Sophia Di Martino, with Some Help from Paloma Faith, Looks Back on Loki
The Marvel gods have smiled upon us again. Hot on the heels of blockbuster TV productions like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, they have delivered us Loki, the latest Disney+ spinoff saga centered on the eponymous God of Mischief, the most infamous anti-hero in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. But it is not Loki himself, played by the seasoned Marvel veteran Tom Hiddleston, who has emerged as the series’ breakout star—it’s Sylvie, a gritty fighter with magic powers played by the Nottingham-born actor Sophia Di Martino. Sylvie, as viewers come to learn, is Loki’s variant, and the embodiment of the protagonist’s gender fluidity. So in a sense, Loki is the show’s fan-favorite after all, just not in the way you’d expect.
Di Martino was crowned Marvel royalty by the spinoff’s ravenous online following at the moment of her first appearance in episode two, triggering her emergence as the protagonist of countless YouTube speculation videos and Reddit fan conspiracies. But Sophia Di Martino is not one to indulge in the hype. As her conversation with her friend—the singer-songwriter and actor Paloma Faith—reveals, Di Martino’s got no time for bullshit. — MEGAN HULLANDER
PALOMA FAITH: I watched Loki. It reminded me of when I was a kid in the ’80s, like a Choose Your Own Adventure-thing. I thought we’d do something similar with this interview. I have questions about Loki and questions about you as a person. You can flip a coin to decide.
SOPHIA DI MARTINO: Great, let me find a coin. [Pause] Ok, got a quid.
FAITH: Now that she’s been in a Marvel show, she’s so rich that she uses a one-pound coin!
DI MARTINO: Shall I use a ten pence? I don’t want to get above my station. I need that quid anyway for the locker room at the swimming pool.
FAITH: Heads it’s you, tails it’s Loki. Flip!
DI MARTINO: Tails.
FAITH: I want to know what you and Sylvie have in common and what you don’t.
DI MARTINO: We’re pretty different. Sylvie’s braver than me and more guarded. I don’t know how to explain it. She’s probably angrier. I wish I were a bit more like her.
FAITH: What about her would you like to emulate?
DI MARTINO: She’s so determined and laser-focused. She doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about her. She’s on this mission and is going to get to the end of it no matter what. I worry a lot more about what people think of me.
FAITH: Don’t you think they cast you because they saw her in you?
DI MARTINO: I think they cast me because I’m really good at pretending.
FAITH: Don’t you think you always bring a bit of yourself to every character?
DI MARTINO: Of course you bring some of yourself. It’s uncomfortable to think about though.
DI MARTINO: When I’m acting, I use my instincts rather than my brain. To think about it as a technique makes it seem calculated. But there must be some of me in there.
FAITH: Well, she looks quite a bit like you. Go on, flip the coin.
DI MARTINO: Oh sugar, tails again.
FAITH: Sylvie and Loki fall in love, but they are basically the same person. Do you think it’s wise to fall for someone that’s too much like you? Isn’t it weird, or narcissistic, that these two characters fall in love, basically, with themselves?
DI MARTINO: It is about self-love, though. It’s about learning to accept and to like yourself. When they first meet, they don’t like each other. It takes a while to warm up. Maybe it’s the feeling of being seen as your true self for the first time, rather than people seeing Sylvie as this variant who’s a threat, or seeing Loki as this chaotic creature up to no good. They see the real in each other. But you’re right, it isn’t the best setup, which is maybe why it doesn’t work in the end.
FAITH: But that’s a real feminist move.
DI MARTINO: I like to think Sylvie said, “That was fun, see you later.” And she sends him off somewhere.
FAITH: It’s romantic, isn’t it? To enjoy a moment with a person and stop before you begin annoying each other? When I look back on my relationships that were the most romantic, they’re the ones that didn’t last long. Flip the coin.
DI MARTINO: Tails, again.
FAITH: Talk to me about the way you chose to play her. Do you think women have a duty to play these roles in a more evolved way? When we look back, it feels like women were only allowed to be cast until the age of 26, and then had to wait till they were 70 to play a grandma.
DI MARTINO: You’re right, which is one reason I was shocked I got the part. I’m not 27. It was important to me that she was wearing something she could physically fight in and live through the apocalypse in. I didn’t want to wear high heels and a leotard, I didn’t want to have long flowing hair. It needed to be practical. I wanted her to hold her own against any male character. We worked with a stunt department and made sure I looked strong, which was quite hard because I was not.
FAITH: How many months were you postpartum when you first started training?
DI MARTINO: Four.
FAITH: That’s really early. Have you ever had a real fight?
DI MARTINO: Not really. I’ve been pushed around at school, but I’ve never had a proper fight.
FAITH: So you were learning how to have a real fight?
DI MARTINO: It feels strange to hit a pad for the first time. At first, I did it all half-assed, apologizing to the pad. And then you realize the pad can take it and the guy behind the pad can as well. As soon as you put the character on, it becomes easier. Sylvie would never apologize to anyone for hitting them.
