Marvel make their official foray into the Television Sitcom realm with WANDAVISION. The Series infuses classic television together with their Cinematic Universe, which over three phases since 2008 have brought us acclaimed films like The Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther franchises and more.
Two characters found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have their moment in WANDAVISION, a nine-episode series set after the events of Avengers: Endgame. These two superheroes find themselves living in the suburbs when very soon they begin seeing that things aren’t as ideal as they seem. At the same time, they must conceal their identities. Over the course of the Series and its mock commercials, Marvel fans can begin to draw its clever connection of the Series to the rest of the MCU.
See the Trailer:
We had the opportunity to attend an international virtual Press Junket for WANDAVISION and in attendance were:
Star Jaleel White (Family Matters) who has been good friends with Shakman since childhood, was invited to moderate the panel. Shakman goes onto explain how they met.
Shakman: “We were unceremoniously fired on this show called Good Morning Miss Bliss with Hayley Mills that got reconceived from middle school to high school as Saved by the Bell! I was supposed to be Mario Lopez! We both went on to better things!”.
We learned the first episode of WANDAVISION was shot before a live studio audience. Elizabeth Olsen comments on how this impacted her performance.
Olsen: “It was the first thing we shot. It was so nerve-wrecking and there was a lot of adrenaline, quick changes and it totally confused my brain. It really messed with my brain, the idea of now playing to an audience, feeding off an audience and having a camera. And I was really grateful when we added a Fourth Wall first!”.
Olsen who delivers a standout performance as Wanda is asked where she pulled her inspiration from in this role.
Olsen: “I felt like it was an amalgamation of Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery and I think I accidentally threw-in some Lucy (Lucille Ball) in the ’70s because there was so much Physical Comedy.”.
She comments also on exploring Wanda‘s power in a Sitcom form.
Olsen: “Well, I can’t wiggle my nose, so we had to figure out something that was period-appropriate. This was our translation and to our watch our Special Effects team that usually blows things up, sets things on fire, create wind, create smoke – these guys become puppeteers of things floating in the sky, like magnets to make things spin a certain way. It was so special seeing the them adapt to the era in ways to create these practical effects or research what they did on Bewitched. I’d have to do something like hold still, trying to do a quick change and remembering the way my body was for the camera. There was just a lot of silly things we got to do that I’m normally used to it all coming together through CGI. It was really fun to have the practical effects there.”.
What is it about Vision that holds true regardless his surroundings?
Bettany: “I was worried initially this feels so different as I read the Script and I realized he’s always been becoming something else. He’s J.A.R.V.I.S., part-Ultron, he’s part Tony Stark and he’s omnipotent. But he’s also this naive ingenue and I thought maybe I’ll throw in just a little Dick Van Dyke in there and a little bit of Hugh Laurie. As long he remains decent and honourable and exists for Wanda, then you’re safe.”.
What does Vision need to blend into his community?
Bettany: “Oh, a lot of wigs!”
Teyonah Parris (Dear White People, The Photograph) tells us a bit about her involvement with WANDAVISION and also the Captain Marvel franchise.
Parris: “We met her in Captain Marvel as a little girl and in WANDAVISION we see who she now is as a grown woman. Through the course of the show, we find out where she’s been, what’s happened to her between that gap and how she’s evolved – or not – and we just follow her along.”.
“She will be joining along Carol Danvers and Miss Marvel in Captain Marvel 2 in November 2022.”.
With WANDAVISION being set within the idealistic Sitcom world, Director Shakman tells us about this “Sitcom Bootcamp” he helped create with the Cast and Crew.
Shakman: “We wanted to be as authentic as possible, so everything from Production Design to Cinematography to Costume Design, everything was about going on this deep dive. The Actors all wanted to do the same thing. So we watched a ton of old television episodes and talked about how Comedy changes because the approach to Comedy is really different in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Doing it in front of a live studio audience was weird quasi-Theatre/TV. It really adds to it and you can feel that energy of a theatrical performance working with an audience. When you get to ’60s, shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie, all the sudden there is the Fourth Wall and it’s more like doing a movie these days and that laugh track is canned and that changes the energy, the approach, the style, everything.”.
