Ant-Man and the Wasp featured

Actress Hannah John-Kamen on Her Mysterious ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Character and What’s Fun About Playing the Antagonist

July 3, 2018Ben MK

If you've seen Hannah John-Kamen's villainous turn as the no-nonsense femme fatale F'Nale Zandor in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, then you already have a pretty good idea of why the British actress was tapped to play the antagonist in Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp.

In director Peyton Reed's follow-up to his blockbuster 2015 Marvel Cinematic Universe directorial debut, John-Kamen (whom television viewers may know from her roles on Killjoys, Black Mirror or Game of Thrones) plays Ghost, a mysterious character who serves as the thorn in the side to Paul Rudd's Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lilly's Hope Van Dyne (aka The Wasp), as they and Hope's father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), attempt to find a way to rescue Hope's mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the Quantum Realm.

It's a part that's more nuanced than any of the film's marketing have let on, and I sat down with John-Kamen for a spoiler-free chat about the movie, to find out who would win in a fight between Ghost and Cate Blanchett's Hela, and to learn what might be in store for her Killjoys' character in the sci-fi series' upcoming fourth season.

You played a villain in Ready Player One not too long ago, and here you are playing the bad guy again. What is it about being bad that feels so good?

John-Kamen: Well, actually, it's about the fliparoo — it's what is it about being so good that's so bad. I am looking at my character that she's not the villain; she is the antagonist. She's a threat to our heroes in the movie, but what she's doing is out of pure, sheer desperation, and she's got a very clear goal and a clear objective. And I think there is sympathy there for her, and I don't think she is a villain. And [to] everyone else, she's very misunderstood.

But I think in the Marvel universe, what's very wonderful and what they have this incredible ability to do is make the antagonist roles — or villainous roles — redeemable. So, yeah, it's fun to play that challenge. That's how I approach the character, so that's the fun part.

As you mentioned, there are definite shades of grey to your character, Ava — or as she's also known, Ghost. What's more satisfying to play — the tortured antagonist or a more straight-on evil one?

John-Kamen: [laughs] Well, I don't think I've ever kind of played the straight-on evil character, cuz I like to have the idea that, as an actor, you don't see your character as evil. You never play a role and go, "I am evil." I don’t think an evil person would admit that they're evil. So I think tortured is the right word; and I think that it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to play that.

And also, the character Ghost isn't just emotional, it's a physical role as well, and there's a lot of amazing action with her character. So, yeah, it's all of that, so I think it's very fun.

What kind of physical training did you have to do for the role?

John-Kamen: I did all my stunt work and stunt training, and I actually requested to do my stunt rehearsals in my costume, cuz when you put the costume on it really does something to your physicality; it really makes you feel kind of superhuman. So that was really fun to do because you can really help craft and shape what the movement of the character is. And especially as well, with Marvel, when you have different powers and you have different styles of fighting, and also what does your costume mean, what does you suit actually do, that has a lot to do with it as well. So that was amazing, it was very creative.

Ghost is also gender-swapped from her namesake in the comics. What do you think a female version of Ghost brings to the movie, as opposed to if the role had been played by a guy?

John-Kamen: I think, definitely [in] the Marvel universe, we can always do with more really great, amazing, powerful, kickass female roles. And more female action heroes [laughs] and figurines for the younger generation to have.

I mean, I approached the character — she was already written as a girl when I got the script — knowing that it was originally a man [and] there wasn't a lot to go on in the comic books. Ghost didn't have an origin story, and he just featured in the Thunderbolt team and he featured with Iron Man. And there wasn't a lot, so that was great. It was better for me to not be stuck with something else and be compared to it. I could really have that freedom to take that character and give her life, and be the first person to start from scratch and create Ghost.

Of course, the last female villain we got in the MCU was Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, played by the great Cate Blanchett. Who do you think would win in a fight — Hela or Ghost?

John-Kamen: Ghost. [laughs] Cuz Ghost can phase through things, and that's a very incredible ability and power to have. And me, as Hannah John-Kamen, if I could have a power, that would be definitely what it would be. Yeah, I'd like to think Ghost would win in a fight.

But I mean, we've got amazing, amazing female characters. We've got Wasp, that's the first female to be in a title, we've got Captain Marvel coming, Black Widow, of course, and it’s just amazing; we’ve got many, many, many, many. [laughs] Many more, please.

You're part of an amazing cast, including Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Peña. So it's a mix of some very experienced actors and returning cast from the first movie. As kind of the new person on set, did the other actors give you any advice about being in a Marvel film?

John-Kamen: It was definitely very daunting when I first got the role. Cuz I'm such a huge fan of Marvel and such a huge fan of the first movie as well, and I'm such a fan of the actors I was going be working with. But the first day, and the whole process of meeting everybody, they were so amazing. They really embraced me into the Marvel family and made me feel extremely welcome, and it made me then feel at ease.

And I think there was advice saying, "Ok, your suit will get hot." [laughs] "The suits get hot, so make sure you keep hydrated." But everyone was just absolutely incredible.

What was your most memorable moment during filming?

John-Kamen: I think the most memorable part of the shoot is the first day of filming in the Marvel universe. I think the first day — the first time you put on your suit, it's the first time you're on the Marvel set, and it's the first time you're gonna do your thing. And I think that's a really huge, huge moment. It kind of felt like, "Ok, I'm ready for this."

I think, as well, just working with the cast. I mean, I don't want to give anything away [about] who I work with, but there was a day of kind of a few people there, and I just thought, "Wow, I'm sharing this space with these incredible, real-life heroes and real-life legends." So yeah, I could never forget that.

And also, I love all the action. When you do a fight in your suit, there's nothing like it.

What was the most challenging scene to film in the whole movie, for you personally?

John-Kamen: I think there's a couple of scenes which are very emotional. I mean, I absolutely adored how Ghost is written. It was just brilliant, and it was just wonderful to figure that out and find that. I think the most challenging thing, I suppose, is [that] those suits do get hot! [laughs] They do, and so I did take that advice of trying to keep hydrated.

But I guess the different thing that I've not done before is that in a fight scene, when I would be fighting with the other doubles, then we'd do another take with me just fighting by myself, for visual [effects]. And I wasn't quite used to that; but that was fun. I quickly caught on to that, and it was very, very fun.

Of course, you're also a regular on Killjoys, and the show is coming back for season four this summer. What can fans expect from the new season?

John-Kamen: Definitely, every season [showrunner] Michelle Lovretta manages to up the ante and up the stakes. We have discovered by season four that Aneela — again, what is a villain? — isn't the bad guy. And actually, it's about finding the Lady and destroying her.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is in theatres everywhere July 6th, 2018.

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