No Time to Die Star Lashana Lynch Talks Her Biggest Goals for Joining the James Bond Franchise

Over the course of the James Bond franchise, female characters have often been little more than set dressing, with recent years seeing more of an embrace of characters whose skills and abilities rival those of 007 himself, a tradition continued with No Time to Die. In fact, Lashana Lynch's Nomi is so capable, she takes over the "007" codename in the wake of Daniel Craig's James Bond retiring from MI6, only for a dangerous mission to draw him out of retirement, with Nomi giving Bond a run for his money in more ways than one. No Time to Die hits theaters on October 8th.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology caught up with Lynch to talk about her biggest goals for joining the series, developing her character along with the filmmakers, and her reaction to discovering Maria Rambeau's fate in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

(Photo: MGM Studios) With any James Bond film, audiences come into it expecting certain things; expecting a car chase or gadgets or quippy lines. For you as a performer, when you found out you got to be in a James Bond film, did you have a specific wish of, "If nothing else, here's one thing I really want to do in a James Bond movie,"?

Lashana Lynch: There's two things. I really wanted to create a really realistic character who was fun and ambitious and witty and all of these things. But I really just wanted to do massive stunts, if I'm being honest. I just wanted to kick people in the face and handle weapons and roll on the ground and get dirty and wear combat trousers and big boots and feel really strong. I wanted to feel strong and powerful, internally and externally and, thankfully, I got to do that.

I think anyone who has seen the trailer, this isn't a spoiler, but you kick plenty of faces. So congrats on getting that done.

Thank you so much.

Speaking to your wish of putting your own mark on the franchise and developing an interesting character, what was that collaborative process like? Because with a big blockbuster, people typically assume things are pretty rigid, everything's pretty defined, everything's secretive and you just come in and bring that character to life.

The nice thing about -- from the audition onwards -- was I could tell that they had a really good idea of Nomi, but that they were waiting for the person who they cast to collaborate with them, which is nice. And it doesn't always happen, actually. So for the filmmaker and producers to come together and decide that, "Lashana has ideas and we're going to listen to her," is something that was really humbling, but also gave me a chance to just say, "Okay, women's experiences, Black people's experiences, the newcomer experiences, all of that can literally ... " We can just put it into this massive melting pot and make it all make sense.

That helped me establish this, not very clean-cut, not very slick, still figuring it out, questioning herself kind of agent who was able to do exquisite work. But also, you saw her process as time went on. You saw her literally admit to not being able to do something and then going ahead and doing it anyway, which is a powerful message to send out for young people, for young people who look like me, young men, who are learning the power of a woman on-screen and where that comes from, and also for it to be okay for strength and vulnerability to exist in synonymously.

As far as developing Nomi, does that come down to, "Well, she wouldn't deliver a line in this way, so let me put my own tweak on it," or is it just in the DNA of Nomi that there is no differentiating what parts came from Lashana, what parts came from [director] Cary [Joji Fukunaga], what parts came from [co-writer] Phoebe [Waller-Bridge]? It's just indecipherable?

That's a really good question, actually, because Cary had, obviously, a really good handle on who he wanted Nomi to be. Phoebe is hilarious and her lines are very quick-witted and sharp. I class myself as a funny person, but I know that's for other people to judge, and I try to put myself in the mix there.

I think that what was nice was that we all had ideas of some lines, and then we would just workshop them, try new things, do a few different takes of a couple of alts. And then it was like the fun thing of, "Oh, which one are we going to choose? Which makes the most sense?" Which is, again, amazing, because that doesn't always happen in a franchise. 

Some people have an idea, they want to stick to that and run with it. But with this, it was more free-flowing and it felt really natural and almost like an independent film, at times.

What I love so much about Nomi is clearly she has a very exciting, very rich history that we only get glimpses of through how we see her in No Time to Die. How much of that is your own concrete backstory established with the filmmakers and how much of it is just internalized on set and, since we don't necessarily see it in the movie, it's just up to you independently?

More of the latter. I had written a whole backstory, I think I even wrote some letters to myself or some journals in the thoughts of Nomi, to get the backstory and ensure that there was enough there that I could springboard off of when we were doing alternate lines or when something wasn't sitting right with me. I would ask Phoebe if we could maybe, I don't know, feel this out differently or ask Cary if we could just get her to enter the room in a different way. It all made a massive difference in the end.

I think that her core, her roots, was obviously from me because she came from me. But the producers, I think, were so hot on her having agency, for her being light. Hopefully I had enough comedic timing for her to be easy and free-flowing. I think, weirdly, everyone was on the same page. So it didn't even feel like a slog to get her right for me, it felt like I'd done my research. I'd done my work and everyone else just happened to know that without me even speaking it.

Do you think we'll get to see some of Nomi's history in a future James Bond, 007 adventure or do you think that history was just for your own sake?

Thank you for asking that, because I'm so attached to Nomi, obviously, as you can imagine, but I would love to reacquaint myself with her again. I think for a character like that, it would be worth exploring, obviously. I do think, though, that if we never see her again, her introduction to the franchise and the way that she goes out is just so stylish and makes complete sense to the franchise and also nips things quite well in terms of what I've created for the world.

You're no stranger to starring in these massive franchises, you have some Marvel in your history. I think one of the biggest surprises earlier this year with Marvel was finding out about your character's fate in WandaVision and that she had died. What was your reaction when you found out that that was what happened to your character and how did you find that out? Did you just find out along with everybody else watching WandaVision?

Can you imagine? "She does what? Literally, no one's answering my emails."

Kevin Feige, who is the nicest guy, personally emailed me way before, I want to say, over a year, year-and-a-half-plus, before WandaVision aired and explained what was happening, how it was going to happen, when it was going to happen. And him specifically saying that he didn't want me to find out through anyone else. So there was a lot of care around that.

It was sad to read, but also, because I think Maria had such a massive impact on Captain Marvel and everyone loved her and really related to her, I felt good with the work that I did there and felt good that they were able to now continue her legacy in her daughter, which is amazing. And the introduction to her powers in WandaVision is also amazing, so I feel genuinely proud. I'm just happy I knew beforehand and didn't find out online somewhere.

You have James Bond, you have Marvel, are there any other franchises you're hoping to jump into next?

The one that I want to create myself, I think that would be great. A new one with badass women, like Nomi or Maria, who are able to have all the agency in the world, be in charge and literally just rock the world in the way that we know women can do. I think there's a new franchise to be had about women, and I look forward to it being me.

The "Women Kicking Ass Cinematic Universe," I'm totally here for it.

Yeah, it should be called that.

No Time to Die hits theaters on October 8th.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.