Being a teenager is full of drama, but it’s much much worse when superpowers are involved. On Runaways, Hulu’s new series based on the beloved Marvel comic, Los Angeles teenager Alex Wilder and five of his friends discover that their parents are actually supervillains. The show makes some pretty substantial changes to Brian K. Vaughan’s original comic, but the overall feel of the series — Marvel superheroes by way of The O.C. — is extremely on-point.
Inverse chatted with Rhenzy Feliz, the 20-year-old actor who plays the nominal leader of the group of Runaways, Alex, ahead of the series premiere. Alex’s is the only member of the group without superpowers, yet he’s the heart of the team and the guy who gets the plot going in the first place. Feliz told us about how his leadership compares to the rest of the MCU, how his character is different from in the comics, and if fans should be worried about a certain major plot twist from the end of the first comic arc. (This interview alludes to spoilers from the comic, but does not specify exactly what happens).
How does your portrayal of Alex on the show differ from the Alex of the page?
The backstory is a little different. He’s been through a little more pain, and he’s longing a little more for his friends in the series. I think that’s where the difference really comes in. He starts off on a much more somber note, on a sadder note because of the pain he goes through with the loss that the friends experience.
What’s the most difficult part of playing the character? What part do you find the most fun or rewarding?
The most difficult part was growing out the hair. That took me a good five months or so. You know, that weird awkward phase where you feel that you’re in the ‘70s with a mini-afro when you’re trying to grown out the Alex Wilder hair.
The most fun I had was getting to play with that whole complex question in your head. It’s your parents, so you love them and you think you know them, and then all of the sudden you see what you see. And then everything you thought was true, isn’t anymore. So, that kind of question of “Who are they? Are they even good people?” That mentality was so much fun to play with.
At the same time, Runaways is about growing up and changing how you view your parents, but it’s also noticing that change in yourself as a teenager. Which, for some characters like Molly and Karolina is much more physical. In what ways is Alex changing over the course of the series?
I think Alex, he grows more into a man within himself. He kind of has to grow up very, very quickly. He realizes that his parents are doing these evil things, and he has to bring it to justice. He understands right and wrong. He understands what justice is and knows that his parents actions need to be brought to justice. As much as he loves them, he knows that he has to grow and stand up to them.
What’s it like to be the only Runaway without superpowers?
[Laughs.] That’s a bit of a soft spot. It’s not great, but that was one of the things that I frowned at when i first found out about the series. “Like, okay, so she has a dinosaur, she has a staff, he has Fistigons, she has super-strength, she can fly, and I, uh, think.
But, he thinks in a much different way than the others do. He thinks with logic and he’s strategic and he’s calculating. So, he understands things in a very different way, and in that way he adds value to the group. A lot of times they turn to him to figure out what the next move is, what the next steps is. Because he can kind of detach himself a bit from the emotions and to think logically.
Which character’s superpower are you the most envious of?
Ooo, ah man. It’s got to be the dinosaur. Yeah, definitely Gert’s. If I could have the dinosaur to just sic the bad guys with, that’d be pretty awesome.
How would you rank Alex’s smarts and leadership skills with other characters in the wider MCU?
It’s a much smaller scale, but at the same time, he’s much much younger than all the other leaders in the MCU. I think relatively, he’s up there, considering his age and what he’s been through in comparison to Captain America having to save the universe, or the Guardians of the Galaxy, or whichever team you’d like to choose. I feel like he has the potential to be one of those guys for sure, because of the way he thinks. But, if I had to rank him up with Captain America now, I don’t know how well he’d place.
My next couple questions are about comic spoilers, so I’m going to phrase them carefully and you are free to answer them carefully. Fans of the original comic know that the first arc ends with a big twist regarding Alex. Is that something that show-watchers should keep in mind?
Yeah. I mean, I was looking out for it every script I read, making sure that my job wasn’t over. It adds an extra element to it all. And of course, without trying to give too much away, it’s going to take a little bit for them to start seeing signs from whoever or whatever may be happening inside the Pride and Runaways.
Whether or not the same thing happens to Alex in the show as happens to him in the comics, does having that knowledge of his ultimate fate factor into your performance?
A bit yes, but at the same time the scripts that we were reading, and I spoke to the creators and producers, the scripts at the time were focusing on a very specific problem that he was trying to face, which was his whole parents situation. But yes, in the back of my mind, there always is that love. He’s so devoted and loyal to his parents. There is that love, but at the same time he understands that what they’re doing is wrong, and so that’s why he sets out to do this thing he does.
And we’re early enough in the show that if something were to happen, Alex might not even know it yet.
If Runaways could crossover with any Marvel show or property, or take parts of them into the series, what would your top pick be?
If I could just join the team, I’d want the Avengers taking us under their wing, and teaching us a few of the ropes. Maybe Alex can get a couple lessons from Hawkeye, and maybe some hand-to-hand techniques so he can up his value a little bit to the team.
Anything else you want people to know about the series?
It only gets better. The series ramps up in action, it ramps up in stakes, and the twists and turns keep coming. It was as exciting to read as it was to watch.
Oh, that reminds me of one final question: Have you watched any of The O.C.?
[Laughs.] I’ve never seen it, and I keep telling myself to get around to it, because everyone is saying “Runaways is The O.C. with superpowers.” I have never seen it, but one of these days I’m going to have [Runaways showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage] sit down and watch it with me.
The first three episodes of Runaways will premiere on Hulu on Tuesday, November 21. Subsequent episodes will debut on a weekly basis.