A lot of stories told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to deal with heavy topics like the potential destruction of everything we hold dear from the likes of Thanos and Kang the Conqueror. However, what also makes the MCU so special are the moments of laughter and hope and fun that keep that darkness at bay. WIth She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Marvel is looking to dive deep into that well of happiness 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 head writer Jessica Gao, and they shared why the laughs held in this 30-minute legal comedy are just what the MCU needed.
From the Galactic Threat of Thanos to a Half-Hour Legal Comedy
She-Hulk smashed her way into the world of comics in 1980 with The Savage She-Hulk, and, as Gao puts it, “she’s always been very fun.” This made She-Hulk the perfect candidate for a comedy series set in the MCU, and the plan to make it a lighter and funnier tale was decided upon right at the beginning.
“She-Hulk was always going to be a comedy,” Gao said. “Not just because my background is in writing for TV comedy, but if you know her from the comics, she’s always been very fun. The most iconic run, the John Byrne run, was so irreverent and fun and self-aware and meta, that was where she broke the fourth wall. So, to me that is the essential She-Hulk and she just naturally lends herself well to comedy.”
One of the most important 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 chosen, and she discussed how she was initially nervous to audition for the role, but the humor and uniqueness of the script made everything feel just right.
“It was like every page I was laughing and it had this very specific sense of humor that felt like it could only come from a brain like Jessica Gao’s, and it was so much about character,” Maslany said. “It really didn’t kind of fall into these tropes of a big superhero story, it was really about a person who was going through her own things when this other thing happens to her and she sort of wants to ignore it entirely.
“She’s worked really hard to be a lawyer. She’s got a good group of loyal friends around her, people she cares about, and yet, she’s got a rigidity and a stubbornness. Her mind is so fixed on how she wants her life to be that when this thing happens to her and she can’t incorporate it, she just kind of 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 such a key part of the series. According to Coiro, the script and the “incredible instant chemistry” between the two Hulks led to the show finding its proper footing.
“The real secret to comedy is allowing actors to play, and allowing improvisation and looseness. Mark and Tatiana had this incredible instant chemistry with each other. And a lot of what you see in that first episode is actually informed by their dynamic, and there are definitely moments that weren’t on the page. And look, it takes great material to allow actors to do that so it’s part of the evolution going from script to shooting.”
These comments were echoed by Maslany and Ruffalo themselves.
“He was so much 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 has not been seen every time he plays the Hulk. There was something about the tone of this show that just let us be kind of two big babies running around in little gray suits and screaming at each other. Yeah, and he’s very in the moment. He’s very much about connecting. He’s very much about connecting and being present, and so he’s like my ideal actor to work with.”
Much like babies, Ruffalo has a self-proclaimed short attention span. He’s been doing this acting thing for quite some time now 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 a chance to go down some roads he’s never gone 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’s probably been my fear is just getting bored and [She-Hulk has] been keeping it fresh for me and I think keeps it fresh for everybody else. And this is just another iteration and we get to get into his private life and just the goofy things, like how does he not hit his head through doorways? And how does his furniture keep from collapsing every time he sits on something? Or what does he like when he is wasted and all those kinds of things that we never got to explore before.
“The great thing about Marvel is just how much work’s already been done on their personal lives, on these other characters, on their relationships with these other characters through all the years of the comics. So, it just gives you this huge opportunity to explore so many different avenues. And this is another one and a personal family relationship that’s really close. It’s surprising how well they fall into each other and how familiar it feels and yeah. And now, we’ve established that. Now there’s just a whole other avenue to go down because of it.”
This so-called “fresh” feeling sparked an adjustment period for other MCU characters that may appear in She-Hulk, and Coiro discussed how the team encouraged them to embrace this new style of MCU storytelling.
“All of the actors who came from the existing MCU world had a little bit of an adjustment period where they realized that they were really the same characters in a new genre, because it is the first time Marvel’s done a half-hour legal comedy,” Coorio said. “And the most common question I got was like, ‘Am I going too far?’ And my answer was always like, ‘No, you can go further. You can play.’ This really is a straight comedy in a lot of ways.”
This Is What Happens on a Superhero’s Day Off
As was previously mentioned, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law looks to focus more on the day in the life of superhero when they aren’t saving the universe. This new series is very much a sharp left turn from the standard MCU fare, and in some ways it’s being pitched as a breath of fresh air.
“I think it is fun for people who are used to doing one thing to then be able to kind of take a break from the very dramatic and sometimes dark, to then really just take a break and play in the tone of our show, because they have the benefit of knowing, on our show, the world isn’t going to end, the universe isn’t at stake. So you actually get to have the time and the space to let this character breathe and kind of show what happens on their day off when they’re not saving the world.
The Essential She-Hulk Comics to Read Before the MCU Series
“For me, my favorite type of humor is taking these huge, big concepts. These high concept things, extraordinary things, such as superheroes and saving the universe and being an Avenger and really distilling that down to a grounded, real world scenario where, rather than focusing on the spectacle of these big action things that happen in the movies, we’re focusing on a slice of life, just normal stuff. To me, the juxtaposition of those two things is comedy gold. That’s my favorite kind of area to explore.”
Ginger Gonzaga, who is set to play Jennifer Walters’ friend Nikki Ramos, also spoke on shining the spotlight on heroes on the ground level, as it tends to make them that much more relatable. As much as many of us would like to, most of us aren’t flying through the skies or turning into big green superheroes.
“I keep saying that we’re hilariously human and being a person is really awkward and weird,” Gonzaga said. “And so I love comedy. I love The Office. I love Arrested Development. I love comedy when it really has so much to do with just the humanity and the character of the person. Because Jen doesn’t want to be a superhero, somehow we’re able to do that and still get all these really human moments that are funny, even though we’re dealing with a superhuman.”
Francesca Rivera is Video Producer at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @fbrivera.
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