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The Untold Truth Of Sophia Di Martino

As Sylvie on the Disney+ series "Loki," English actor Sophia Di Martino earned rave reviews for being more than a match for Tom Hiddleston's titular god of mischief. Marvel often casts actors best known for smaller roles, but Di Martino was almost completely unknown to U.S. viewers before she donned Sylvie's crown. Regardless, this versatile performer has years of experience turning in dramatic roles on television and playing rebellious characters in darkly comic films.

Born in Nottingham (via BBC), Di Martino grew up with a deep love of acting. She snagged her first television credit in 2004 at the age of 21. Since then, she's appeared in dozens of episodes of long-running series, and got her first movie credit in 2011's "Black Pond." Her MCU debut as Sylvie, eternal thorn in the side of the TVA, has made a lot of fans curious to learn more about the woman behind the enchantment spells. This is the untold truth of Sophia Di Martino, from her macabre short films to her crash course in MCU history.

The long road to Loki

Auditioning for a part can be stressful in the best of times, but COVID-19 made things even harder. "Loki" director Kate Herron previously worked with Sophia Di Martino on the 2017 short "Smear," a hilarious gynecological horror-comedy about a literally monstrous cervical screening. Herron sent Di Martino a vague voicemail about a new project, refusing to offer much in the way of details (via WWD.com). A script was sent to Di Martino, featuring a deep, meaningful conversation between a couple named Bob and Sarah (via Esquire). She recorded a performance of it, and sent it off. 

Di Martino got the part, but she couldn't travel to meet the cast and crew right away, as she was in the third trimester of pregnancy. This fact, combined with Hiddleston's presence on Broadway, meant the two stars had to use FaceTime to meet. "It was a strange beginning," Di Martino remarked. "And it happened quite quickly. And then once I got the job, Kate explained everything." 

Things were a little overwhelming at first. As Di Martino told LeftLion, "I remember being in the Time-Keepers' Theatre with Gugu [Mbatha-Raw] and Tom [Hiddleston] and just thinking to myself, 'Oh, my goodness, this is like an actual Marvel show. Oh my god, what am I doing?' I had to take a couple of deep breaths and center myself again." If her assured performance as Sylvie is any indication, that did the trick.

A penchant for drama

One of Sophia Di Martino's biggest early roles was Gemma Pennant, a student nurse on the 2008 medical soap opera "The Royal Today." Said show is actually a spin-off of the 1960s-set series "The Royal," and features characters from the original production. Di Martino appears in 46 episodes of "The Royal Today," which allowed her to cut her teeth on episodic television. 

She went on to spend five years on "Casualty," a series that centers around emergency room doctors and nurses. Di Martino plays Polly Emmerson, an idealistic paramedic eager to make a difference. Airing continuously since 1986, "Casualty" has been on for so long, it's broken records. There are so many characters on the series, no one was apparently worried that viewers would confuse Polly for Shauna, a much smaller role Di Martino played in her first appearance on the show. Her presence on both of these series pays tribute to Di Martino's tremendous work ethic, given the constant grind they demand. If you can hack it there, you can hack it in the MCU.

Tom Hiddleston's Loki lectures

A lot of MCU actors didn't grow up reading comics. Many of them, in fact, didn't even watch MCU movies before they were cast in one. This was true of "Loki" stars Owen Wilson and Sophia Di Martino. Thus, Tom Hiddleston, whose performance as the god of mischief has been dazzling fans since 2011, took it upon himself to organize a grand lecture on Loki's thorny and complicated backstory, and that of the MCU as a whole.

"There was a whiteboard, I'm afraid," Hiddleston told Variety. "I said to Kate Herron, our director, 'Would it be helpful if I gave everybody all the information at the same time?' And Kate and Kevin Wright, our producer, were like, 'That's a brilliant idea.' Shamefully, it then became a Loki lecture." "The Falcon And The Winter Soldier" was being shot nearby, but as a disappointed Anthony Mackie made clear, "They scheduled one of our biggest scenes so we could not sneak out and crash the Tom Hiddleston symposium."

Di Martino was grateful for the unique experience. "It was like, 'Here's this whole universe that we're entering. Let me explain everything,'" she told WWD.com. It speaks to Tom Hiddleston's dedication to MCU lore that he's not only become an expert on all of this, but also understands why it's important: As he put it, "These films mean so much to so many people and that is a privilege."

Sophia Di Martino, dark comedian

Sophia Di Martino cut her teeth on drama, but she's showed off her range in several dark comedies. She plays Amy in the 2016 TV series "Flowers,"  a musician who's part of a highly dysfunctional family. As Di Martino told Esquire, Amy is "the first character who I've felt like I've really had the space to work with the writer (Will Sharpe) and really create someone special." She went on to detail the similarities between Amy and Sylvie, who both keep others at a distance through "a sort of funny bravado," despite their deep desires for support. 

Di Martino also delivers some deliciously cringe-worthy humor as Eva in 2016's "The Darkest Universe." When Zac, Eva's boyfriend, attempts to propose to her, their relationship disintegrates. Things get even messier from there. Di Martino followed that up with a 2017 role on "Election Spy," a satirical series of shorts that take aim at the U.K.'s 2017 election. Di Martino's dramatic chops are spectacular, but she's just as comfortable earning laughs — even if they are pitch black ones.

