With WandaVision premiering on Disney+ this Friday, January 15, Vital Thrills got a chance to participate in the virtual press conference for the anticipated Marvel Studios series.
WandaVision has something in common with sitcoms of old. The first episode of the series was shot in front of a live audience.
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda Maximoff, explained, “It was the first thing we shot. It was so nerve wracking and there was a lot of adrenaline. There were a lot of quick changes. It totally confused 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 the fourth wall for our second episode.”
Of her character’s influences from classic television, Olsen said that she thought 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.”
Paul Bettany plays Vision, but a different version than we’ve seen before. He told us, “I was like, ‘Wow, feels so different,’ as I read the script and how do I keep him the same? And then I realized he’s always been becoming something else, you know. He’s Jarvis, he’s part Ultron, he’s part Tony Stark, and he’s omnipotent but he’s also this sort of naive ingenue.”
That wasn’t all. He used influences from classic and modern TV as well. “I’ll just throw a little bit of Dick Van Dyke in there and a little bit of Hugh Laurie and maybe little smidges, you know… I think what Vision is is just decent and honorable and exists for Wanda, and then you’re safe.”
Bettany was asked what he needed to make Vision blend into society. “Makeup job,” was his answer, which got laughs from the crowd as well as the panel. “Oh, and a lot of wigs,” he added.
Teyonah Parris is playing a grown-up version of Monica Rambeau in the series. She reminded us where we saw her before and where we’ll see her again. She said, “We met Monica in Captain Marvel as a little girl and basically in WandaVision we pick up with who she is now as a grown woman, and through the course of the show we find out what she’s been up to, what’s happened for her between that gap in the years and who she’s grown and involved or not.”
She continued, “We will get to see Monica join Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel in Captain Marvel 2.”
Director Matt Shakman spoke about the sitcom bootcamp they all had to go through to nail the different TV styles that the show covers. “We wanted to be as authentic as possible,” he said. “That was one of the biggest goals, 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, talked about how comedy changes, you know, because it really does.”
“The approach to comedy in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s is really different… the doing it in front of a live studio audience, which is this weird quasi theater-TV thing is real-it really adds to it. Lucille Ball, you know, I Love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke.
“You can feel the energy of that sort of theatrical performance working with the audience. And then when you get into ’60s shows like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, it is a fourth wall and all of a sudden it’s much more
like doing a movie these days, and that laugh track is all canned and brought in.
“It changes the energy, the approach, the style, everything. So we also worked with a fabulous dialect coach to work on how the people would sound in that era, how they would move. We just did everything we could to make it as authentic as possible.”
Writer Jac Schaeffer spoke about the journey that Wanda and Vision take through the series. “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.”
She explained that we’re seeing “homebody stuff that you would never get to see a superhero participate in. So we really go from these enormous sort of dramatic moments and kind of frat moments in the MCU and then in WandaVision, it’s a lot of cute-cute until it’s not.”
Feige talked about how, though Marvel has had successful TV in the past, “This was Marvel Studios’ first foray and directly with cast and amazing characters that we’d seen in movies coming onto television. And the idea was always to do something that could not be done as a feature.”
Kathryn Hahn, who plays Agnes, is the comic relief of the first three episodes that we were allowed to see. She said that she thought the sitcom as a genre “always represented [something] aspirational… this comfortable like ideal.”
She continued, “The trick was not only were we trying to [portray sitcom life] within each decade but kind of like present this kind of comfortable ideal… The structure of a sitcom, which is that the set up, the misunderstanding and the resolution is such a comfortable, com-comforting little structure… [it’s] something that we have just like baked in us.”
Schaeffer said that a very popular series was a big influence here. “Twilight Zone is an enormous influence on me personally. I really think that’s
actually kind of how I learned to tell stories – it was so incredibly deft at that turn, right? You think you’re in one sort of thing, and then suddenly it’s flipped on its head.”
She explained that these days a lot of shows do one thing for a few episodes and then “by episode four or five it flips the script.” WandaVision moves from one thing in the first two episodes to something very different by the third.
One thing you’ll notice in the series is that each episode (at least the first three that we saw) includes a time period-style commercial with a nod to a certain nefarious organization. Feige spoke about them, saying they are the “truths of the show beginning to leak out.” He said that, “…commercials [were] an early idea for that…if this is the very first Marvel, MCU thing you’re watching, it’s just a strange-it’s just a strange, version of a ’50s commercial or ’60s commercial that you’ll have to keep watching the series to understand.
“If you have been watching all the movies, you might be able to start connecting what those things mean to the past.”
WandaVision also features Kat Dennings, who will reprise her role as Darcy from Thor and Thor: The Dark World, and Randall Park, who will reprise his role as Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Marvel Studios’ WandaVision is a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision — two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives — begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.