In Marvel Studios‘ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany)—an attorney specializing in
superhuman-oriented legal cases—must navigate the complicated life of a single, 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.
The nine-episode comedy series welcomes a host of MCU vets, including Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination, and Benedict Wong as Wong, as well as Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Ginger Gonzaga, Jon Bass and Renée Elise Goldsberry.
During the Television Critics Association (TCA), The Koalition had the opportunity to speak to actress Jennifer Walters, director Kat Coiro and Head Writer/Executive Producer Jessica Gao to learn more about the series, the concept of duality, the arrival of Charlie Cox/Daredevil and more.
During San Diego Comic Con, fans were thrilled to see Daredevil aka Charlie Cox at the end of the She-Hulk trailer which ended with him leaping through the night sky in a new yellow and red suit. While his face was never shown, the close-up shot of his yellow-accented gloves and Billy Clubs was enough to get people wondering if She-Hulk will connect to Daredevil: Reborn Again and the relationship between the two in the series. Will they be a crime-fighting duo or rival lawyers? While a lot about She-Hulk is still under wraps, Kat praised Charlie’s involvement on the show and teased their interactions.
“Charlie [Cox] is amazing. He does some really great work. The tone of our show is so different and to see his character in the tone of She-Hulk is really fun. To watch Matt Murdock and Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk and Daredevil go toe-to-toe and match wits is something people are going to love. Charlie and Tatiana have such great chemistry together too, it’s really fun seeing them together. It has the vibe of an old Howard Hawks movie,” said Kat.
When it comes to any Hulk, the duality between the two personas will always be a focus. However, unlike Bruce Banner, Jennifer consciousness stays—she’s just as in control no matter which form. As seen in the trailer, Jennifer Walters isn’t too keen on becoming a superhero and decides to maintain her daily life as a lawyer— pivoting into superhuman law.
“She-Hulk will dive into the duality of Jennifer and She-Hulk as she adjusts to a new identity that affects her both physically and mentally in both in her life and career. [The] conflict [of identity and transformation] is so fun to navigate because Jen has had her life planned out for her and has worked really hard to get to where she is as a lawyer and to have this thing happen to her that sort of derails everything, it is a bit of an identity crisis,” said Jessica.
“What I find really compelling about this story is [when she] presents as She-Hulk, she’s treated very differently than when she’s Jen. There’s a lot of having to affirm her intelligence when she’s Jen and assert her role to try to get respect. Whereas when she’s She-Hulk, there’s this inherent [way people are] awe inspired by her. She’s really at odds with how she wants to be perceived and I think it’s so relatable because the Jen [version] of She-Hulk is an extreme version,” Kat added.
“I think every person, every woman especially goes through [the idea and experience of] dressing up changes the way you’re perceived, your status in your job changes the way that you’re perceived. What she’s dealing with are these issues we all deal with just on a very extreme level,” said Tatiana.
“When she changes between Jennifer and She-Hulk she retains the same consciousness and even though it’s it is the same person’s mind, the world is receiving her in a different way, and she moves through the world in a different way because so much of identity is not just about your perception of yourself but also how the world receives you and how the world changes,” said Jessica.
This inner tension of wanting to just be a normal person but having these incredible powers is part of the driving story. Tatiana, who is known for playing clones in Orphan Black, was excited to dive into a role about self-discovery and perceptions.
“As she changes physical forms, she can see in real time how people treat her and it completely changes the dynamics of every relationship she’s in, including her relationship with her co-workers, her relationship with her friends, her relationship with her family and with men especially,” said Titana.
“Watching her cling on to this sense of self that she has worked so hard to develop and to see it changed by the way people see her is one of the things that fascinated all of us about this this character,” Jessica added.
While She-Hulk is well-known for breaking the fourth wall, Jessica and Kat had to refrain from making her go full fourth wall with this power. She-Hulk’s earliest uses of fourth wall breaks date back to John Byrne’s 1985 Sensational She-Hulk run, regularly addressing readers about plot points and even arguing with her own writers. However, the creative duo assured us the meta dialogue will not overpower the series.
“It was it was very very tricky finding the balance because if I had my way, she’d be breaking the fourth wall every other sentence. I’m definitely on the let’s turn it up to 11 side of things and everybody else has to kind of pull me back a little bit more from it. I will say the show is very meta and self-aware in the same way the comic run was very meta and self-aware. It is present in the show but it’s not overpowering, and I always like to say, She-Hulk was breaking the fourth wall way before Deadpool, way before Fleabag. Back in the comics she was always very meta, and she was always taking control of her story and her narrative. This is something Jessica really captured amazingly in the show. She captured the essence of that spirit,” said Kat.
While Bruce Banner began his MCU journey struggling to contain “other guy” who lived inside of him, Jennifer appears to embrace her inner Hulk, even showcasing skills it took Banner years to master. With a little help on balancing herself, she seems set to go out into the world and become not a superhero, but someone who might be comfortable walking around in her green skin despite and possibly because of its challenges.
For Tatiana, part of embodying that struggle came when she had to wear a motion capture suit to become She-Hulk and create two physically different characters while still pouring the character(s) heart and soul into each scene.
