She-Hulk may have superpowers, but perhaps her most extraordinary ability is that she knows she’s a superhero — and she talks about it with us viewers. A new Marvel TV show She-Hulk: Lawyer brings the big green character to the screen for the first time, but she’s been speaking directly to audiences for decades in the comics. “I like to say she was doing it long before Deadpool or Fleabag,” says Jessica Gao, showrunner for the new series.
Streaming from August 18 onwards Disney Plus, the TV series stars Tatiana Maslany as Jen Walters, a lawyer nicknamed She-Hulk when she accidentally acquires the superpowers of her cousin, none other than the Hulk’s alter ego Bruce Banner. At a press conference for the show on Thursday, Maslany and Gao were joined by co-star Ginger Gonzaga, as well as director and executive producer Kat Coiro, who discussed Marvel’s balance of comedy and action on the show.
The series is designed to be the most comedic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, coming in 30-minute sitcom-style episodes with a healthy dose of humor. Having previously written episodes of Robot Chicken and Silicon Valley, and having won an Emmy for the Rick and Morty episode Pickle Rick, Gao points to comic book writer John Byrne’s work on Sensational She-Hulk as inspiration for the show’s comedic tone. “First and foremost, the breaking of the fourth wall and the meta humor and self-awareness made me fall in love with this character,” Gao said. “It was so light and fun and refreshing.”
Modern Family and Brooklyn Nine-Nine director Kat Coiro, who directed most of the She-hulk series, recalls the impact a female superhero had on her. “I remember very clearly being a little girl and seeing the cover of a She-Hulk comic in the middle of this sea of male comics,” she said. “I didn’t know who she was, but I knew I was touched by it. The idea of being big and in charge and taking control, taking up space, really resonated with me. I remember buying that comic, so when this show came out, it was really the culmination of a real dream.”
Maslany emphasized that the series has more challenging and thought-provoking aspects alongside the comedy, especially as the season progresses. “I’m curious what conversations people will have about this show,” she said. “People can have a real gut reaction to a female superhero – which we’ve already felt online. And it’s interesting to me that there is such an intuitive reaction. I’m curious why.’
Hulk broke the fourth wall
Gao described how she and the show’s creators approached Jen’s signature chats with the audience (known as breaking down the invisible “fourth wall” between the characters and the viewer). “It went through many evolutionary steps,” Gao explained. “How much does it cost [Jen] talk to the camera? Is she speaking directly to the audience? Is there another meta element—is she talking to someone else?”
A version of the idea translated directly from comics. “At one point,” Gao said, “there was a repetition in the scripts where instead of talking directly to the camera, there were text boxes [on the screen] like how there were editor’s notes in the comics and she actually interacted with the editor’s notes.” However, this idea was rejected.
Gao also admits that he was turned down by Marvel three times for other projects. “Fourth time’s the charm!” she joked, saying She-Hulk was the perfect project for her. I’m glad I got rejected so many times.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is set to premiere on Disney Plus on August 18. Maslany is joined by MCU mainstay Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Tim Roth, who played a rival green monster in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and belatedly returned for last years Shang-Chi. The cast also includes Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jamila Jamil.
Check out the trailer to get a feel for the comedic tone of the series, where Jen worries as much about her love life as she does about her superpowers.
She-Hulk is a part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic UniverseJoining Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel in this year’s calendar. others upcoming Marvel shows include Echo, WandaVision spinoff Agatha: House of Harkness and three new animated shows: Marvel Zombies, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, and a revival of the much-loved X-Men cartoon from the 1990s. This will be followed by Phase 5.
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