Tatiana Maslany is finally joining the MCU as one of the most powerful female heroes in the comic universe – and yet, it’s the humanity of Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, that she finds most relatable.
The “Orphan Black” Emmy winner spoke with ET ahead of the Aug. 18 premiere of the new Marvel/Disney+ series, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law“, and opened up about what she found so appealing about the role.
“I was laughing on every page and I found it so relatable and kind of embarrassingly human,” Maslany says of the show, which is, structurally, more of a lighthearted legal comedy with an MCU twist. “That, to me, is where some of the great comedy comes from – these very real characters who are, like, on this backdrop of a huge Marvel universe.”
In keeping with the meta tone of some fan-favourite She-Hulk comic runs, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” sees its protagonist frequently breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience – another unique storytelling device for the Marvel narrative – and also deals with the “mundane and small” moments of her life, like online dating, in contrast to its epic, MCU-level action.
“That collision of superhuman and just, like, regular dude is really fun,” Maslany shares. “The direct-to-camera stuff has been done so many times, so well, and and so I definitely like watched a lot of that and took from “Fleabag” and “Ferris Bueller” and all these great references. But also, there’s something about Jen that’s like, ‘You guys are my buddies. Like, ‘Come into my brain and let’s like go on this journey together!'”
During “She-Hulk’s” virtual press conference, the actress pointed out that Jen’s “hyperawareness” of the viewing audience is another kind of superpower for her, but it’s obviously her Hulk powers that set her apart – which she contracts when she comes in contact with her cousin, Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo), gamma-radiated blood. However, unlike many of the MCU’s other heroes, Jen is resistant to becoming a hero, not because of any moral qualms or fears of inadequacy, but because she’s already happy in her established career as an attorney.
“It was actually her conflict with it that I found most interesting,” Maslany says. “She’s built this life for herself that she does not want to let go of. She’s worked so hard to be a lawyer and she has to constantly prove herself. So she’s in this path, and then when this thing happens to her, she has to contend with a whole other perception being placed on top of her and expectations, societally, of how she should be and who she should be.”
Unsurprisingly, that’s something the actress can also relate to in the real world. With the announcement of any female-fronted comic book property comes the online commentary from a fandom that can be… less than welcoming, at times. Maslany shared during the press conference that she and the show’s cast and creators have already felt the “visceral response to a woman superhero” from the online community.
“And I’m curious about the question around why,” she adds. “I think all of the feelings that we have watching a show like this, whether it’s laughter or all of that, there is so much else going on that challenges people and that I think we really hit in a really wonderful way – especially near the end of the season. I’m so excited for people to see that.”
The show even addresses it directly, with snide commentary from TV pundits about the new female hero and even Jen’s distaste for the “She-Hulk” nickname, implying that she exists only in relation to Bruce.
“I think Jessica [Gao, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” creator] knew that as soon as there’s a female superhero, there’s so much commentary,” Maslany notes. “She foresaw what was gonna happen when this show came out, and so with the meta elements of this show and Jessica’s ability to foresee how it would be received, it’s exactly right in the pocket of ‘She-Hulk’.”
Another unique element to the character is that her dual personas are immediately integrated – she doesn’t struggle like Bruce to connect to her Hulk side, she is still conscious as Jen even when she is huge and green and has better control over her outsized emotions and destructive powers.
“We’ve already told that story of, like, not being able to control your emotions or not being able to deal with them,” Maslany observes. “I think it is very astute that a woman who is faced with this massive experience where her emotions would take over her and she would lose consciousness – in actuality, she’s just very good with dealing with them, because she’s been doing that her whole life. That, to me, is a really smart observation and super fun to play.”
One of the series’ great meta moments in the early episodes comes when Jen promises to the audience that the show won’t be one big MCU cameo fest – well, except for Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Smart Hulk, who is on hand to train her in all things Hulk. Oh, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, aka Abomination. And Benedict Wong, as Sorcerer Supreme Wong, who turns up needing legal help of his own.
On working with Ruffalo, Maslany raved to ET at the :She-Hulk” red carpet premiere that he is “an astonishingly generous actor.”
“He is so much fun. You really don’t feel like we were making this big Marvel thing, it really felt like we were just playing this moment to moment. That’s all you want as an actor,” she says. “We connected on so many levels, in terms of what it is to be a Hulk.”
While the pair mostly spend time on Jen’s She-Hulk persona, Maslany also joked that, of all the MCU characters, she would love to see Jen defend Bruce in court.
“I think that would be super fun,” she laughs. “But we also keep talking about Baby Groot… And her, like, seriously defending this little buddy. ‘Cause what did this little guy do? That’s what I want to know.”
“She-Hulk” fans also know there’s at least one more familiar Marvel appearance on the horizon, with the return of Charlie Cox’s Daredevil teased in the show’s trailer. But will the pair just be duking it out as their alter egos, or will there also be a courtroom showdown?
“Maybe it’s a little of everything,” Maslany teases. “He’s really great. I think people are gonna love the stuff between the two of us.”
“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” premieres Aug. 18 on Disney+, with new episodes streaming every Thursday.
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