Taskmaster Actor Breaks Down 'Black Widow's Big Reveal (Exclusive)
By John Boone
"I love Taskmaster so much," Black Widow director Cate Shortland told ET of the mysterious masked antagonist whose identity serves as one of the movie's biggest twists. "I hope that it remains a secret, because the character is so great, so scary, so cool, just such a great villain -- and the reveal is good."
Now that Black Widow is out, the secret is too: Taskmaster is Antonia Dreykov, daughter of the man who oversees the Black Widow-training Red Room and a character first mentioned back in 2012's The Avengers. Antonia was thought to have died in the same explosion Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) intended to kill General Dreykov, but both survived and afterward, Dreykov implanted a chip in his daughter's brain that grants her photographic reflexes capable of mimicking any fighting style.
It's a new take on the character, who in the comics is Tony Masters, a mercenary boasting the same powerset. In a chat with ET, Olga Kurylenko, who plays Antonia, spoke about reinterpreting Taskmaster, the lengths she went to keep the secret and her future in the MCU.
I'm shocked that the Taskmaster reveal didn't get leaked or spoiled, especially since the movie took an extra year to come out. How hard was it to keep secret?
Olga Kurylenko: Well, for me, I just threw it out of my mind. It was like, "OK, not an option. Forget about it." Whenever it came up in conversation, I just had to use my acting skills and pretend like I have no idea. Like, "Oh yeah, that seems to be a cool film." [Laughs] My mom didn't know until two days ago. I didn't tell her. When she told me, "Oh, I want to see that movie. It looks really cool," I didn't tell her I'm part of that. The thing is, it is extraordinary that we pulled it off. Frankly, I knew it had to be secret. I mean, I can only speak for myself and I knew that I would not say anything, but there were so many other people involved. I'm like, how does everyone keep silent? And everyone has. It's extraordinary.
Did you tell your mom yourself? Or did you let her watch the movie and be surprised?
I should have, but you know what I figured? Unless she would have gone on the very first day -- and she didn't -- the moment it came out, people were texting me. My friends were like, "Oh my God, just saw it, didn't know you were in it!" I was getting all these texts, so I thought, Now someone else will tell her. And I thought in this case, I'd rather tell her myself. I figured that she will know it before she sees it, and I didn't want it to come from anyone else so I told her.
How did she react?
She was like, "Really? Wow! But where?" She's like, "But I looked online. Your name is not in the credits." I was like, "Well, I know. It's all part of it." It was funny, because she didn't know what the character looked like. And I got it on Disney+ for my son, because I wanted to show him certain moments -- not the whole thing, because yeah -- and he came to set once when I filmed it. So, he saw my costume and when the character appears, he's like "That's mommy! That's mommy." My mom was there and she said, "What? How do you know?" And he remembered. It was funny. He had no idea what the name of character was, because I never told him, but he did recognize the costume. He was like, "That's mommy!" [Laughs]
Now that the secret is out, what has the reception been like?
So far, it's cool. It's always a surprise. People are like, "What?! I had no idea! I didn't see this coming!" It seems to be going really well. It's exciting after two years that we can finally see it and discuss it. That movie, I think, is so complex. It has so many messages in it, and there's so much going on. And women are so strong in it. They're just such fighters and so brave, and it's really encouraging and empowering to see a movie like that.
Marvel is known for adding a twist in bringing characters into the MCU. But what would you say to those fans who might be a little bummed they aren't getting the Tony Masters character from the comic on the big screen?
What can I say? I mean, Taskmaster, the outside of that character, the villain that she's made to be is still the same. It's behind [the mask] that changed. There's a female behind it. And what's actually cool is that the things that she can do are equal to a man. If you don't look behind, you have no idea who it is. Her skills don't become weaker because there's a woman behind. She's just as strong. What's interesting is that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what gender you are. Strength is not attributed to one gender. Strength is something that you cultivate and you can work on and it's universal. If you want, you can be strong.
Well, in her case now, obviously, she's made to use his strengths in a villainous way -- in a bad way -- but that's another question. She's made to do it, and she's manipulated. But strength is something that females have, and so it shouldn't matter what gender it is. But I understand. I understand they did this swap. And I get it, you know what I mean? Because it wasn't like that in the beginning. But obviously that wasn't my decision. [Laughs] I only went along, and I'm excited about that I can be that. But yeah, hopefully, people can just embrace it and ride with it and have fun.
I think this may be the first time in superhero movie history that the big climactic battle ends with our hero apologizing to the "villain." Tell me about working with Scarlett to find that moment on set.
That's an important moment. It's one of my favorite moments. I love that moment. It was, of course, a very, very important moment for my character. I discussed it with Cate a lot, and it was important to pass through that vulnerability -- on my part -- and it's a beautiful recognition of the two women. [Natasha] realizes what damage she has done. It's funny, it's this character that's chasing her, and it was created by her in a way, in a way. She put the beginning to it, because if this little girl wasn't going to die, she wasn't going to be transformed.
We understand that it was a way of saving her and the fact that her father is a huge villain, obviously, he made her a tool of war. A weapon of war. His tool to create chaos. But Natasha is implicated in that. And yeah, it is beautiful and very noble of Natasha to say sorry to this character, and for the character as well to realize that the villain is gone and that she doesn't have to fight this woman anymore. And maybe the way for her forward is to unite and be friends. And when they come head-to-head, there's that recognition and almost that spark of a friendship that you could imagine.
In the MCU's timeline, Black Widow is set seven years in the past. What do you imagine or hope Antonia has been up to in the MCU since then?
There's a lot that can follow. Obviously, there's a battle between the good and the evil and her human side and her killer abilities and skills and the fact that she can be utilized as a weapon and turned into a villain. And there's this contradiction and this duality to the character that could be explored in lots of ways. She could take any direction, and she could go towards the good or she could go towards the bad. And the thing is it might not even be up to her. She's not the one who decides, because she has that thing installed in her that makes her prone to manipulation. So, it's a difficult fate to escape.
Black Widow is now in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.