When modern comic book movie fans think of breaking the fourth wall, they probably think of Deadpool. And for good reason. He’s very popular. But well before the Merc with the Mouth pointed that mouth at the fans, another Marvel Comics character was doing it and she’s finally joining the MCU. Her name is She-Hulk and though some of the character’s modern comics have gotten away from that, head writer Jessica Gao was dead-set on including this trademark ability.
“For me, foundationally, I felt like first and foremost the fourth-wall breaking and the kind of meta-humor and the self-awareness [was the most important element to retain],” the writer and executive producer said during a recent press conference. “Because it was the John Byrne run that made me fall in love with this character, you know? It was just so lighthearted and fun and refreshing. So that was always kind of a foundational element.”
Gao, who previously worked on Robot Chicken, Silicon Valley, and Rick and Morty (she wrote the Emmy-winning “Pickle Rick” episode), knew that she wanted the fourth wall breaks to drive the show’s comedy. But exactly how that would work was up for debate.
“It went through a lot of evolutionary steps,” Gao said. “How much should she talk to camera? Is she talking directly to the audience? Is there another meta element? Is she talking to somebody else that’s more behind the scenes? At one point there was an iteration in the scripts where instead of talking directly to camera, there were text boxes that were editor’s notes—like the comic books, how there were editor’s notes in comics—and she was actually interacting with the editor’s notes that would be on screen. I mean, we did eventually scrap that idea, but we went through a lot of different versions of how she would do it.”
Kat Coiro, another executive producer and the director of six of the show’s nine episodes, explained further. “Ultimately it was about finding the balance,” she said. “Breaking the fourth wall does connect to the audience and draws us in, but not so much so that we’re not connecting to her story in the world that we’ve built.”
She-Hulk herself, Tatiana Maslany, went a step further to say she felt the character’s ability to acknowledge is almost an extension of her superpowers. “There’s something about She-Hulk’s awareness, where she’s able to go from being Jen to She-Hulk with a seamlessness... and she’s aware of the audience, that feels like it’s her superpower engaged within the meta element of the comics,” Maslany said. “It’s like an extension of her superpower. She’s like, ‘I know I’m talking to camera. I know you guys are watching this.’ And there’s something about that super-hyper-awareness that is who she is.”
Audiences will find out exactly who She-Hulk is very, very soon. The first episode premieres on August 18, with new episodes dropping on Disney+ every Thursday for the next two months.
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