FAITH: I met this woman who got a job as a dominatrix. She got fired within 24 hours because she kept saying “sorry.”
DI MARTINO: That’s not sexy. “Do you mind if I put my stiletto on your face?” I’m going to flip the coin. Heads.
FAITH: You also direct your own films. How did you feel on set? Did you ever start using your directing muscles?
DI MARTINO: I’d never start telling Kate [Herron, the Loki director] how to light a scene because that’s not my job and I’d probably mess it up. But I love working collaboratively and improvising. I’ll always say, “Just tell me if it’s shit.” I’m not precious about anything I put out there.
FAITH: What was it like to work with Kate?
DI MARTINO: She knew so much about the universe we were creating. She had a strong vision, both visually and tonally. You can trust that person to steer the ship and believe that if you do offer suggestions, she’ll tell you if they’re rubbish. Kate made me confident to make Sylvie my own. And she protected me from getting my wrist slapped by the higher-ups. I’d want to swear and she’d be like, “Do a clean version, this is a Disney show.”
FAITH: Flip again.
DI MARTINO: Heads.
FAITH: Tell me about being a first-time mum while doing physical work. Were you cruising, nailing it, or going slowly mad?
DI MARTINO: One minute I’d be nailing it, the next I’d be going mad, and by lunchtime, I’d be cruising.
FAITH: Walk me through what the day was like when you were exclusively breastfeeding.
DI MARTINO: I’d feed the baby, go into the stunt gym, workout, pump, eat something quickly—you have to eat all the time when you’re breastfeeding—go back to the stunt gym, go home, see the baby, learn some lines, put the baby to bed, do more line learning. I was feeling guilty like I wasn’t putting enough energy or time into work or being a parent.
FAITH: Wasn’t your costume designed so you could breastfeed and pump?
DI MARTINO: When I went for my first fitting, my baby was four weeks old and I had to feed every two hours. The costume designer realized there needed to be easy access, so I didn’t have to waste time getting undressed and I could do it anywhere. I could whip off the breastplate, open the zips, and stick a couple of pumps on or feed the baby.
FAITH: When you had 5 AM call times, did you take the baby?
DI MARTINO: I didn’t have that many 5 AM starts. I got a place close to the studio so I could have as late a call time as possible. And because of COVID, I was doing my own makeup. I could do it in 17 minutes.
FAITH: You did your own makeup?
DI MARTINO: Closely monitored by the brilliant Douglas Noe. Douglas did all the special effects and everything, like the cut on my head and the dirt and everything, but it was a low-maintenance look.
FAITH: Flip again.
DI MARTINO: Heads.
FAITH: If you could get in a time machine and tell the kid version of you that one day she’d be a superhero, what would she say?
DI MARTINO: She wouldn’t believe me.
FAITH: Were you shy?
DI MARTINO: Nervously confident, like a swan. Graceful on top with my legs going wild underneath the water. I wasn’t really a swan actually, I was gobby. I feel like I should ask you questions. This feels so one-sided.
FAITH: It’s like going to therapy, though. I feel guilty after therapy because I feel as though I should have asked the therapist something. I’ve tried and they tell you not to and you feel guilty because they’re like, “This isn’t the arrangement, stop prying.” Was it heads or tails?
DI MARTINO: Heads. I’m very good at this. If it doesn’t work out with the singing or the acting or being a mother….
FAITH: What’s something that you’re really good at and really bad at?
DI MARTINO: If someone tells me a secret, I’ll take it to the grave. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Scorpio or because I’m loyal. But I’m really bad at loads of stuff. Like playing music. I’ve tried to play the piano, the flute, and the guitar. I’m so impatient.
FAITH: That’s what’s good about being an actor. If the character is good, you’re instantly good. Flip again.
DI MARTINO: Tails.
FAITH: Loki time travels between dimensions. If you could time travel to any point in your own life, where would you go?
DI MARTINO: I’d go back to being a teenager and take more risks. I was in Rome and these really cool, slightly older Italian teenagers were jumping into the Trevi fountain and getting really wet. I’ve always been sensible and I remember standing on the edge and thinking, “I wish I was brave enough to jump in and have a water fight, but I’ll get wet and the ride back will be uncomfortable and my bum will get soggy.” I wish I had jumped.
FAITH: I’ll join you. Those are great things you’ve got to look forward to in old age. When you’re an old person, you can do all of that stuff. Everyone goes, “Well, she’s a bit senile.”
DI MARTINO: You don’t get into trouble as much as you do when you’re young. You can pull a face and they get scared.
FAITH: One more flip.
DI MARTINO: Heads.
FAITH: What experiences in your life changed you?
DI MARTINO: Becoming a parent is massive. This is probably cliché, but it makes you realize what’s important. You only have so much time or energy, you start channeling it into the things that matter to you and the people that matter to you. You have less time for bullshit.
FAITH: That’s a great way to end this. No time for bullshit.
DI MARTINO: I’m gonna go home and eat some ice cream.