WandaVision is a unique opportunity for Marvel Studios. Their first series for Disney+ after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision is unlike anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We were invited to the press conference for the new series moderated by sitcom legend Jaleel White. White, who has worked with director Matt Shakman in the past, hosted stars Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Tenoyah Parris, and Kathryn Hahn along with writer Jac Schaeffer, director Matt Shakman, and Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige.
Elizabeth Olsen talked about filming the first episode in front of a live studio audience, something moderator Jaleel White was all too familiar with.
“It was the first thing we shot. It was so nerve racking and there was a lot of adrenaline, a lot of quick changes, and it totally confused my brain. I was really grateful when we added the fourth wall!
As for her role inspiration.
I think it was an amalgamation of Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery and I think I threw in some Lucy in the 70s because there was a good bit of physical comedy.”
It was also confirmed by Feige that there are references to Olsen’s sisters which was something they didn’t even connect with until they had a photo from Full House on a wall during development. There will be a nod to that 90s sitcom as well.
Olsen was asked about how Wanda’s powers will manifest in the series.
“I can’t wiggle my nose. So, we had to find something that was a translation. The effects team became puppeteers of things floating in the sky and dealing with magnets to make things spin.
The special effects will be period-specific which is very cool.
Paul Bettany said that playing this take on Vision required a lot of wigs to blend into the suburban world the series takes place in. There is a lot of humor and slapstick as in classic sitcoms which Bettany excels at on screen. He also talked about how he approached playing Vision through his tenure in the MCU and how it impacted his performance on WandaVision.
“He’s always been becoming something else. He’s JARVIS, he’s part Ultron, he’s part Tony Stark. He’s omnipotent. He’s naive. I realized I’ll just throw a little bit of Dick van Dyke in there, a little bit of Hugh Laurie. I think what Vision is is just decent and honorable and exists for Wanda.”
Kevin Feige said the series was in development long before The Mandalorian, but the innovations on Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series certainly impact Marvel Studios’ future Disney+ endeavors.
“We enjoyed watching that with The Mandalorian, and it got me excited with how we were building WandaVision,” said Feige today at Zoom press conference for the Marvel series.”
Feige also recalled meetings the creative team, including writer Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman, had with the legendary Dick Van Dyke who told them that anything that can happen in the real world should be able to happen on the show. Shakman also stated that while the series evolves over nine episodes to look at series ranging from The Brady Bunch to Modern Family, some sitcoms like Taxi just didn’t fit the model of the “family sitcom” that they were going for.
Writer Jac Schaeffer was asked about exploring Scarlet Witch and Vision.
“I think Wanda and Vision are a couple of fan favorites because their love story is so tragic. We’re opening up the stage and space for them in this domestic sphere where she’s doing the dishes and being cute. Some of the stuff you’d never see superheroes participate in especially coming from the dramatic moments in the MCU. And in WandaVision, it’s a lot of cute-cute until it’s not.”
Schaeffer and Shakman also said that The Twilight Zone was a major influence on them and certainly for this series as well. Schaeffer also said that looking back at classic sitcoms, there was quite a bit they could not use as temperaments and social norms have changed, but that the approach to WandaVision was rooted in current acclaimed series.
“A lot of current shows right now, like prestige series; if you watch a couple of episodes, you think it’s one thing, and then in episode 4 or 5, it flips the script. That’s where contemporary references came through in terms of the show’s boundary-pushing the genre.”
Teyonah Parris, who plays the adult Monica Rambeau on the series, was excited about her future role in Captain Marvel 2 opposite Brie Larson and Ms. Marvel star Iman Vellani. Parris was not able to say much about what happens to Monica between Captain Marvel and WandaVision but did share this.
“We actually do get to learn particularly what things Monica has seen and gone through and how they’ve shaped her life. We will actually touch a lot on that throughout the show.”
The great Kathryn Hahn met with Marvel Studios without WandaVision in mind. Kevin Feige said that they normally do not cast roles but the day after meeting with Hahn, the idea of having her play Agnes just clicked. Hahn shared that she has had nosy neighbors of her own in the past but echoed Parris’ comments about playing a “real world” character in this superhero universe.
“I’d say the same thing (in regards to my character). In all those classic sitcoms, there’s always that person who sits on the coach, but their personal life you never get to know anything about.”
Kevin Feige wrapped the press conference by shedding some light on his family legacy as connected to WandaVision: his grandfather worked for Proctor and Gamble and was involved in the production of The Dick Van Dyke Show. He answered that after declining to shed light on where and when Phase Four of the MCU will end. He did have this to say about his hopes for how fans will view WandaVision and beyond.
“I hope WandaVision says ‘Get ready for the new and the different.’ I hope all of our movies have said that, one after the other. Certainly, with the Disney+ opportunities, it has allowed us to expand. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to debut first last year. Creatively, we didn’t reshuffle, but part of having a long lead plan is having an idea of how to reshuffle. I’m not saying we were planning for a global pandemic. This required no shuffling whatsoever in terms of the creative, just in terms of production. As is often the case, when we’re thrown curveballs, the unexpected has always served the MCU well. WandaVision being our first, it’s so bold.”
Having seen WandaVision, I can assure you that Feige is spot on that this is going to be something different. Stay tuned this week for our interview with WandaVision director Matt Shakman as well as our review of the first three episodes of the series which debuts on Disney+ on Friday, January 15th.