Many stories told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to deal with heavy themes like the potential destruction of everything we hold dear about Thanos and Kang the Conqueror. What also makes the MCU so special, though, are the moments of laughter, hope, and fun that keep that darkness at bay. With She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Marvel looks to dive deep into that well of bliss and shine an even more comedic light on the MCU and its characters.
IGN sat down with She-Hulk stars Tatiana Maslany, Mark Ruffalo and Ginger Gonzaga, director Kat Coiro and lead writer Jessica Gao, and they shared why the laughs contained in this 30-minute legal comedy are just what the filmmaker needed. UCM.
From the galactic threat of Thanos to a half-hour legal comedy
She-Hulk burst onto the comics scene in 1980 with The Savage She-Hulk and, as Gao says, “has always been a lot of fun.” This made She-Hulk the perfect candidate for a comedy series set in the MCU, and the plan to turn it into a lighter, more fun story was decided early on.
“She-Hulk was always going to be a comedy,” Gao said. “Not only because my background is writing for TV sitcoms, but if you know her from comics, she’s always been so funny. The most iconic race, the race of John ByrneShe was so irreverent, funny, self-aware and meta, that’s where she broke the fourth wall. So to me, that’s essential She-Hulk and naturally she lends herself well to comedy.”
One of the biggest parts of bringing that plan to life was obviously finding the perfect actor to play Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk. After countless auditions, Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany was cast, and she talked about how she was initially nervous about auditioning for the role, but the humor and uniqueness of the script made it all feel right.
“It was like every page that I laughed at and had this very specific sense of humor that seemed like it could only come from a brain like Jessica Gao’s, and it had a lot to do with the character,” Maslany said. “She really didn’t fall into these big superhero story tropes, it was really about a person going through her own thing when something else happens to her and she wants to completely ignore it.
“She has worked very hard to be a lawyer. She has a good group of loyal friends around her, people she cares about, and yet she has stiffness and stubbornness. Her mind is so focused on how she wants her life to be that when this happens to her and she can’t incorporate it, she just denies it.
It also probably didn’t hurt that Mark Ruffalo, the actor who has been playing Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk since 2012’s The Avengers, was going to be a key part of the series. According to Coiro, the script and the “unbelievable instant chemistry” between the two Hulks led to the show finding its proper footing.
“The real secret of comedy is to allow the actors to act and allow improvisation and looseness. Mark and Tatiana had this amazing instant chemistry with each other. And a lot of what you see in that first episode is actually informed by its dynamic, and there are definitely moments that weren’t on the page. And look, it takes a lot of material to allow the actors to do that, so it’s part of the evolution from the script to the shooting.”
These comments were echoed by Maslany and Ruffalo.
“He was a lot of fun to play with,” Maslany said of Ruffalo. “He really is like a big kid in the way that he approaches this role in a way that maybe you haven’t seen every time he’s played the Hulk. There was something about the tone of this show that let us kind of be like two big babies running around in little gray suits and yelling at each other. Yes, and it’s very in the moment. It’s a lot about connecting. It’s a lot about connecting and being present, so he’s like my ideal actor to work with.”
Like babies, Ruffalo has a self-proclaimed short attention span. He’s been doing this acting thing for quite some time and realizes that he can get bored pretty quickly if something doesn’t feel ‘fresh’. She-Hulk, among other things, checked that box and gave Ruffalo the opportunity to walk some paths that he had never walked before.
“I haven’t done a lot of television and I’ve done mostly movies and I have a very short attention span,” Ruffalo said. “I get bored of things quickly. And that has probably been my fear: getting bored and [She-Hulk has] it has kept it fresh for me and I think it keeps it fresh for everyone else. And this is just another iteration and we get to get into his private life and just the silly stuff, like how does he not bang his head through doors? And how do you keep your furniture from collapsing every time you sit on something? Or what he likes when he’s drunk and all that kind of stuff that we never got to explore before.
“The great thing about Marvel is how much work has already been done on their personal lives, on these other characters, on their relationships with these other characters throughout all the years of comics. So it just gives you this great opportunity to explore so many different avenues. And this is another and a personal family relationship that is very close. It’s amazing how well they like each other and how familiar it feels and yes. And now, we have established it. Now there is only one other way to go because of that.”
This so-called “fresh” feeling caused an adjustment period for other MCU characters who may appear in She-Hulk, and Coiro discussed how the team encouraged them to embrace this new MCU storytelling style.
“All the actors that came from the existing MCU world had a little bit of an adjustment period where they realized they were actually the same characters in a new genre, because this is the first time Marvel has done a legal half-hour comedy. Coori said. “And the most common question I got was, ‘Am I going too far?’ And my response was always like, ‘No, you can go further. You can play.’ This is really a straight comedy in many ways.”
This is what happens on a superhero’s day off
As previously mentioned, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law seeks to focus more on the day in the life of the superhero when he’s not saving the universe. This new series is very much a sharp left turn from standard MCU fare, and it comes across as a breath of fresh air in some ways.
“I think it’s fun for people who are used to doing one thing and then being able to take a break from the very dramatic and sometimes dark, and then just take a break and play with the tone of our show, because they have the advantage of knowing, in our program, that the world is not going to end, that the universe is not at stake. So you really have the time and space to let this character breathe and show what happens on his day off when he’s not saving the world.
The Essential She-Hulk Comics To Read Before The MCU Series
“For me, my favorite kind of humor is taking on these big, big concepts. These high-concept things, extraordinary things, like superheroes and saving the universe and being an Avenger and really distilling that into a real-world setting where instead of focusing on the spectacle of these big action things that happen in the movies, we are focusing on one part of life, just normal things. To me, the juxtaposition of those two things is golden comedy. That’s my favorite kind of area to explore.”
Ginger Gonzaga, who will play Jennifer Walters’ friend Nikki Ramos, also talked about highlighting the heroes on the ground level, as it tends to make them much more relatable. As much as many of us would like to, most of us aren’t soaring through the skies or becoming big green superheroes.
“I keep saying that we’re hilariously human and being a person is really awkward and weird,” Gonzaga said. “So I love comedy. I love the office. I love Arrested Development. I love comedy when it really has a lot to do with the humanity and character of the person. Because Jen doesn’t want to be a superhero, we can somehow do that and still get all these really human moments that are fun, even though we’re dealing with a superhuman.”
For more information, take a look our review of the first episode of She-Hulk, all the burning MCU questions the series has already answered, Y a look at the history of She-Hulk and how she got her powers.
Francesca Rivera is a video producer at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @fbrivera.
Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and in Twitch.
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