For actress Allegra Acosta, joining the Marvel universe wasn't just a dream come true — it was kismet.
At the start of the new year, the 14-year-old wrote down her goals for 2017, a family tradition she's been doing since she learned how to write. At the top of her list? "Hopefully be a superhero." She'd originally taken up an interest in superheroes as a way to bond with her dad, a life-long Marvel fan, but as she got older, she fell in love with the characters, too.
Just a few short weeks after making her New Year's resolutions, Acosta auditioned for the role of Molly Hernandez (née Hayes) in Marvel's hotly anticipated television adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan seminal comic book series, Runaways. (The series follows six teens who must unite against a common enemy: their supervillain parents.) A week later, she met with showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage before officially landing the part of the youngest, and oftentimes the most perceptive, member of the beloved superhero team.
"I was at my uncle's wedding when I got the call, and all I can remember is [Marvel Television head] Jeph Loeb saying, 'Here are three words that are going to change your life: Welcome to Marvel.' It was amazing. We were all smiling and crying."
Nearly a year later and Acosta is living her dream promoting the first season of Marvel's Runaways, the first three episodes of which are currently available to stream on Hulu. MTV News caught up with the teenaged Marvel star to talk about becoming a badass superhero (and a super strong, Latina one at that) and the female-centric resonance of the Runaways.
MTV: So I was at New York Comic Con when they debuted the first episode in a room full of screaming fans.
Allegra Acosta: Oh my god. It was a amazing! It was so cool. Jeph Loeb hyped everyone up, and they said, "Hulu's! Marvel's! Runaways!" And we were in the back going, "Ahhhhh!" We didn't know what was happening.
MTV: Jeph Loeb is such a hype man.
Acosta: That's Convention Jeph. There are so many different Jephs. It's fun to see all of them. There's Convention Jeph. There's Amazing Jeph. Wrap-Party Jeph.
MTV: One of the big changes the show made from the comics is that Molly and Gert are now sisters because Molly was adopted by the Yorkes at a young age. Was that your favorite dynamic to explore this season?
Acosta: Molly and Gert are just normal sisters. They don't get along all the time because they're so stubborn, and Molly gets especially hurt when Gert doesn't believe her, but at the end of the day they love each other, and they're protective of each other. When I met Ariela [Barer], we just clicked. In real life, she's the younger sister and I'm the older sister, so we experienced a complete role reversal. But she teaches me something every day. Every time we get a scene together, it's electric. And I also love the dynamic between Molly, Gert, and Old Lace [Gert's dinosaur]. I'm happy I'm her sister because I get to hang with the dinosaur.
MTV: I want to talk about Episode 3 because that's a big one for Molly. We get a flashback to her parents' funeral. Clearly, there's a mystery surrounding their deaths, which will play out throughout the season, right?
Acosta: In the first two episodes you don't get a full sense of Molly and her personality. You know that she's younger than everyone else, that she's sensitive but very opinionated and passionate. But what I love about the third episode is that it starts her journey and self-exploration. Throughout the season, you'll see what she's actually made of and where she comes from and how curious she is about her past.
MTV: Molly can do these extraordinary things, but the problem is that no one ever believes her. Does she feel like no one takes her seriously because she's the youngest?
Acosta: Definitely. The biggest issue with Molly is that she really wants to fit in. She doesn't have a family like the others — a true family. She has the Yorkes, but it's not the same. So she tries to fit in with this group because she feels like they're her family. Like any other kid, it's disappointing when you really want something but no one will trust you or welcome you with open arms. So Molly has this inner battle within herself, like, no one is ever going to believe me. She's constantly fighting with Gert and everyone to get their attention. They don't know how dope she is! She's the muscle!
MTV: I love that this scrappy little girl is the muscle of the group.
Acosta: Teenage girls aren't always portrayed as strong as they could be, but that's changing as TV is becoming more progressive. A lot of 14-year-old girls are now seen as strong, powerful badasses, and I'm happy to be part of that. What made me so excited to work on this project and to be Molly is that I could put a lot of myself in her. I could make her as relatable as possible and show that girls are strong and passionate and beautiful and can overcome everything.
MTV: I would like to see an alternate timeline in which Molly can hang out with Eleven from Stranger Things.
Acosta: Oh my god. I just finished Stranger Things 2, and it's amazing. It's so good! We need that. I'm part of the Hulu family, but I respect Stranger Things. I love that both of our shows represent capable young people and strong women. Runaways is a female-centric show — as it should be.
MTV: We're 51 percent of the population, so it makes sense.
MTV: There is a real sense of girl power to Runaways. But that's always been part of the DNA of Brian K. Vaughan's comics. It's one of the things that made the comics so transgressive and why it struck a chord with young readers.
Acosta: One of my favorite scenes from the comics is when Molly throws down with Wolverine and fights the Punisher. It just shows that Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona were so forward-thinking. I don't know how Brian came up with Molly wearing the p-word hat because a lot of people think it's the female-power hat, and I honestly believe that it has something to do with it. I'm so happy that I get to be part of something that was made for this era. Young people are more political, more female-driven, and more ethnically diverse than ever, and this show, like the comic, really represents that.
MTV: Is that what you think will resonate with young viewers in 2017?
Acosta: When I was growing up I never saw another Latina on TV. I couldn't really connect with any of the Disney princesses. Mulan was the closest because she was a badass. But the characters on Runaways look like you. You can relate to them. We're not just representing every race; we're representing every teenager.
MTV: Molly Hayes is also now Molly Hernandez. Is her Latinx identity a significant part of her character?
Acosta: I was really excited that they did that. I'm showcasing a Latina superhero. You don't get to see that every day on television. Growing up, I didn't have that to look up to, so I'm happy that young Latinas now have a superhero. She embraces it in the show because she wants to know more about her family and her culture. She wants to find out who she is, so she listens to Latin music. She's not a stereotype. She's not derived from chola culture. We're representing a more idealistic side of Latinas and how strong and powerful we are.
MTV: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage have a knack for balancing teenage authenticity with this heightened sense of melodrama.
Acosta: They keep it real and grounded. That has a lot to do with the fact that everyone in the cast put a lot of themselves in the characters. That's what I love about our show. We're not flying around saying, "We're superheroes!"
MTV: OK but how did you master that superhero landing in Episode 3?
Acosta: We had to shoot that a couple of times because we wanted to get it perfect. I honestly felt like Spider-Man. It was so cool. Marvel is how me and my dad bonded when I was younger — we would watch Marvel movies — so I've always wanted to be a superhero. Actually getting the chance to break through a wall was a dream come true. Sometimes I'd forget that I didn't have super-strength on set. One time Lyrica [Okano] had a really bad Uber experience, and I was like, "Where is he? I'm going to go kick his butt!"