WandaVision has been everything and also nothing what Marvel Cinematic Universe fans would have expected from the mega-studio’s first TV series.
By plunging headfirst into the world of family sitcoms, while building out a more recognisable MCU world outside of Wanda’s magical Westview bubble, the series is a seamless blend of something familiar and something different.
With the end of the series in sight, news.com.au chatted to WandaVision creator Jac Shaeffer about how the show came together and what gave them the daring to try something so unusual.
You guys really stuck to your guns on the sitcom format for the first three episodes, not revealing anything that wasn’t in the trailers. When you were all discussing the breakdown of these episodes, what gave you the confidence that people would stick through those first three episodes before they got any answers?
Did we have any confidence? [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin [Feige] had confidence. We were all really amused by the notion and it felt a bit like we were sneaky kids in a candy shop. We were like, ‘Can we do this, can we?’.
I always fell back on the notion that if the story had started with episode four, it never would have landed the way it has. The way it stacked out, it has a larger probability of blowing people’s minds, and that’s always what I’m gunning for, whether or not it actually happens. I always want to surprise and challenge in that way.
In the vacuum of there being few concrete answers, fan speculation runs rife with theories. Have you seen anything since the release that’s come close to what you’re all planning?
There’s a lot out there that’s accurate in general ways but there are several things coming that there’s no way anybody can predict. So, nothing is ever spot on because there are lots of larger pieces.
But it runs the gamut and there are theories out there that are totally absurd and therefore very entertaining. And then there are things where I’m like, ‘Oh, that person is dialled into where we’re headed’.
Fans were super excited to see Randall Park and Kat Dennings return to the MCU. What’s the process of deciding which previous characters get to part of the story? Do you get a list of who’s available or do you pitch for who you want?
It’s more the former. Usually it’s ‘these are some possibilities and suggestions, do with them what you will, are you able to work this in?’. In the case of Randall and Kat, my answer was absolutely, I can find a way to work these characters in, no trouble. Give me five minutes and they will be in the outline.
And then others were more discoveries. Monica Rambeau was part of it from the very beginning, that was something Mary [Livanos] and I thought would be fantastic and were very excited about, and we got the green light to move forward with Monica.
Because this is part of a larger storytelling fabric, you inherit these characters, get to shepherd them for a bit and then you have to let them go. What’s that like for you as a writer, not having control of what happens next?
I don’t feel possessive over them. I mean, I feel my part of the ownership of this particular project and same with other things I’ve worked on, and I feel proud of that.
When I met Paul [Bettany] and Lizzie [Olsen], I said ‘You guys know these characters, I am going to do my best and write them, but you have been living with them for literally years, so you’re going to need to tell me about that. It’s lessons in sharing, just like being a parent.
Wanda and Vision are characters who have not really been given the space or time in the movies where they’re part of the large ensembles. What was important to you, Paul and Lizzie that audiences understood about them?
It was less about what was important on the outside and more about what would be fun. In the immediate, it was, let’s see them be silly, let’s see them be newlyweds, let’s see them be in love without lasers coming through the wall. It was that sort of thing and it seemed like such a revelation and so much fun.
Then, especially with Wanda, we wanted to see a full representation of who this woman is. Mary Livanos and I were very committed so steer clear of the sort of crazy superpowered lady tropes. We wanted to embrace her and her abilities and what she has been through without being reductive.
Our solution to that was to show all sides of her, to show her flaws and to show what her real motivations are, and how we can all identify and relate to her.
Do you think you got to push the characters as far as you wanted to go?
I think so. It’s a Disney+ show so there are limits with regards to rating and who’s watching, and I’m cognisant of children and young minds. So, in that way, I don’t know, maybe there’s a little bit more.
But in terms of the authenticity of her and the work that Lizzie did to be entirely present and inside of her, yeah, I feel good about it.
Apart from Wanda, who was your favourite character to write for?
I loved writing for Paul because I could visualise it so well, the physical stuff in the sitcom space. I could hear it in my mind. And now I consider him a dear friend.
And then Jimmy Woo speaks with this antiquated idiom speak and that was always a pleasure. There were writers in the room who knew a character voice better than others and so it was always fun to point to my writer Peter Cameron and be, ‘Come up with some idioms, be ridiculous’.
For me personally, writing for Kat, I could write for Kat all day long, every day, all the time.
(Edited for length and clarity)
WandaVision is streaming now on Disney+
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