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Cast and crew of Marvel Studios’ ‘WandaVision’ talk the challenges of creating a sitcom world

by Brittani Tuttle

Starting off a new phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no small feat – but never before have we had a television series in this role. With “WandaVision” on Disney+, Marvel Studios is charting a new course for the future of the MCU in interesting and unexpected ways.

Director Matt Shakman, head writer and executive producer Jac Schaeffer, producer Kevin Feige, and show stars Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), Paul Bettany (Vision), Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau), and Kathryn Hahn (Agnes) recently gathered over Zoom to talk about the new show and Marvel’s first foray into the world of sitcoms.

Now streaming on Disney+, “WandaVision” sees Vision and Wanda Maximoff—two super-powered beings—attempt to live an idealized suburban life and blend in with their archetypal neighbors… until they suspect that not everything is as it seems.

Bringing Marvel’s first-ever sitcom into the fray was a tall order, but Shakman knew that the key was to be true to the genre.

“We wanted to be as authentic as possible. 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,” said Shakman. “We watched a ton of old television episodes, talked about how comedy changes, because it really does. The approach to comedy in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s is really different […] Doing it in front of a live studio audience, which is this weird quasi-theater-TV thing, it really adds to it.”

The show’s script had to reflect this classic style of television, which required a lot of research and trial-and-error.

“It really was almost like doing an accent or a period piece or something like that, especially with the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Shaeffer. “It genuinely was sort of a research thing that we were kind of plug-and-playing the expressions to make it really fun.”

“We also worked with a fabulous dialect coach […] to work on how the people would sound in that era, how they would move,” said Shakman. “We just did everything we could to make it as authentic as possible.”

The first episode of the show was even shot in front of a live audience, which was a unique challenge for Olsen as Wanda.

“It was the first thing we shot. It was so nerve-wracking and it totally confused my brain,” said Olsen. “It really messed with my brain, the idea of not playing to an audience but feeding off an audience and having a camera. I was really grateful when we added the fourth wall for our second episode.”

But at the core of it all, “WandaVision” is a love story about two superheroes who just want to live together and fit in with their community.

“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,” said Schaeffer. “It’s actually been a small amount of screen time but very powerful and very soulful – but what we have with ‘WandaVision,’ which is, really, I think, a treat for all is that we’re sort of opening up the stage and the space for them and they’re in this domestic sphere. We get to see them doing dishes in the kitchen and being cute, just all the sort of homebody stuff that you would never get to see a superhero participate in.”

As for whether we could see more Marvel sitcoms in the future, Kevin Feige isn’t ruling out the possibility.

“Well, we’ll see. This was our test run […] This was Marvel Studios’ first foray. directly with cast and amazing characters that we’d seen in movies, coming to television. The idea always was to do something that could not be done as a feature, that plays with the format and plays with the medium,” said Feige. “There were a lot of meetings before people actually sort of understood what we were trying to go for, and we’re only sitting here because Jac [Schaeffer] and Matt [Shakman] did, and we were able to turn a wacky idea into a spectacular show.”

While “WandaVision” wasn’t originally planned as the start of MCU’s Phase Four, Feige is happy that it worked out that the show is the MCU’s Disney+ debut.

“The original plan was ‘Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ was going to debut first, last year, followed very soon behind with ‘WandaVision.’ So, creatively, it didn’t reshuffle. Part of having a long plan is having the ability and the ideas of how to shuffle should the need arise,” said Feige. “I’m not saying we were prepped for a global pandemic; we were not […] But the unexpected has often served Marvel Studios well. And it has served us well in this case, because [‘WandaVision’] being our first one, I love how bold it is. I love how different it is, and I love […] it is something you could only see on Disney+.”

Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision” is streaming now exclusively on Disney+. You can read our spoiler-free review of the first  three episodes here.

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