour, Black and Brown, and LGBTTTQQIAA people hitting me up and saying, ‘Wow, we didn’t know you were out. This is fantastic. An out, Black actor playing Loki.’ People were just saying, ‘You give me someone to look to. You validate all the times I’ve gone out there and cosplayed.’ So many Black and Brown people love Loki and are out there cosplaying and I remember a couple of people saying they’d been laughed at, but now they can say there is a Black Loki. That was and is still important to me, and I feel the moment is now. People are not letting things slide and questioning the possible way that we have...I’m trying to look for a diplomatic word, but the way we have possibly stereotyped people who look like me as being void of intellectual acuity and emotional vulnerability and all of those things. A part of my journey now most definitely as a performer is tackling that and making myself visible and unapologetic in the areas I’m not supposed to be and that doesn’t just mean physical spaces, but emotional spaces.

That is what I tried to bring to Boastful Loki and what I want to bring to my work moving forward by dismantling this image of what this bodysuit does to people in terms of the gatekeepers. I know as queer, Black artists we’re invisible or erased. That’s what was very comforting to me when people said, ‘No, we want this guy to have a figure!’ I feel like this is a fantastic time and the show is a great show. The ethos of it serves those people who have been maligned by society, so I feel my inclusion in it is of the Zeitgeist. 

I apologise if I didn’t phrase that question very well-

You unpacked it well!

Oh, thank you, I just know much it means to people to see you play a character like this because it just doesn’t happen enough. Something else we’ve learned in this series is that Loki is bisexual and that’s resonated with people, so with your Loki, there has been a lot of positive reactions which is great. A few years ago, it sadly was not like that.

And there’s a way to go. For me, as well, on the outside, it was great to hear Kate Herron first come out the closet herself and then state that it’s important for the character of Loki to be out as genderfluid and bisexual. For me as a queer Black performer and actor, I felt, ‘Oh, there was a certain level of validation for me as well.’ Beyond that, I also feel like the next step, not just for huge companies like Disney, but the gatekeepers, is that those people who have that as a lived in experience are also given voice and treated as human and our talents are just as esteemed as our heterosexual, heteronormative actors, performers and storytellers. That’s the next part of the journey because I feel like we’re in this world where if not every member of the human family is not at the table, what’s the point? [Laughs] I don’t like that word diversity, but let’s use it for expediency sake, but that is so important.

I can’t stress to you how my inbox has just been flooded with Black people, white people, differently-abled people, LGBTTTQQIAA, just saying, ‘Wow, it’s so great seeing somebody who’s out.’ That was part of my decision in 2020 and I realised how important it was for me. I’m 6’6”, 265lbs, and I was hiding behind a certain identity that I wasn’t. Now, being fully out and seeing studios and storylines with genderfluid or bi characters, I think it’s also important to also empower those real-life storytellers and actors who live that experience. Like, live it. That’s a big difference and it’s important. For me, it’s a different experience to make my way to this main stage. It’s definitely harder. There are no violins here as it’s a joyous journey and I have a wonderful career, but I also know my presence here inspires other people who look like me and are queer or trans, and they go, ‘Wow, if they can, I can.’ It’s so important. 
 

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You and your Loki are inspirational in that respect, but in terms of the character, we see he’s quite the exaggerator and he’s got some bold claims about Captain America, Iron Man, and the Infinity Stones, but were you given any backstory on the character when you joined the series?

Yeah, Tom was amazing! Seriously, he was just so available to feed information. It was really good stuff. He talked about his journey through the character and the things he discovered and researched about [him]. It was all done with a spirit of absolute generosity and he would always say, ‘Do with it what you will.’ Of course, I watched all the movies, but it was great having him fill me and Richard in on Loki. Then, he said, ‘Take it away.’ It was marvellous working with him. 

I hate to take the spotlight from you, but Alligator Loki is something everyone has been talking about and I know you get quite a pivotal scene with him you’re wrestling with what we’ve [now] seen was a blue doll thanks to Kate [Herron], but what was that like for you as I feel it must have been a very weird day on set?

