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Tatiana Maslany on how ‘She-Hulk’ became one of Marvel’s funniest shows

The Washington Post 10/13/2022 David Betancourt
Ginger Gonzaga, left, and Tatiana Maslany in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” © Marvel Studios Ginger Gonzaga, left, and Tatiana Maslany in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”

Tatiana Maslany only had one concern when she began filming her role as the newest hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was not the motion capture suit, which made her feel like a kid in pajamas. The days of painting a bodybuilder green to be a Hulk on television have long since passed, so she knew her superhero self would be digitally illustrated later.

The only thing Maslany worried about was whether she had a funny bone or not. “For me it was like … can I lead a comedy?” Maslany recently recalled to The Washington Post. “There are some really funny moments in that show, and I wanted to do them justice.”

In its first season, which streams its ninth and last episode Thursday on Disney Plus, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” has been the funniest Marvel Studios franchise by a lot. That is a lofty achievement when you consider humor fueled by the comedic chops of superhero heavyweights Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans has been a key ingredient in the MCU’s first decade of success. Maslany and head writer Jessica Gao have found ways to find that comedy while combining it with sexiness, delving into topics such as superhero dating and Captain America’s virginity.

One of those funny scenes was She-Hulk twerking alongside Megan Thee Stallion. Gao did not let Maslany know about the cameo until days before shooting, as she feared Maslany, who has admitted to waiting in line for hours just to get a glimpse at Megan Thee Stallion and attended many a concert, would not be able to concentrate on filming any other scene. And thus, the MCU’s first superhero twerk was born.

“Now that is canon,” Maslany said. “I’m a big dork for her. This is something I’d been working toward forever by sheer force of will. She was so chill and confident. She-Hulk could take a few lessons from Megan in terms of chillness.”

‘She-Hulk’ surprise cameo introduces the Marvel series to twerking

Maslany plays Jennifer Walters, a lawyer in Los Angeles whose life changes dramatically when an accidental blood transfusion from her cousin, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), turns her into a new hulk with new rules. The character first appeared in the pages of “Savage She-Hulk” No. 1 at Marvel Comics in 1980 and was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Anger does not trigger She-Hulk’s transformations like it does with the original Hulk. She makes the switch from gentle to green whenever she wants. That creates the weird situation of everyone from her supervisor at work to the men she dates preferring her as She-Hulk and not as her less-superhuman alter ego, which allows the show to examine an issue that is a little more serious.

“The ownership that people have over a woman’s body and how they treat her based on how she presents is very intense and very felt. We were touching on that in a way that was super relatable and light but also could prompt people to think about things in a way,” Maslany said. “She is sort of trying to find wholeness in these two seemingly opposing sides of herself that are actually all her and all who she is. It’s just different bodies. That duality is really interesting to me, and that contradiction and that resistance to those two sides of herself that she’s also kind of secretly embracing.”

“She-Hulk” also focuses on sex as a part of the story in a way that other corners of the MCU do not, featuring dating apps and superhero hookups. In this season’s penultimate episode, Charlie Cox made his Marvel Studios debut as Daredevil, resuming a role he originated on Netflix back when Marvel and the streamer still worked together before Disney Plus. Daredevil hooks up with She-Hulk after the two share a night of crime-fighting together, forcing him into a bootless superhero walk of shame the next morning. Maslany credits Gao with placing just as much emphasis on the personal side of being a superhero as potential threats to the universe.

“It’s a horny show,” Maslany said. “It’s joyful, and there’s something about it that does kind of buck at the classic Marvel things that we’ve seen in the past.”

Charlie Cox as Daredevil, with Maslany in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” © Marvel Studios Charlie Cox as Daredevil, with Maslany in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”

Her co-star Ruffalo has the most cinematic Hulk and Bruce Banner appearances, ahead of Edward Norton and Eric Bana, but can appear as his version of the Hulk in the MCU only in guest appearances because of an ongoing deal with Universal. Ruffalo has said often that he’ll probably never have his own Hulk movie, unlike many of his “Avengers” co-stars. Maslany’s She-Hulk has no such limitations.

“He was super jealous of it,” Maslany said with a laugh. “That is what is so great about the way we explore these two so differently. His hulkness is a limit on him in one way, where mine is a different kind of limitation. Our consciousness is so different based on how we have been socialized to deal with our emotions. He needs to go off to an island that his billionaire friend has funded for him to figure out how to be less angry, and I’m sort of like, that is what I do every day. There is something really interesting in that commentary. But I want to see a Mark-led movie as Hulk. He’d be amazing.”

Is Captain America a virgin? ‘She-Hulk’ solves this Marvel mystery.

An old hulk rival long thought dormant has also made a comeback on “She-Hulk”: Tim Roth as the Abomination. The villain of 2008’s the “Incredible Hulk” shows up in a less rage-filled role, as one of She-Hulk’s clients looking to rehabilitate himself. Roth was asked about a “She-Hulk” gig by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige during his voice recordings for the Abomination’s quick cameo in 2021’s “Shang-Chi.”

“They told me what they had in mind, and I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought it was very intriguing,” Roth said. “This is a man that has been put in a maximum-security solitary confinement for many years. What does that do to someone? Should he be believed? Should he be trusted? If he is such a monster and he has that under control, if he can control that, then what happens when he lets it off the leash?”

Tim Roth, right, plays Emil Blonsky/the Abomination in a scene from “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” © Chuck Zlotnick Tim Roth, right, plays Emil Blonsky/the Abomination in a scene from “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”

“She-Hulk” co-stars Josh Segarra and Renée Elise Goldsberry said one of the more frequent sources of laughs on set was when they would constantly be reminded to avoid eye contact with Maslany as She-Hulk, since she would later be digitally altered to be almost seven feet tall. They also kept asking Gao if their supporting characters, Augustus “Pug” Pugliese and Mallory Book, lawyers at She-Hulk’s firm, would get superpowers like Maslany.

Segarra is no stranger to superhero television, having starred as a villain in the CW’s “Arrow,” and “Hamilton” star Goldsberry is a veteran of courtroom comedy and drama, having co-starred in “Ally McBeal” earlier in her career. So far the answer has been a definitive no. “We’re all working out just in case,” Goldsberry said.

Perhaps there is an Avengers movie appearance in Segarra and Goldsberry’s future, considering Maslany’s She-Hulk is a prime candidate to star in one of the two that are planned for 2025 and 2026. But so far, like every new MCU actor who gets asked if they’ll be assembling anytime soon, Maslany is pleading the fifth. “I mean I can’t imagine. That would be wild,” Maslany said. “We’ll see.”

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