“We also worked with a fabulous dialect coach to work on how the people would sound in the era and move. We did everything we could to make it as authentic as possible.”.
At the heart of WANDAVISION is a love story. Writer/Producer Jac Schaeffer tells us more.
Schaeffer: “I think Wanda and Vision are tragic and also kind of warm and intimate. We’ve seen them in these really beautiful stolen moments in the Marvel universe. It’s actually been a small amount of screen time, but very powerful and very soulful. With WANDAVISION, we open up the space and the stage for them in this domestic sphere and we get to see them doing dishes in the kitchen and being cute. And all this homebody stuff that you’d never get to see a superhero participate in.”.
“We really go from enormous, dramatic moments in the MCU and in WANDAVISION, it’s a lot of cute-cute… until it’s not!”.
Kevin Feige has really found an incredible amount of success with the MCU in recent years, guiding Black Panther to an Oscar nomination – a first ever for a superhero movie. He also produced AVENGERS: ENDGAME, which became the highest grossing film of all time. He talks to this being Marvel‘s first crack at the Sitcom genre, which has been aided by the arrival of streaming service Disney+.
Feige: “This was our test run, Marvel’s first foray with a cast of characters we’ve seen in movies coming onto Television. The idea always was to do something that could not be done as a feature. There were a lot of meetings before people understood what it is we were trying to go for. We were able to turn a whacky idea into a spectacular show. I’m really happy that this worked out as it did for a debut on Disney+ for the MCU.”.
As the Series travels through different eras, Bettany, Olsen and Hahn, who plays intrusive neighbour Agnes, are asked how they adjust their physicality around this.
Bettany: “I think it’s a better question for Elizabeth, Teyonah and Kathyrn. I think there’s a lot more Slapstick Comedy early on, but by the ’90s they’ve made me look so ridiculous that I don’t have to work so hard for the laughs.”.
Olsen: “I think the way women move throughout the decades changes so much with what society wants from them. So Jac did write-in quite a few nods to how women evolved as we get to the ’60s. Wanda gets to wear some pants and that would adjust how someone moves through their space. Manners were a big part of it where we talk to vocal work, speech and cadence, and manners were a huge part of every decade and we would get this book of manners for the time as well. We’re not depicting an honest reality of the ’60s and ’70s, we’re depicting a Sitcom Reality, which has its own set of rules. “.
Hahn: “The Sitcom has always represented an aspirational view, a comfortable ideal. The trick was not only were we trying to live within each decade, but try to present this comfortable ideal. The structure of Sitcom – the set-up, misunderstanding and resolution is such a comfortable little structure. That’s something we had baked-in as kids of the ’80s. The trick is not to satirize it but get inside of each one. I think tonally this was such a trick to pull off.”.
WANDAVISION will kick-off Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although this wasn’t always the original plan prior to the Pandemic.
Feige: “Disney+ has allowed us to expand creatively what we do. The Falcon and the Winter Solider was supposed to debut first, followed soon behind by WANDAVISION, so creatively, it didn’t reshuffle. Part of having a long-range plan was having the ability to shuffle as the need arises. I’m not saying we were prepped for global pandemic because we were not, but we’ve always over the past 12-15 years at Marvel Studios been able to shuffle around. This required no shuffling around in terms of the creative. The unexpected has always served Marvel Studios well and it has served us well. I love how bold this is and as I said before, it is something you could only see on Disney+.”.
Feige is asked about his inspiration behind WANDAVISION.
Feige: “My grandfather worked for Procter & Gamble, which was a sponsor and producer behind mainly soap operas. In the early ’50s and ’60s, they did some primetime. So he was in the one of the companies behind The Dick Van Dyke Show. That might’ve been a little of it but it more is that I watched too much TV as a kid and I found a lot of comfort in television families. This is not a Parody or direct Satire. We love them and they meant a lot to us. As dated and silly as they might seem, there is a comfort factor there.”.
The first two episodes of WandaVision arrive on Disney+ Friday, January 15, 2021 with new episodes to come weekly.
(Photo/video credit: Disney)
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