After an extended hiatus, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will soon be coming back into our lives with the long-awaited arrival of WandaVision on Disney+. The series sees two fan-favorite characters starting a new life together after the events of Avengers: Endgame, but not everything is what it seems. The stars and creators of the new series gave us a small taste of what we can expect from its nine episodes during a virtual press conference today.
Marvel leaned heavily into the sitcom angle with this press conference, bringing in Family Matters star Jaleel White to moderate. And that sitcom nature was taken right into the shooting of the series’ first episode, which was filmed in front of a live studio audience. White asked Elizabeth Olsen, who stars as Wanda Maximoff, how that impacted her performance.
“It was so nerve-racking,” Olsen said. “There was a lot of adrenaline. There were a lot of quick changes and it totally confused my brain.”
“I should have asked you for some tips,” Olsen joked to White. “Because it totally messed with my brain, the idea of not playing to an audience but feeding off an audience and having a camera and I was really grateful when we added a fourth wall.”
White points out that Olsen’s amazing performance made her character very believable in the various time periods in which this story takes place. He also asked where she drew her inspiration from for her sitcom performance.
“I don’t know, I think it was an amalgamation of Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery and I think I accidentally threw in some Lucy in the 70s just because there was so much physical comedy,” Olsen said.
And speaking of taking inspiration from classic sitcom actors, Paul Bettany, who stars as Vision, specifically mentioned that he threw a little bit of Dick Van Dyke and Hugh Laurie into his performance to transform his character for the sitcom style of this show.
“As long as he remains, I think what Vision is is just decent an honorable and exists for Wanda,” Bettany said.
Director Matt Shakman also had his work cut out for him, taking a Marvel project and making an audience believe they are actually watching a sitcom.
“We wanted to be as authentic as possible,” Shakman said. “That was one of the biggest goals and so production design, cinematography, costuming, everything was about going on this deep dive and with the actors, we all wanted to do the same thing. So we watched just a ton of old television episodes and talked about how comedy changes because it really does. The approach to comedy in the 50s, 60s, 70s is really different.”
White points out that the first three episodes, which were released to the press, jump through three different decades, from the 50s to the 70s. He asked Shakman if that trend continues and how far does this series go through sitcom history.
“It goes pretty crazy,” Shakman said. “I wouldn’t want to ruin it for everybody but we definitely do take quite a trip.”
At the heart of this crazy sitcom trip is a love story between two characters whose relationship fans have watched grow through several movies. WandaVision will show their love story in a brand new way.
“I think that Wanda and Vision are really, as a couple, a fan-favorite because their love story has been so very tragic but also really kind of warm and intimate and we’ve seen them in these really beautiful kind of stolen moments in the MCU,” said writer Jac Schaeffer. “But what we have with WandaVision which is really, I think, a treat for all, is we’re sort of opening up the stage and the space for them and they’re in this like domestic sphere. And we get to see them doing dishes and in the kitchen and being cute and just all the sort of like homebody stuff that you would never get to see a superhero participate in.”
Schaeffer and Shakman, in addition to crediting a wide variety of sitcoms for inspiration, also credited The Twilight Zone as inspiration for some of the show’s darker elements.
WandaVision is truly unlike anything Marvel Studios has done in the past. The action-packed superhero slugfest has been traded in for a sitcom with dark undertones. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige pointed that out.
“The idea always was, yes, to do something that could not be done as a feature,” Feige said. “That plays with the format and plays with the medium.”
Feige was also asked about Marvel shuffling their lineup due to the pandemic and starting their foray into television with WandaVision instead of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as they originally planned.
“I hope it says ‘get ready for the new and the different,’ and I hope all of our movies have said that one after the other over the years,” Feige said. “But certainly with the Disney+ opportunities, it has allowed us to expand creatively in what we do.”
And they’ve certainly capitalized on those opportunities, creating something incredibly unique. Olsen summarized the new series when she was asked to describe it from Wanda’s point of view, calling it a “family sitcom of two people trying to fit in and not be discovered for being different.”
Schaeffer did take that a step further though, pointing out that the reality in which this sitcom takes place is not all it seems to be.
“We really go from these enormous sort of dramatic moments and kind fraught moments in the MCU and then in WandaVision it’s a lot of ‘cute cute,’ until it’s not,” Schaeffer said.
WandaVision will debut on Disney+ on Friday, January 15.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”