Ariela Barer Brings Gert To Life on Marvel's Runaways

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Paul Sarkis

Runaways has finally made its debut on Hulu and is already proving to be a great addition to the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the comics created by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona, the series follows a group of teenagers who stand up against their parents after they discover that their parents are part of a supervillain group called the Pride. One of the teens, Gert, has proven to be a fan favorite among readers so we can’t imagine viewers being excited to see actress Ariela Barer bringing this social justice warrior to life. With the first season done shooting, Ariela took some time to talk with us about playing Gert. her friendship with the cast, and being able to interact with a dinosaur.

How did you stumble on the role of Gert Yorkes?

Me personally, I got the audition for Molly on December of last year and it said 14 but she was the only Latina kid character so I thought she’s like every other teen child I’ve seen they’ll be like 25 like a parent and maybe they’ll look 14 so I’ll be fine. So I went and they were like, “We like you but none of us believe for a second that you’re 14 years old. Sorry, do you want to read for this character?” So I went in and read for Gert and then after that it was such a perfect fit. It happened so fast after that.

Were you familiar with the comics before or after you got the role?

I knew of the comics. I was kind of always that person who would look up any possible Marvel property I could ever be a part of, especially because the shows were coming in hot so I would always be researching. I stumbled upon them and kept them in the back of my mind but I didn’t see who exactly who I would play. I related to Gert but she wasn’t Latina so I didn’t know how flexible they would be but once I booked it, I bought the first two volumes immediately and read them cover to cover. I’ve read them many times since then.

Paul Sarkis

Did you think that the writers manage to stay faithful to the comics regarding your character?

I definitely think she’s incredibly faithful and I think Josh, Stephanie, and the team they put together was kind of perfect for her. I think it’s very cool that the person who relates to her the most on the writing team is Josh. So he takes just as well care of her as like I would do which is exciting because he’s writing the funny quips along with his writing team and Stephanie majored in gender studies so everything Gert says is extremely informed and hilarious. Of course because there’s a very skilled and talented writing team who have specialized in teenagers, they’re able to add a lot of depth to her that’s very faithful to the comics.

Was it hard for you being able to stay completely faithful to the character that fans of the comics have grown to love?

I thought it was too natural going into it. She was much funnier and a smarter version of who I was in high school. I was very much a social justice warrior for lack of a better term and I relate to her passion for the world and for people. I think in my head at the time I was funny so it came natural. It was kind of everything I wanted it to be in high school; I was living out some fantasy, which was nice.

Paul Sarkis

How was the vibe like on set with the cast?

They’re the best. I mean they so quickly became some of my real-life best friends who are incredible. I hang out with Lyrica I think every single day and Ginny whenever she’s in town, which is cool because when you have that trust in a cast that you’re working with, you’re just allowed to be more vulnerable and it’s nice to have that very safe space we’ve made for each other on set. The chemistry was very real, very fast with the dynamics because they casted people who were so much like their characters in ways we didn’t even realize until later. There’s some deep little detail that is so much like the characters that it brings out some very interesting and new quality that you wouldn’t think of. When you see them on screen, it makes the dynamic so interesting, cool, and fun.

What about the interaction you had with your pet dinosaur Old Lace?

She’s very cool. She’s this puppet who’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen or worked with. There’s one person who moves her eyes and another person who pumps air in and out so you can feel and see her inhaling and exhaling. It’s unreal to the point where often times, she’ll continue to move in between takes and I have to remind myself that it is in fact a robot and not my real actual pet because often I’d pass her and say, ‘Hey Old Lace, what’s up!’ I have to remember that it’s not real and that I should be saying hi to Peter, the guy carrying this 200-pound puppet. Peter is amazing.

Greg Lewis

How was maintaining the relationship with the character Molly Hernandez?

She’s incredible on the show and in life. I remember on the first day we had, I was like, “Alright, I gotta be the big sister now”, because I’m typically the little sister but she (Allegra Costa) is the older sister. So we were talking, I pulled her aside and we ‘got lost’ on set and just spent a substantial amount of time walking around talking with her. I’m like, “I don’t know how to be a big sister, I just want us to get along.” She was then like, “Girl, I’m fine, you’re good, we’re sisters.” After that, it was very much just that. If anything, she treats me like the younger sister. She always has some words of wisdom to offer, it’s so cute. She’s gonna rule the world someday, I promise.

What was the process like when you and the cast had to do a lot of interaction with the special effects?

