She’s a very deep cut within the x-pansive X-Men universe, but Negasonic Teenage Warhead might have the coolest name of any Marvel mutant. So cool, in fact, that screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese proudly own up to the fact that they plucked her out of comic-book obscurity to appear in Deadpool mostly because of that awesome moniker.
When it came time to find their Negasonic Teenage Warhead, though, they weren’t advertising it. “When I auditioned, her name was Kathy, because they do these codenames,” Brianna Hildebrand, the actress who would ultimately land the part, told us at a Deadpool screening Thursday night in Los Angeles. In fact, she didn’t even know what movie she was going out for. “I didn’t know anything about the film at all, asides the fact that Ryan Reynolds was cast in it. And the character I was auditioning for was a telepath who could see the future. But that’s it. That’s all I knew.”
It was only when Hildebrand returned for callbacks that she got more intel on the character and the project. “And then I find out after I get the role that her name is ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead,’ and I’m like, 'That’s a mouthful.’”
As her name implies, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is young X-Men recruit who has the power to act like a human bomb. In Deadpool, she’s the young, antisocial understudy to the hulking silver Russian mutant Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), who attempts to persuade Reynolds’s titular antihero to join the crimefighting collective governed by Charles Xavier.
Her character’s mythology is thin — she only appeared in one comic book (2001’s New X-Men No. 115) and didn’t even survive it — which Hildebrand saw as a pro “because not a lot of the fans will be super-upset because of the way my character’s portrayed because there’s not a lot to compare her to,” she said. “So it’s a lot less pressure.”
The bigger challenge for the 19-year-old actress was visualizing the effects. Though much of Deadpool was shot using in practical locations, Hildebrand had to imagine herself detonating into a ball of flames when Negasonic attacked. She also shares all of her scenes with the CGI character Colossus, who on set was portrayed by the 6-foot-8 French actor Andre Tricoteux, and who also wore stilts. Halfway through production, director Tim Miller was able to show her what Negasonic’s fireball effect would look like, and she also leaned heavily on the help of “comic-book nerd” Ed Skrein (who plays the film’s main villain, Ajax) for geek-speak on Colossus.
Negasonic, who was named after a 1995 metal song by Monster Magnet, is very much a heroine for the Millennial generation: At one point she stubbornly insists on finishing whatever text or tweet she’s transmitting before joining a fight against Ajax and his henchwoman, Angel Dust (Gina Carano). Negasonic favors a decidedly goth get-up and generally treats Deadpool with the ambivalence and Ughs of a snotty punk. Hildebrand could relate: “Definitely a few years ago she was pretty similar to me,” she said. “I went through a rebellious phase and was super into doing crazy hair things. I did only wear black for my junior year of high school. I was one of those kids.”
Deadpool is projected to make a killing at the box office, and word of a planned sequel has already hit the wires. But Hildebrand, who recently returned from Sundance where she appeared in the award-winning drama First Girl I Loved, doesn’t yet know what’s in store for the future of Negasonic Teenage Warhead. “I haven’t really talked to anybody about sequels, it’s just the word on the street at the moment,” she said. “But that would be so awesome.”
As for where she’d like to see Warhead set off from here? “I would definitely want for Negasonic’s character to be more explored. But I’m not actually sure about [where she fits into the wider X-Men universe] because there’s not much that I know about the X-Men world. Which should probably change.”
Deadpool is now in theaters.