Quantumania Star Katy O'Brian Thought She Was Auditioning for The Marvels
"I was surprised to find out it was Ant-Man.”
Katy O’Brian is in the rare group of actors who have starred in both Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with her appearance as freedom fighter leader Jentorra in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania coming mere weeks before her small role as “Comms Officer” in The Mandalorian garnered a high-profile role in Season 3 and a name — Elia Kane.
But O’Brian thought her MCU debut would come much later. Due to the secretive audition process Marvel Studios follows, she wasn’t even aware what role — or even what project — she was going out for. Even her audition sides had all identifying details changed.
“It was me around a campfire talking to several different women. In my head, I'm like, ‘Okay, this is for The Marvels for sure,’” O’Brian tells Inverse. “I was just talking about why our people were displaced in the guerrilla village, but all the details were changed.”
Even after auditioning, O’Brian was convinced the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel/crossover film was going to be her next project. “I'm talking to all these women. What Marvel movie has a bunch of women? The Marvels,” she says. “I was surprised to find out it was Ant-Man. It was so random, and the character just doesn't fit in the Ant-Man Universe until you realize they're going into the quantum world.”
O’Brian spoke to Inverse about Jentorra, the moments that didn’t make the final cut, how filming compared to Star Wars, and her upcoming film, Love Lies Bleeding, directed by Saint Maud’s Rose Glass.
This interview has been edited for clarity and/or brevity.
Inverse: Peyton Reed directed two episodes of The Mandalorian. Was that how you got cast in Quantumania or was it a more traditional process?
I think it was a little bit of both. I don't know if I would've gotten an audition for that big of a role. The casting director for Ant-Man and the casting director for The Mandalorian are one and the same, so they did know my work, and I have worked with Peyton before, but I did have to audition for it.
I thought I was auditioning for a totally different movie, they didn't tell me what it was, but later I was talking to Peyton and he goes, “I saw you auditioned. It was good.” And I was like, “Not great?”
But we met up, had a chat and I think it was a little bit of, “I already know your work and thought you could do the part and here you are.” But they still went through the whole secret channel thing. Didn't tell me what I was auditioning for, how big the part was, anything.
“We are working with some of the best in the industry.”
How does filming Star Wars differ from filming an MCU project?
They're both very secretive. I would say Star Wars is on the slightly more secretive side. The scenes that I've done in Star Wars have been more contained. We have either the volume, which is a very small semi-circular area, or we have practical sets, but again, they're very small.
Ant-Man was just very vast. Really, really large practical sets and then a blue screen surrounding you. I think the other side of things like where Michelle Pfeiffer and, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly were, I think that was mostly Volume, but where I was, it was mostly blue screen. Part of the reason for that I think is we had all these huge battle scenes and so much action, so we needed a lot of the space to move around.
There's a lot of crossover, though. We are working with some of the best in the industry. You're working with the best DPs, the best makeup artists, best hair, it's definitely luxurious.
How does it feel being one of a handful of actors to double-dip in Marvel and Star Wars?
It’s so cool. Like I said, there's a lot of overlap in a weird way. You kind of feel like a franchise baby in a way cuz you're like, okay, I'm in the 20th rendition of both of these projects. But it's also something that I grew up watching. I would watch Marvel Saturday morning cartoons, I'd read some comics, and obviously everybody knows Star Wars, so it's kind of like walking into a familiar universe in a weird way.
But also, you’re trying to make your own name in that and somehow fit in that and feel like you don't have massive imposter syndrome by being there. But it's an honor, it's really fun, and it doesn't feel real.
You also played Kimball in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How do you explain your two Marvel characters co-existing?
It's kind of like when you look at like the CW DC world versus the big screen DC world. There's a little bit of suspension of disbelief. There have been how many Batmans, how many Flashes have there been now?
My Kimball character in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was just in the background most of the time. So I didn't really form a strong bond to that character, honestly. Sometimes I forget that I did it. But it was a great experience, but I didn't really do much and just like kind of hung out with all these cool people.
Were there any moments in Quantumania that didn't make the final cut?
I had a couple fight scenes that got cut out and there were a couple moments with Bill Murray. Instead of just getting killed, he did a whole space pursuit with them and then wound up with Kang and got arrested or something. It was a lot. It would've been like a three-hour movie.
They took him to jail and then he had some really cute little jail clips, and then I helped bust him out, and then he pretends that he's with me the whole time and ready to fight. And I'm like, “Bro, come on.”
That's mostly what I remember. But they were adding stuff to the script until the last day of shooting. So there was so much stuff that I think got cut in the end.
Did you have any personal backstory for Jentorra?