“The consciousness stays the same so Jen just occupies two different bodies. The fun for me was in finding how she physically moves through space differently. She’s not really a fighter, she doesn’t know how to do it, she is not a trained fighter, she’s not somebody who’s very aware of how long her limbs but she still maintains her consciousness. Using all the tech stuff, using the fact I’m on platforms and the fact sometimes if I’m in a scene with Ginger Gonzaga, she can’t actually look in my eyes, she has to look above my head at a little frozen face above my head. All of that stuff is discombobulating and helps bring Jen into this place where she can’t connect with anybody. She’s a little out of sorts and that really helps to sink me into a different physicality,” said Titana.
“We also had a double on set who is a six-foot-seven, and it was always fun to say, ‘Hey Malia, could you please sit in that chair’ so we can watch and see just how she moved through the world as a woman who is six-foot-seven. She’s an actor and it’s much harder for a woman who’s six-foot-seven to be cast because our limited view of what a what an actor is supposed to look like or how tall they’re supposed to be. It was it was really great,” said Tatiana continued.
“We always went back to making sure we captured the actors’ performances. We have the brilliant Tatiana, the brilliant Mark Ruffalo and so it was always about, ‘How do we allow them to just be actors even though they have all of the accoutrements of CGI?’ They have mocap, they have cameras in their face, platforms and cardboard cutouts. We played with all the tools, but the philosophy was always, ‘How do we stay true to their performances that goes through production and through post?’ That was really the most important thing; having those actors playing with all the CGI toys, that cutting edge Marvel has to offer but always going back to the fact this is a very human story,” said Jessica.
In the series, Bruce had originally expected Jessica’s Hulk to take similarly to his origin story, but she has control over it and mastered it incredibly easily. As a result, Bruce has admitted to being jealous of Jennifer. Despite their differences in approach, they still find comfort with each other being outsiders.
“There’s something about the tech Mark Ruffalo and I discussed, which is She-Hulk and Hulk sort of feel like outsiders. They feel like they don’t fit in the world, like we’re sort of in these little gray suits with a camera in front of our faces and there’s something that actually informs the character through that. We’re not in super cool super suits, we don’t feel cool, so there’s something about that that feels ‘Hulky’ to me, said Tatiana.
“I feel like you and Mark had so many little connections. He’d been playing this role for a decade. Hulk has been Hulk for a long time, you were new to it but then he came in and was so open to this new genre and so deferential to you. There were all these little life imitating art moments that helped your relationships as actors but also really informed the characters,” said Jessica.
“I really mirrored what was happening in the script, the dynamic but also it really is a testament to how present you and Mark were at every minute of it because to having all the accoutrement there and having a camera dangling in front of your face but still just being very real and with each other. When we watched you guys, it really felt like, ‘Oh these two are cousins who have been bickering for years at every family meeting together’ to the point where you too inspired additions to the script. I remember the first day you guys were together and playing off each other and we were like, ‘Oh we need to see more of this,’ and it led to you building out the montage that is in the trailer. A lot of that was based on your guys’ chemistry and your energy having fun despite all of these technical things you have to grapple with,” Jessica finished.
After the first She-Hulk trailer was released in May, fans quickly turned against the series, complaining about the quality of the CGI work. Some fans were also disappointed by Titania’s appearance when she transforms into, She-Hulk. However, Jessica argues against this and blames society for how She-Hulk is viewed.
“In terms of the CGI being critiqued, I think that has to do with our cultures belief in their ownership of women’s bodies. I think a lot of the critique comes from feeling like they’re able to tear apart the CGI woman. There’s a lot of talk about her body type. We based her a lot on Olympian athletes not bodybuilders but if we’ve gone the other way, we would be facing the same critique. It’s very hard to win when you make women’s bodies. This is just a massive undertaking. To have a show of the scale where the main character is CGI, it’s a very overwhelming and ginormous thing to take on and it’s terrible a lot of artists feel rushed. The workload is too massive, and everyone stands in solidarity with all workers,” said Jessica.
She-Hulk is a show about transformation and a woman’s experience through feminism and the specific feminization of the Hulk character which is known for its masculine archetype. During the show’s development, “There was a lot of thought and consideration that went into, ‘What is a woman’s experience going through all of this?’ Especially when there is an existing character who is related to her, who has gone through this entire this exact journey but at the end of the day, they’re very different people. You can’t expect two people to go through a similar situation and react the exact same way,” said Kat.
There’s kind of the crux of their relationship in the series that there are some things they can relate to each other but ultimately there are different people who are experiencing it in different ways and also there is a double standard to how the world perceives her because she is a woman and because she is a female. Everybody treats her differently than the way the world has treated him. These are all themes we explore in the show. Her anger, her largeness such as her taking up space in a room. All of that is fertile ground for us to sort of play with it comedically too. We flip the standard on its head. You can laugh at it but you’re also aware it’s the truth of every woman walking into a space; the sort of duality of her two bodies,” said Jessica.
“I find so compelling, what is it to walk into a room as a six-foot seven woman and what is it to walk into a room as a five-foot two woman it’s like so rife. I think because our culture is so fixated on women’s bodies whether it’s aesthetically or politically or in terms of rights or in terms of autonomy. We touch on all of these concepts but again through Jessica’s hilarious brain. It’s really deep at the same time as it’s goofy. The lightheartedness is part of what makes it deep because you are transported and entertained, you’re watching a half hour comedy and then you have some things to think about for sure,” Kat finished.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres August 18th on Disney+.