I mean it’s something that I’ve never worked on before. I think the show has been pretty good about using practical effects, which is really nice. Most of the time, there is something for us to work off of, like for Virginia’s light, she had a suit that went on and it took a couple of hours to put it on her. They had to glue it on her so that she would really light, but not the same way that she does on the show. It’s the little things that we get to work off of, which is nice because when we do it, we aren’t reacting to absolutely nothing. When we see the show, we are even more impressed by what we ended up doing. Like when I first saw the trailer with Karolina’s lights, I saw that being shot and she was glowing a little bit but it wasn’t that spectacular so it’s a nice surprise for us to experience something as a viewer for a moment. With Old Lace, she had to move a little too fast for the puppet and that was a very interesting thing. I had to work with it for the first time just trying to spot it when there’s absolutely nothing there. It ended up being a good 10 minutes dedicated to me just looking in different directions. It’s fun and interesting.

Patrick Wymore

What can we expect for Gert’s arc this season?

I think Gert is the one with the most teen or coming-of-age arc. She’s this very tough feminist who’s very hard on the exterior. I think by her becoming friends with these people in this ally ship and the family they create, she’s learning to be a softer person, knowing that this doesn’t make her weak, and that she can stay true to who she is without being so externally tough all the time and kind of changing that word in a personal way. I think that is a cool message for young girls, just this girl who’s coming into herself and learning that these typical feminine traits don’t inherently mean weakness. She can be strong in more ways than she initially knew.

This show is really different from what Marvel has done for their programming.

Yeah definitely. I love what they’ve done in the past. I love their movies and shows. I think this is a cool little middle ground between all of that both tonally and specifically message wise. It’s a fun good time but I think it really has something to say and that makes it as compelling as it is. I think that’s what really makes it the show that it is.

Since this is part of the MCU, will we be getting any hints of that connection in the series?

I can’t really say. First of all, they put out a lot things that often go over my head. Also I think I’m not allowed to even if I could tell you a lot of it. There are some cool little hints. I can’t go into detail but there are some fun stuff that stands out for Marvel fans that they will find enjoyable.

I know you are also an artist and got to sing a little bit on the show. Will you be showcasing more of your singing talent as the show progresses? How do you balance the two professions?

What happened with that was they actually had written it before they even cast me. I don’t think Gert was supposed to be a singer particularly, I think it was very much based and rooted in story but I can’t say that in fact. I do believe it was rooted in story more so than like showing off these little talents that the actors have. The very cool thing about that is originally we were supposed to sing a song that I don’t know if we had the rights to. I don’t know why we didn’t end up using it so I can’t say the name, but it was an already written song. They [Josh and Steph] came up to me at the table read and they were like, “You know, it would actually be pretty cool if you wrote a personal song for this.” So I emailed back and forth with this composer and he’s incredible. We had a day at his house where we just kind of made this song and it was cool and interesting trying to get into the head of a six-year-old who wrote this little lullaby for her sister and that’s the story of that song. We ended up making it a lot more emotionally impactful for the viewers.

Would you like to see more of your vocal talents being used on the show?

I mean sure I’d love to. I pitched a lot of stuff to Josh and Stephanie, so I don’t know how much they take seriously but I would love to. I had such a good time doing it, we’ve always joked that we were going to start a band together but I’m not joking. I don’t know if he is but I’m not.

You guys made your debut at New York Comic Con this year. What was that experience like?

Completely surreal, it was what finally made this whole experience real in a very new way. The set life was real; the story was real to me, but going out and seeing the fan reaction really kind of changed the game especially because we had one episode to shoot at the time so we went back with this confidence in what we were doing. It really boost our moral to know that not only is the show going to be watched but it’s going to be well received and it’s going to be something that really does speak to people which is really nice to go into shooting knowing that our work was successful in a way. Validation is always nice, not necessary but still nice.

Were you able to connect with the original creators Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona? How much were they involved with the show?

Brian came to set not often, but he was around. He came on a few special days and he is just the one of the nicest dudes I’ve met. He was so sweet and seeing us all in costume for the first time, he was so excited. It was like watching your kids come to life. He asked for pictures and he was like, “Oh my God, you guys are my characters!” He was such a cool dude and we were all such fans of his work. It was a big old fan girl obsession for a minute until they had to pull us away to actually film. He was just around after that just kind of contributing.

Paul Sarkis

You’ve done work on other shows before but how was this different for you being a part of an ensemble show?

It’s beautiful. I feel very lucky as a young person starting on a show to have this cast to fall back on and to always rely on. I trust everyone I work with so much, I can always go to anyone I need, I don’t feel ever alone in this. I think this sort of ensemble piece is exactly where someone my age should be starting on a show. I think that’s really the big thing and also scheduling wise, it allows for some breaks in our regular shooting schedule.

Paul Sarkis

It’s not just the younger cast, but you are also sharing the screen with some experienced actors who’s been working in this business for a long time.

They were especially there for me whenever I needed them. They offered some beautiful words of wisdom very often.

You can catch Gert and the gang in Runaways every Tuesday on Hulu. Fans can also follow and connect with Ariela on social media through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.