Ahead of the release of Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision,” sitcom legend Jaleel White, of “Family Matters” fame, moderated a Zoom press conference with series stars Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris and Kathyrn Hahn, in addition to series director Matt Shakman, series head writer Jac Schaeffer, and president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige this past weekend.
More will be revealed in the coming days as we near the January 15 premiere, but to sate our appetite, here is everything we learned during the “WandaVision” press conference.
1. Live studio audience jitters
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda Maximoff, shared that the live studio audience episode was the first thing they shot. “It was so nerve-wracking, and there was a lot of adrenaline,” revealed Olsen. “There were a lot of quick changes, and it totally confused my brain.”
“The idea of not playing for an audience, but feeding off an audience, and having a camera…. I was really grateful when we added the fourth wall for the second episode,” said Olsen.
2. Classic sitcom icons inspiration
After watching the first three episodes, moderator White noted that it was clear that Olsen drew inspiration from some notable sitcom legends in her performance, from her eye rolls to her hand on her hips.
“It was an amalgamation of Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery, and I accidentally threw in some Lucy in the ‘70s just because there’s so much physical comedy,” shared Olsen.
3. The true nature of Vision
On navigating the different era surroundings, Paul Bettany, who plays Vision, revealed, “Initially, I was, ‘wow this feels so different as I read the script,’ and ‘how do I keep him the same?’ but then I realized he’s always been becoming something else. You know, he’s J.A.R.V.I.S., he’s part Ultron, he’s part Tony Stark. He’s omnipotent, but he’s also this sort of naïve ingenue. And then I realized, well, I’ll just throw in a little bit of Dick Van Dyke in there, Bryan Cranston, a little bit of Hugh Laurie. As long as he remains what I think Vision is—decent and honorable and exists for Wanda—then you’re safe
4. Sitcom bootcamp
Director Matt Shakman shared, “We wanted to be as authentic as possible. That was one of the biggest goals—production design, cinematography, costuming, everything—I went on this deep dive, and with the actors, we all wanted to do the same thing.”
Elaborating on the collaborative process with all the talent, Shakman added, “We watched just a ton of old television episodes, talking about how comedy changes. It really does, the approach to comedy in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s is really different. As Lizzie said, that doing it in front of a live studio audience, which is this weird quasi-theater TV thing, really just adds to it. You can feel the energy have that sort of theatrical performance working with the audience.”
In addition, the actors all worked with a dialect coach to work on how people sounded in each era.
5. The Wanda + Vision suburban love story
“Wanda and Vision are really, as a couple, fan-favorites because their love story has been so very tragic,” noted head writer Jac Schaeffer, “but also really kind of warm and intimate. We’ve seen them in these really beautiful, kind of stolen, moments in the MCU. It’s actually been a small amount of screen time, but very powerful and very soulful.”
The benefit of WandaVision is that the filmmakers can open up the stage and make space for them, and see them interact in this “domestic sphere.” “We get to see them doing dishes in the kitchen and being cute,” said Schaeffer. “Just all of this sort of homebody stuff that you never get to see a Super Hero participate in. We really go from these enormous sort of dramatic moments and fraught moments in the MCU, and then in WandaVision, it’s a lot of cute-cute until it’s not.”
6. You’re now entering the twilight zone
Offering more insight on the inspiration behind the not-cute-cute aspects of the series, Shakman revealed, “We often talked about when we were in our period sitcoms, that when something shifted, from say Dick Van Dyke or I Love Lucy-style into something that was outside of that, that it was going into kind of a Twilight Zone.”
“Twilight Zone is an enormous influence on me personally,” added Schaeffer. “That’s actually kind of how I learned how to tell stories. It was so incredibly deft at that turn, right, when you think you’re in one of sort of thing, and then suddenly it’s flipped on its head.”
7. Keep Your Eyes on Retro Commercials and How It Connects
Kevin Feige teased that the commercials viewed in-series was an avenue for “other truths of the show” to leak out into this world.
“If this is the very first Marvel MCU thing you’re watching,” added Feige, “then it’s just a strange version of a ‘50s commercial or a ‘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.”
8. How Kathyrn Hahn entered the MCU
Feige gave the audience a little look into how we were blessed with Kathyrn Hahn’s presence in the MCU. “It was one of those miraculous things that happened in my memory,” recalled Feige.
“It was a rare general meeting, which we don’t usually have a lot of time to do,” explained Feige. “But Kathyrn came in and sat down with Louis Esposito, and she was a fan of what we were up to, and we’re fan of hers. And at exactly that same time, we were sitting in that writers room trying to think of who to play Agnes. It should have taken two seconds, but it took five seconds, for somebody to say, ‘Wait, what about Kathyrn? She was in yesterday.’ We don’t usually cast like that. It’s almost never like that as a matter of fact, but it’s usually never as perfect as this.”
9. Translating Wanda’s powers for the sitcom world
“I can’t wiggle my nose,” divulged Olsen. “We had to figure out something else that was period-appropriate,” noting a flick of her finger was their translation to adapting it to the sitcom environment.
“To watch our Special Effects team that usually blows things up, set things on fire, create wind, create smoke…these guys became like puppeteers of things floating in the sky, dealing with magnets in different ways to make them spin. It was so incredible to watch our Special Effects team adapt to the era-specific ways of creating these practical effects.”
10. Monica Rambeau and Agnes’ origin stories
Both Teyonah Parris, who plays the adult version of Monica Rambeau, and Kathyrn Hahn, who plays nosy neighbor Agnes, shared that audiences will get to see glimpses of their lives before they landed in WandaVision.
Within the series, “We actually do get to learn, particularly, what those things are that Monica has seen and gone through, and how they shaped her life,” stated Parris.
Hahn added, “In all those classic sitcoms, there’s always that person that busts through the doors and sit on the couch, but you never get to know anything about them. They’re there. I was able to walk into it, as Agnes, just like with all those beautiful tropes set up behind me to just build on.
“WandaVision” premieres Jan. 15, 2021, only on Disney+.