Goddess of mischief and working mother

Sophia Di Martino was heavily pregnant when she was cast in the role of Sylvie. That meant a grueling turnaround, as she had to learn how to negotiate being a first-time parent with the demands of a high-pressure role. "I had to learn from scratch how to do my job at the same time as being a parent," Di Martino told WWD.com. "And the juggle is real. And lots of feelings come out and it's not easy." Luckily, she had lots of support on set — especially among the talented folks in the wardrobe department.

"Loki" designer Christine Wada went the extra mile when she inserted concealed zippers into Sylvie's costume, allowing Di Martino easier access when she needed to nurse her child. "There's a lot of working parents out there," Di Martino told Esquire. "And a lot of single moms out there ... I'm very fortunate in a lot of ways that my work supports me through it. They did everything they could to make it as easy as possible for me."

Landing a small role in a big film

Most of Sophia Di Martino's work has been on British television. However, prior to achieving international fame with "Loki," she appeared in a major Hollywood release. This role came in Danny Boyle's 2019 film "Yesterday," which stars Himesh Patel as struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik. Jack is hit by a car during a worldwide power outage, and wakes up in a reality very much like the pre-accident one, with one key difference: For some reason, the entire musical careers of the Beatles have been wiped from the Earth. Here, instead of going on to become the most famous pop stars on the planet, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr had perfectly ordinary lives. 

When Jack plays the classic Beatles song "Yesterday" for a group of his friends, they're amazed. Jack thinks they're joking with him by pretending not to know the song or recognize the name of one of the most famous bands of all time. Sophia Di Martino, who plays the snarky Carol, is so impressed by the tune, she calls it "one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." However, when Jack claims that it's "one of the greatest songs ever written," she replies, "Well, it's not Coldplay. It's not 'Fix You.'" Much like Sylvie, she excels at subtly taking a friend down a peg.

Leaning how to fight as Sylvie

Sophia Di Martino was "shocked" that she got the role of Sylvie, especially since, as she told Interview Magazine, she's "not 27." But Sylvie isn't meant to be an ingenue — she's a cunning warrior with years of experience. As such, Di Martino wanted her look to be something Sylvie "could physically fight in and live through the apocalypse in." This also meant Di Martino had to get into serious shape, seriously fast.

Di Martino was just four months postpartum when she started training for the demanding role. "We worked with a stunt department and made sure I looked strong," she remarked, "which was quite hard because I was not." Di Martino also lacked any sort of experience with martial arts, combat sports, or even schoolyard fights. Training was a very new experience: "At first," she recalled, "I did it all half-a**ed, 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." Thus, a warrior was born.

The Lost Films of Bloody Nora

Sophia Di Martino isn't just an actor — she's also a writer and director. Her 2019 short film, "The Lost Films Of Bloody Nora," won Best UK Short at the 2019 Berlin Independent Film Festival. The brief and blisteringly creepy film follows a woman named Nora, who lives a horrible life. Plagued by constant nosebleeds and controlled by her awful father, Nora discovers her creativity when she begins making movies. The viewer gets to see pieces of them, featuring an array of memorable characters. Nora's father angrily squashes her dreams when he stumbles upon her work, however. Her response makes it clear why she's called "Bloody Nora."

Asked whether she felt the urge to put her two cents in as a director on the set of "Loki," Di Martino told Interview Magazine, "I'd never start telling Kate [Herron] 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'm not precious about anything I put out there."

Sylvie isn't a princess

Sylvie is far from a glamorous character. Rather, she's a survivor, simultaneously dodging and striking out at the sinister Time Variance Authority. This was very important to Di Martino, as she detailed to Esquire Magazine. "Just the thought of little girls watching these new characters is so cool," she remarked. "It's not about leotards and long, flowing hair anymore. It's about more than that. Not only are they strong and powerful and on their own journey, they're showing their vulnerability and learning things about themselves in the world and carving out their place in it. It means everything."

Di Martino's desire to represent underserved people led her to use her natural Nottingham accent on "Loki." "When I was a kid there wasn't really anyone that sounded like me on television," she told LeftLion, "so to have this Midlands accent in something as huge as the Marvel Universe is so great." Beyond representing her home, the accent is also an important facet of Sylvie's character. "I didn't want to make Sylvie too posh," Di Martino revealed. "She hasn't had an easy life. She hasn't grown up as a princess, like Loki had grown up as a prince — she's had a very different experience. I wanted to keep her really grounded."

Girls Code

You never know when your big break is going to come, and neither do you know when an older project might take on new life. Back in 2018, Sophia Di Martino was chosen as the co-lead for a TV series called "Girls Code" (per The Hollywood Reporter). Produced by Paul Feig, it's a workplace comedy focusing on women in the tech industry. Di Martino plays Wendy, an ambitious engineer on the rise. Circumstances bring her into contact with Angela (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a community-minded professor. Together, they take on the most cutting-edge industry in the world.

More recent news regarding the project is thin on the ground. However, there's an interesting coincidence at work here. Like Di Martino, Kirby Howell-Baptiste also landed a major role as a comic book character in recent years: She plays Death of the Endless on Netflix's much-hyped "Sandman" series, based on the seminal comic by Neil Gaiman. That makes "Girls Code" an unofficial DC-Marvel crossover in our books.