I wish I could describe the energy that you experience when actress Hannah John-Kamen walks into the room. He smile is contagious and she is the obvious opposite of her character, Ghost.
While she is a newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you likely know a few of her roles. The British actress has starred in TV’s Game of Thrones, the feature film Ready Player One, and now she’s bringing to life the Marvel comic book villain Ghost in Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.
While the comic book version was both a man and, originally, an Iron Man villain, there’s a complexity to the character that may have you rooting for her by the end of the film.
Last month, we had the chance to sit down with the actress to talk about her role and what it was like joining the Marvel family.
“I was so excited to join the Marvel Universe,” John-Kamen said, “but it was also daunting. It’s overwhelming. It’s a huge responsibility to, you know, take this amazing character off the comic book page and be the first person to introduce it into an incredible movie with incredible cast members, which – they’re heroes in life. They are legends. So, yeah, it was amazing. Very exciting!”
John-Kamen said that she was a fan of the first Ant-Man film, and of Peyton Reed, the director, so she was thrilled to have a chance just to audition for a role.
“My agents called me and said, ‘Okay, this is a really cool character. It’s gonna be in the new Ant Man and the Wasp movie,’” she told us. “I’m a huge fan of the first one; I thought that Peyton Reed did such an incredible job. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. So, I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll try. I’ll try. I’m definitely in!’”
At the time, John-Kamen was filming Killjoys in Toronto at the time. But they called her to Atlanta for a screen test.
“I got there and I thought, ‘Okay, Hannah, just keep cool. It’s gonna be really fun,’” she told us.
That’s probably the most relatable thing I’ve heard from a celebrity ever.
“Then I got in there and I met Peyton in person. I had so much fun. I just had so much fun workshopping this character with Peyton for the day. I just kind of let loose and really had fun with her, and I kinda came away and I said, ‘Listen, if I don’t get this, that’s okay, because I had the best day ever. I don’t regret one minute of it.’ And, and then I get a call saying, ‘Yeah, you got it!” she told us, laughing. “And then I think I screamed and danced to Miley Cyrus.”
John-Kamen also said, with regards to the original Ghost in the Marvel comic books being a male character, that the topic was not of great importance while she was auditioning.
“I kinda Googled ‘Marvel Universe Ghost’ I saw that it’s – ‘Oh!’ – it’s originally a man. And I remember my agents then telling me… it’s a man and [Marvel is] going a whole different way.“
If you walked out of the theater this past weekend and tried to look for Ghost in the Ant-Man comics, or if you tried to Google comic references to Ava Starr (Ghost’s real name) you won’t have much luck. The comic book version of Ghost was a man and his alter ego was never revealed.
“Ghost didn’t have a whole lot of backstory either,” John-Kamen added. “So, that was really great, because… we really have the freedom to create this character and find out who she is. So, that was fun.”
Something else you’ll notice about this MCU version of Ghost – she’s not a cut-and-dry villain.
“I think Marvel does that genius job with the villainous characters to really not make it black and white,” she said. “They make it gray… you kinda feel sorry for them. I approached the character as if she’s the good guy. And, through my eyes, she’s the good guy. She’s got a job – got her objective. The stakes are really high. But, in the Marvel Universe anything’s possible.”
Besides being an amazing maybe-a-villain, Hannah John-Kamen also filmed her own stunts for Ant-Man and the Wasp!
“I’ve been doing my own stunts in my career for a really long time,” she told us. “And I think it’s really important to do as much as you physically possibly can, because the character is what you bring to it; it’s not just emotional. It’s also physical, especially in this Marvel Universe. We all have different powers. We all have different styles of fighting. So, it’s important for you to bring yourself and what you want – what the character is with the movements and the fighting and if there is any comedy in the fighting or if there’s a moment you wanna add. So, yeah, that was really, really fun. I love kicking ass!” she said, laughing.
John-Kamen said that fight scenes are an aspect of the film that take a long time to film because it has to look good, but also be safe for the actors. She said that rule applied especially to this film because many of the fight scenes were in restricted spaces, like the scene between Ghost and the Wasp in the moving van.
Whether or not her character is seen as the good guy or the villain, Hannah John-Kamen still hopes that Ghost is inspirational, especially to younger girls.
“I want them to come away and just basically go – with me and Evangeline – I want young girls to go, ‘Yeah, we can be badass,’” she said. “And I want them to have our action figurines and actually play with them and go ‘Do you know what? I can be strong just like they are.’”
“He is hilarious,” John-Kamen said about co-star Paul Rudd. “He was really fun… it was really easy to work with Paul. It was so easy. I was nervous. I was star struck – ‘Oh, my God, it’s Paul Rudd from Clueless!“
Hannah John-Kamen, more than any other celebrity I’ve interviewed, seems the most down-to-Earth. So much so, in fact, that even she got star-struck on set of Ant-Man and the Wasp.
“I got star struck being on the set a lot of the time,” she admitted. “With Michelle [Pfeiffer], yeah – I got very, very, very, very star struck. I’m a huge fan.“
She recalls being young, watching Grease 2 with her sister, making up dances in front of the TV to the songs in the film.
“I was obsessed! I was obsessed with her Catwoman,” John-Kamen said, smiling. “I thought she was so badass. I thought she like, set that bar so high. She’s an incredible actress, you know, all of her incredible movies. It was daunting, but you kind of use that. ”
Also daunting for John-Kamen was the suit she had to wear to take on the role as Ghost.
“The suit does take – a bit of a process,” she said. “It’s like, 40 pieces. There’s a table… with all these pieces of gray bits just like, you know, all being clipped together. Actually by the end of the movie we kind of had it down to under, I think, ten minutes… though, it’s a three-man job.”
She admits, though, that the suit only added to her excitement of being on the set of a Marvel film.
“It’s definitely a moment that you kind of – it doesn’t kind of sink in. But also, yeah, you feel really badass,” she said, laughing.
Twitter follower, @BestofHannah, a fan of Hannah John-Kamen, asked: What nonprofit organizations or charities do you support or want to support?
John-Kamen said, “I definitely want to support Stroke Foundation, because of my mother – it’s a very personal one to me.“
John-Kamen loves the character of Ghost so much that, given the opportunity to portray anyone else in the Marvel Universe, she’d still choose to play Ghost. She’s hoping, as we are, that Ghost will make an appearance in the forthcoming Avengers 4 film due out next year.
There is one thing Hannah John-Kamen loves about Ant-Man and the Wasp that she feels separates it from other films.
“I think the message is the film… it has so much heart in it,” she said. “That’s what I think separates it. I think that’s actually what’s needed after the devastation of Infinity War. I think you need to laugh. It’s definitely what Peyton Reed has done, and has the ability to do, is the action and hilarity of the movie but also have heart in it.”