Spoilers ahead for Runaways' third season.
The recently-released third season of Hulu's Runaways embraces its source material with references to Julie Power, Victor Mancha, and a multi-episode story arc for Karolina’s comic book betrothed, Xavin (played by Clarissa Thibeaux).
In Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona's Runaways comic book run, Xavin is introduced as the arranged spouse of Karolina Dean - arranged to unite their nations (the Skrulls and the Majesdanians) and put an end to an interglactic war. This all came at a time when Karolina was starting to come out as a lesbian, and wrestling with her emerging feelings for her teammate Nico. When her feelings were rebuffed by Nico, Karolina the opportunity to go with Xavin to learn more about her people and herself.
In Hulu's Runaways, the love triange between Nico, Karolina, and Xavin is explored - but in a new way. Unlike the comics, Karolina and Nico are already an established couple, and Karolina openly lesbian. Xavin throws a wrench in their relationship when they tell the couple that Xavin and Karolina are destined to be together.
With the full season out now, Newsarama spoke with Runaways' Xavin - a.k.a. actor Clarissa Thibeaux - about living in and adapting the role for TV. Thibeaux spoke about the love triangle presented in the show, the show's finale, as well as the importance of Xavin’s representation as a gender-fluid character.
Newsarama: Clarissa, we'll get to the love triangle everyone wants to know more about - but I'm also interested in your camraderie with Allega Costa's Molly - you two seemed to really gel. How was it for you?
Clarissa Thibeaux: When I first found out I was going to be playing Xavin I went and looked at all the comics and, in the comics Molly, and Xavin have this really fun, interesting relationship. Kind of like a sisterly relationship where they both teach each other things.
So, I was really excited when I read the script for this next season and seeing that we got to explore that and got to have this kind of exchange of information. She teaches me how to be more human and I kind of teach her how to be more of a warrior. So, it's been really fun and I love Allegra. So, sharing scenes were always some of my favorites.
Nrama: Why did you feel it was important to read the comics?
Thibeaux: Once you audition for a show like this, they really don’t tell you a ton. I think it wasn’t until I was actually cast that I knew who I was in the show, and I looked on Wikipedia – I hadn’t read the comic before, and I saw all this stuff about Xavin. So, I was like okay I went the comic book store.
Because I read that the show wasn't exactly like the comic, but I knew that I could get a really good sense of Xavin’s personality in relation to the Runaways. And I wanted to be able to honor that as best I could with what I was given from the writers.
The one thing that I took away from the comics or I guess a couple of things that I took away from the comics that I tried to implement and hopefully I did, I hope the fans like it, was Xavin’s unintentional humor. I felt like there was so many instances where Xavin would say something and it'd be really funny in the comics, but Xavin didn't necessarily understand why it was funny So, I tried to play with that a lot and just the blatant honesty that Xavin gets to have is a lot of fun to have on the show.
Nrama: I loved how you delivered all the comedy this season. I thought it was great. In the comics Xavin is gender fluid. Was this something you wanted to explore in the show itself?
Thibeaux: I was definitely interested in this aspect of Xavin and this aspect that the fans really identified with Xavin. Of course, there's a lot of things that happen on a show. The writers – it’s a whole process. It’s a team effort.
So, I definitely think it's a really important part to the character and I'm really honored to get play Xavin and get to explore that as much as I got to in the show. Maybe one day I'll get to play Xavin again. Didn't get to exploring further, but who knows.
Nrama: What did you think of the Xavin, Karolina, and Nico love triangle and the twist it ended up taking - with Xavin and Karolina's 'destined' love being platonic and not romantic?
Thibeaux: It's funny because when I first got the scripts for how that was all going to shift and change with the baby - it was so real for me. I love children and I was like, of course, it’s a child love, that's the strongest thing in the world.
And I think that it was a good way to really honor the Deanoru shippers that are out there who are diehard Deanoru shippers and also give Xavin a prophecy that’s really lovely and something that I think anyone can kind of relate to. It’s just that really deep feeling of love that you have for a child.
I was pleased with how everything turned out. I think that it was a good way for Xavin to fulfill that prophecy. And I think that in the show, versus the comics, Karolina and Nico's relationship was much more intense, much deeper in the show than it was in the comics. In the comics it was a little more - I don't know if touch and go is the right way to say it, but the relationship between the two of them was a little different. So, I think this was a good way to handle it for the show.
Nrama: Xavin has an opportunity to explore feelings more this season. What was it like tapping into that as an actor?
Thibeaux: It was really fun, but it was also a challenge because I’m a human, so I emote, but Xavin is more muted. So, I had played this fine line between showing enough emotion so that the audience could read it, but not so much that I'd seem human necessarily.
It was really fun experience to play with.
And honestly, there were some times where I would just ask the director, "Was that enough? Did it read or did it look like I wasn’t doing anything?" because towing that line... it can be kind of hard depending on the emotion.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite moment from this season?
Thibeaux: I think probably my favorite moment is holding the babies, at least filming-wise. I haven't seen the show yet - I’ll watch it tomorrow. But we had these twins, little newborn babies on set and I love children so much. I was a nanny for a long time. The maternal part of me took over and I was like, "Oh my God, just focus on this child in my arms" and swaddling them. That always brings me so much joy. So, I think those were probably my favorite scenes whenever I could hold the baby.
Nrama: Sadly, it was announced that this would be the last season of Runaways. What was your reaction to the show ending? Do you think there are possibilities for the show to continue? Disney+ maybe?
Thibeaux: Well I haven't learned anything about Disney+ renewing Runaways in any way. So, I can't speak to that, I don't know.
But it was funny while we were filming this last season, just the way certain storylines were going, there started to become little rumors around that wondering if maybe this was the last season. So, when I found out the official news, it wasn't entirely surprising because the idea had already kind of been in my mind that maybe this was going to be it.
I hope that the season wraps in a way that's really satisfying for the fans. Because the one good thing about it is that I'm pretty sure the writers knew ahead of time, so they're able to write endings that I'm hoping close things up in a nice way so that so we're not left on some huge cliffhanger, which sometimes shows have to do.
Nrama: Overall, how did you feel about the end of your arc?
Thibeaux: Once I read through how it all happened I was really happy with it actually. I thought that the way Xavin fulfilled the prophecy and the conflict between the Deanoru love triangle and this Xavilina triangle, I was happy that Xavin essentially became a guardian or caretaker and was able to solve this interplanetary war without having to completely disrupt the Runaways’ relationship to one another. I was happy with it. I am happy with it. I think it was a really great way for the arc to be written for the show. And gave Xavin a lot to work with and it was so fun getting to humanize Xavin as much as Xavin could be humanized during that whole process.
Nrama: Lastly... what did you enjoy most about playing Xavin?
Thibeaux: I think one of the things that I really enjoyed about playing Xavin was, I don't know if this is the right way to say it, but the control I had while playing that character. Everything that Xavin does is intentional. Everything they say is something that needs to be said or something back to them. So, it's nice to not have a filter and be so pointed in everything that I got to do.
I think that was a really fun thing to do, but you don't get to do a lot as an actor. You don’t get to play an alien every day. So, I think that was my favorite part of playing Xavin.