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Guardians 3’s High Evolutionary knew his character was bonkers from the very first page

Actor Chukwudi Iwuji said he tried to be grounded and theatrical at the same time

The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a bald man with a grafted-on face and high-tech blue armor, stares offscreen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Image: Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

It didn’t take long for actor Chukwudi Iwuji to realize the High Evolutionary — the Marvel Comics villain he portrays in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — was kind of bonkers.

“From the first page of reading the script, I was like, [nervous voice] Oh. Oh, OK, here we go,” he told Polygon in a video interview.

And that was just the movie script. In Marvel Comics, the High Evolutionary (real name Herbert Wyndham) is a guy who did mad science on a magic mountain, made a cow-person servant who was the midwife at the birth of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and once de-evolved himself into a pile of primordial ooze on purpose.

Iwuji said he had to walk a fine line to give the High Evolutionary menacing seriousness and the bombastic presence of a true comic book mad scientist at the same time. “It was written in a way that it was clear that I had to ground it,” he said, “But also not be afraid of the theatricality of the character. And in fact, not just not be afraid of it, but to embrace it.”

A veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, Iwuji naturally looked to Shakespeare’s most dramatic kings — Henry IV, Richard III, Lear — as guiding stars.

“[The High Evolutionary] is grand. People call him ‘Sire.’ He walks around with a beautifully tapered, almost Issey Miyake-like purple costume,” Iwuji said. “And he’s worshiped by those around him. So [laughs], the grandness was very evident to me from the start.”

To Iwuji, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s sets were just another kind of costuming. The High Evolutionary has his own flagship, of course, and in that flagship is his grandiose workspace of shiny red surfaces, a massive desk on a pedestal made of floating cubes, and a huge window for the man playing god to look down on all his animal creations.

“Beth Mickel designed an amazing set,” Iwuji said. “And for me, just walking into it [felt like] ‘This is my lair.’ It was actually there, the space, the grandness of it, it’s like putting on a costume — you put on a costume and you suddenly know how you’ve got to walk and how you’re going to carry yourself. It’s the same thing when you walk into a real space. You realize what your real relationship to the space is. It’s a gift to do it that way. It did make life a lot more easy to play with an actual practical set.”

I think we can all agree that every supervillain deserves a good lair — how else will they get enough scenery to chew?

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