Not really. What I appreciate with Star Wars is at least we had some time to sit around and talk about like, “Where am I going with this?” And they were like “I don't know. I can't tell you.” But with Quantumania, I didn't have a ton of time to delve into, where did Jentorra come from? It was mostly like, “Am I the Jentorra from the comic books?” And they were like, “No, you can just create your own character, basically,” so that's kind of where I took it.
My background in my mind — which isn't canon yet, so they might come up with something completely different — is that we all had our own little factions of society, and we were more of a warrior society and obviously the Quantum Realm seems like a really dangerous place to just exist.
I think we were very much focused on basics. We weren't technologically advanced, but I've got this spear thing, it's very charged with quantum energy, and we live that barbarian life. We train, fight — as I said, very simple structure, very simple order. That's where I was coming from. It just makes all the changes and the violence of it all that much more jarring.
What do you think happened to Jentorra after the events of Quantumania?
Right? I was like, “You left me with all these giant ants! What am I gonna do?”
I think they're gonna be like ant tamers or something. I don't know. I guess we have giant excessively intelligent ants now that could probably overthrow our society. I think it'd be really funny if you go back and you see that like, they've actually killed us all, they didn't do us any good in the end.
But no, I think we'll learn to coexist we'll, we'll learn to start ourselves back up, and maybe we also are gonna take some of the stuff that Kang left behind and use it for our own advantage too, so that something like that doesn't happen again.
Would you come back to the MCU to play the role again or yet another character?
With the whole timeline thing, it would be hilarious to see people jumping characters, right? I think that'd be so funny. Like, you wind up in the Quantum Realm and Danny DeVito is Jentorra now, and then I am Professor Xavier. That'd be hilarious.
But if they ask me back, I love the character. If it was a chance to develop her further, I would love that. Because I think that world was so interesting and we really didn't get to really know the people in it.
I loved Rose Glass’ last movie, Saint Maud. What can you tell me about starring in her upcoming movie Love Lies Bleeding?
I would say there's more of a thriller aspect to it. It’s from her wild mind and only she could have written this.
I play a bodybuilder who’s seeking her dream of going pro. On my way to Vegas, I stop in a small town and I meet Kristen Stewart's character at a gym and fall in love. Then, after that, just chaos, just madness. It's basically just a really beautiful love story thriller about people that just wanna be loved and what they're willing to do to keep that love.
“Everyone wants to make this movie for Rose”
Now that you've garnered some lead roles, what kind of roles are you looking for in the future?
I want to do more like Love Lies Bleeding, where I really get to build a character from scratch in a world that's not already established. I grew up with horror. I love horror films. So an American-Psycho-like character is really exciting for me to think about. Especially a lot of roles that were traditionally reserved only for men, I think would be really fun to take on.
I love fantasy, to wield a sword or something would be really great. And then also, I'm not the typical mom that you would see on screen. It'd be really fun to play a mom — just like a really normal mom in a comedy, or a rom-com. There's such a wild variety out there and I just would love to dip my toes into pretty much anything.
How has working with Rose Glass differed from other directors you've worked with?
Rose is very quiet. She wants to try all kinds of things. Part of that is the fact this is the type of film that probably wouldn't fly in a more mainstream market, so it really does let you open up your mind and open up your performance. She really is an anything goes kind of director. “That sounds crazy. That sounds insane, let's try it.” But at the same time she's very soft spoken. I loved whenever she was like, “No, we're not doing that.” Because I was like, “Yeah, you stand your ground Rose!”
Before I work with someone, I always internet stalk them to find out if they’re known for being inappropriate or just what their “thing” is. I saw an interview and someone else said that they just wanted Rose to be happy at the end. It really is that — everyone wants to make this movie for Rose because they believe in her vision. She's such a sweet soul, but also has like that, that wild energy in her. No one could come up with these scripts without that madness.
We want to make her happy because we trust her vision and that's a really cool place to be. Obviously, we want to bring justice to our characters and everything too, we want to be happy with our work, but it's rare that you find someone who you trust so much where you're like, “I am going to completely trust my character to you.”
It really sounds like a role that was made for you.
When it was announced, they put out a casting call for my character and I didn't get an audition. A fan actually sent the casting call to me. I had never seen it. I hit up my team and I'm like, “Why am I not auditioning for this movie? Give me this audition right now.”
I put a PowerPoint presentation together for casting. I was like, this is why I should have this audition. I wound up getting one right after. It was the longest, most grueling audition process that I've gone through. I don't know if it's like they didn't think I could do it, or didn't think I was big enough, or what, but they eventually did give it to me. Wait, no. They didn’t give it to me. I fought for it. I earned it.