It was! [Laughs] It was a weird day on set. This alligator...he was an upstager! It was such good fun shooting those scenes. Like I said, Kate just infects the set and it’s so relaxed, so you’re able to do your best work. The alligator was tricky. It was kind of tricky to get in there and make it work. When I looked at it, I was like, ‘Wow, it really came off well!’ 

I feel like your Loki got off lucky because I was rewatching the episode this morning and the alligator definitely went for [Boastful Loki’s] hand and, of course, we know what happens to the other Loki, so that was a near miss!

Totally, totally lucky, yeah!

It must have been a lot of fun shooting those scenes with Tom playing President Loki?

It was so good, and he did a really sweet thing. We had the whole fight sequence and he wasn’t in it, he was actually shooting something else, but then he ran and, this was so sweet, jumped into my fight sequence. It was just a really great thing to do and was a lovely thing with an actor supporting another actor and acknowledging that they’re doing great work. I’ve never experienced that before and it just touched my heart. 

Exploring that duplicitous nature of Loki must have also been great? Seeing him turn on Kid Loki and Classic Loki and being the ‘bad’ one of them looked like a lot of fun. 

Yes, it was! It was definitely fun. I think in terms of being the God of Mischief, that was so in line with who Lokis are and I guess I was the one who had to do the dirty! 

That shot of you, Jack and Richard we first see in episode four’s post-credits scene already feels like one of those iconic Marvel Cinematic Universe moments, but what was it like to shoot that? I’m guessing there must have been an awful lot of secrecy given the way you guys were all dressed?

There really was, but it was so exciting. The set was amazing. It was so atmospheric and working with Richard and Jack. Jack is wonderful, as is Richard. We just jelled. The three of us, or the four of us with Tom, we just jelled from the first day. It was weird because the read-through was on Zoom because we were all in hotels quarantined, but when we first got on set...you know when you meet people and straight away you can just completely be yourself? That was [great]. Richard can be a bit grumpy, but kind of very charming with it. Tom is incredibly energetic and always got something to say. And then there’s Jack, this amazing young actor who just sucks everything in and then, when it’s ‘Action!’, ‘Bang,’ he’s like a 90-year old in this young body because he’s such a good actor. The four of us were just a really good team. That day when we shot that was really good fun. Off takes, we were just bitching or gossiping. I remember Tom was doing a soliloquy from Henry V or something and Richard was rolling his eyes [Laughs]. 
 

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It must have been so surreal as well to be working with an actor like Richard and he’s decked out in this almost ridiculous comic accurate Loki costume? 

Didn’t he make it work, though? Off-camera, he made it work just the way he stood there like, ‘Oh, darling.’ He’s just so funny and really made it work.

Did COVID have any sort of impact on your role in the series in terms of whether scenes had to be moved around or your part changed because of social distancing?

It affected me and lots of other actors in that I couldn’t do season three of Sex Education. Sorry, Netflix, I know you told me not to say it, but I do have fans, and I don’t want to mislead them. So, there’s that, but also when you’re on set now, it’s very strict. There’s fifteen or twenty minutes and then you’ve got to take a break and go outside. That’s really weird. Your masks are on all through rehearsing and they come off when you start to shoot. That’s all weird. In a strange way, for actors, it reminds them of being back in theatre where you arrive at ten in the morning and you’re going to be rehearsing six weeks from ten until six, sometimes ten until eight, and when you take your breaks, you go off to a cafe together. The whole mask thing was a bit like that. Myself, Richard, and Tom, and Jack, we’d take them off and go outside and gossip [Laughs]. You can tell by the dirty laugh that the gossip wasn’t clean! What that did is it bonded us much stronger and I felt like there was really good chemistry because of that.

You mentioned the theatre and I know you have a Shakespearan background, so did you feel you could bring that sort of energy into a character like Loki?

