IGN sat down with She-Hulk stars Tatiana Maslany, Mark Ruffalo and Ginger Gonzaga, director Kat Coiro and lead writer Jessica Gao, and they shared why the laughs in this 30-minute legal comedy are exactly what the MCU needed.
From Thanos’ galactic threat to a half-hour legal comedy
She-Hulk made her way into the comic book world in 1980 with The Savage She-Hulk, and, as Gao puts it, “she’s always been a lot of 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 story was decided right from the start.
“She-Hulk would always be a comedy,” Gao said. “Not just because my background is writing for TV comedy, but if you know her from the comics, she’s always been a lot of fun. The most iconic run, the John Byrne run, was so irreverent and fun and self-conscious and meta, that’s where she broke the fourth wall. So to me that’s the essential She-Hulk and she lends herself well to comedy of course.”
Of course, one of the key parts to bringing that plan to life was finding the perfect actor to play Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk. After numerous auditions, Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany was chosen, and she discussed how she was initially nervous about auditioning for the part, but the humor and uniqueness of the script made everything feel just right.
“It was like laughing every page and it had a 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 didn’t really fall into the style of a big superhero story, it was really about a person going through her own things when something else happens to her and she kind of wants to ignore it.
“She has worked very hard to become a lawyer. She has a good group of loyal friends around her, people she cares about, and yet she has a rigidity and a stubbornness. Her mind is so fixated on how she wants her life to be that when this happens to her and she can’t take it, she just kind of denies it.
It probably didn’t hurt either that Mark Ruffalo, the actor who played Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk has been playing such an important part of the series since 2012’s The Avengers. According to Coiro, the script and the “incredible direct chemistry” between the two Hulks led to the show finding its right footing.
“The real secret of comedy is to have actors play, and to allow improvisation and looseness. Mark and Tatiana had an incredible instant chemistry with each other. And a lot of what you see in that first episode is actually informed by their dynamics, and there are definitely moments that weren’t on the page. And look, it takes great material for actors to do that, so it’s part of the evolution from script to filming.”
These comments were echoed by Maslany and Ruffalo themselves.
“He was so much fun to play with,” Maslany said of Ruffalo. “He’s really like a big kid in the way he approaches this role in a way that may not have been seen every time he plays the Hulk. There was something about the tone of this show that we were just two big babies running around in little gray suits and yelling at each other. Yeah, and he’s very in the moment. He’s very connected. He’s very connected and present, which is why he’s my ideal actor to work with.”
Like babies, Ruffalo has a self-proclaimed short attention span. He’s been doing this acting for quite some time and realizes that he can get bored pretty quickly if something doesn’t feel “fresh”. Among other things, She-Hulk checked that box and gave Ruffalo the chance to go down some roads he’d never been before.
“I haven’t done a lot of television and I’ve mostly done movies and I have a very short attention span,” Ruffalo said. “I get bored easily with things. And that’s probably been my fear of just being bored and [She-Hulk has] keeps it fresh for me and I think it keeps it fresh for everyone. And this is just another replay and we get into his private life and just the crazy stuff like how doesn’t he bang his head through doorways? And how does he keep his furniture from collapsing when he sits on something? Or what does he like when he’s wasted and all those kinds of things that we’ve never been able to discover before.
“The great thing about Marvel is how much work has 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 is very close. It’s surprising how well they flow into each other and how familiar it feels and yes. And now we’ve established that. Now there’s just a whole different way to go down because of it. ”
This so-called “fresh” feel led to 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 the actors coming out of the existing MCU world had a little bit of adjustment period where they realized they were really the same characters in a new genre because it’s Marvel’s first time doing a half-hour legal comedy. ‘ said Corio. “And the most common question I got was, ‘Am I going too far?’ And my answer was always, “No, you can move on. You can play.” This is really pure comedy in many ways.”
This is what happens on a superhero’s day off
As mentioned, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law seems to focus more on the day in the lives of superheroes when they fail to save the universe. This new series is a sharp left turn from the standard MCU fare, and in some ways it’s thrown like a breath of fresh air.
“I think it’s nice for people who are used to doing one thing and then taking a sort of break from the very dramatic and sometimes dark, and then really taking a break and playing into the tone of our show, because they have the advantage of knowing in our show that the world is not ending, the universe is not at stake. So you really get the time and space to let this character breathe and show what happens on their day off if they don’t save the world.
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“For me, my favorite kind of humor is taking these huge, big concepts. These high-concept stuff, extraordinary stuff, like superheroes and saving the universe and being an Avenger and really distilling that into a grounded, realistic scenario where, instead of focusing on the spectacle of these big action stuff that happens in the movies, we’re focusing on some part of life, just normal stuff. To me, juxtaposing those two things is comic gold. That’s my favorite kind of area to explore.”
Ginger Gonzaga, who will play Jennifer Walters’ boyfriend Nikki Ramos, also talked about putting the spotlight on heroes on the ground floor as it makes them much more recognizable. As much as many of us would like to, most of us don’t fly through the air or turn into big green superheroes.
“I keep saying we’re hilariously human and being a person is really awkward and weird,” Gonzaga said. “And so I like comedy. I like The Office. I like Arrested Development. I like comedy when it really has that much to do with just the humanity and character of the person. Since 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 one.
For more, check out our review of the first episode of She-Hulk, all the burning MCU questions the series has already answered, and a look at She-Hulk’s history and how she got her powers.
Francesca Rivera is a video producer at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @fbrivera.
Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and further Nervousness.