When I watched all those movies, it reminds me of the Royal Shakspeare in a way. I think there are so many actors who have come from that, Anthony Hopkins obviously being one, but it reminds me of the National Theatre and that whole world, but in terms of telling a story and making the language work as opposed to...I am an actor who can sometimes go right out there, but often what you hear with Shakespear is ‘Let the language do it,’ but with this show, the way it looks, and the costume, all I have to do is open my mouth and let the words do it because there’s so much going on and that’s very much like doing a Shakespeare play in a way. 

On the opposite end of that, you’ve got all the action scenes swinging the hammer, so that must have been a lot of fun?

Oh yeah, I just love action. I used to be a dancer, so I feel the similarities in telling a story through movement. The stunt team on this, I think a few of them were also on the last movie I did, The Grey Man, and they’re so good. When you’re around stunt guys and girls and theys, it’s a bit like being in a dance company. They talk with their bodies and I love that world. 

As a fan, we watch these shows and pick everything apart, and everyone is talking about Boastful Loki’s claims…

I know! I don’t go into it thinking like that, though. I can’t. It’s real [to me]. I know things were whispered in my ear so I don’t want to share any spoilers, but I certainly don’t go into a character thinking, ‘I’m boasting!’ Boastful Loki has a  huge ego for sure, but that’s a Loki, right? Narcissism!

Do you have any theories about what his Nexus event was or do you think he did get his hands on those Infinity Stones as he claimed?

I’m scared to go there because there are so many people knee deep in the story. I know I’m going to be inundated with so many stories, so maybe next time when you ask me [Laughs]. I’m treading so carefully because I’ve never met fans who are so on it. 

I’m going to have to ask you this, but I feel like I’m going to get a similar answer: Boastful Loki, by the time all is said and done, he is still alive as far as we know, so do you think you could come back?

Listen, I’m just going to say, Tom did said to me, ‘Lokis don’t die.’ He did! [Laughs]

So, it’s a wait and see situation?

Yes! [Laughs] 

I’m guessing, based on what you said about how inspirational it’s been for you to step into the role, I’m guessing you’d love to come back if the opportunity were to present itself? 

Sure, yeah! Like I said earlier, and also, this is a new journey for me, and it shows you, the career I’ve had thus far...I have a few colleagues who are doing great and would never come out as of today because, you know, there’s that fear of losing so much. For me, I felt like...one, I didn’t want to hide anymore and two, I was just like, ‘Damn, if I want to go to a party in that miniskirt, I want to wear that miniskirt.’ I’m scared to wear that miniskirt because so and so casting director or so and so casting producer might see me and so I won’t get that action movie? I just thought, ‘You know what, I’ve got the receipts. You can see me in an action movie with The Rock. You can see me killing everyone in whatever. It’s all there, so I’m gonna rock my miniskirt, goddammit!’

That’s so liberating because suddenly, it was me just saying that I was no longer prepared to cash in or negotiate my authenticity for people or for a role and I feel like it’s made me a much better actor. My connection to my integrity is much stronger and much more exciting. When I step out of the door and express myself the way I want to, I know it’s the same as when I step on set or stage and enquire into the psychology and emotion of a character and want to bring that forward. I didn’t realise that hiding and running away, for me, weakened me. Now, I feel in my power. In this journey, for sure, I would love to come back. I have no idea where they’re going or what they intend to do, but moving forward with all my projects...most or all of the roles I’ve played have been heterosexual or heteronormative, so to be in such an iconic role and that for it to be revealed that [Loki] is genderfluid and bisexual, it seems so in synchronicity with who I am and where I am, especially with the door that’s open now in our culture where we’re asking questions, opening up and saying, ‘Everyone has to be included at this table.’

I really hope you get to return to this role and explore some of those ideas, but in terms of future roles I know you mentioned The Gray Man which is exciting, but where else can our readers expect to see you over the coming couple of years?

Oh my God, couple of years! [Laughs] I don’t think I’m booked that far ahead. I don’t want to mention a couple of things on the horizon until the ink is dried, but I’ll definitely be putting it on my social media. For sure, you’re going to see me coming up.
 

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