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'She-Hulk' showrunner surprised as the rest of us that Marvel let her make that recasting joke
She-Hulk's meta jokes just keep coming.
We're two episodes into She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and it's pretty clear that the show is going to keep the meta-fictional commentary coming throughout its run on Disney+. Like WandaVision and Loki before it, the series developed by Jessica Gao has plenty to say about the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but unlike those shows it's taking on a more deliberate sitcom approach, breaking the fourth wall and even poking fun at some of the bumps in the MCU road along the way.
Gao knew this would be the case, to a certain extent, from the beginning. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the series, she explained that the version of the series she pitched to Marvel Studios was "basically the show that we made." But even the showrunner was surprised that certain jokes made it through. In Episode 2 of the series, "Superhuman Law," Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) remarks that he's "a different person now," referring to how he's changed in the years since he battled Emil Blonsky, aka Abomination (Tim Roth). Then, he slyly adds the word "literally," referring to Marvel's decision to recast the Banner role with Ruffalo, who replaced Edward Norton after The Incredible Hulk.
According to Gao, the joke was sort of there from the beginning, but it was Ruffalo who added to final punch line.
"So the line was written by Jacqueline Gailes, who’s a very funny writer," Gao explained. "She was like, 'You gotta have him say, ‘I’m a completely different person now,’' and Mark [Ruffalo] actually added the 'literally.' So if the 'literally' had been in [the script], I wonder if they would’ve flagged it, but I’ve been continually surprised by how willing they are to let us poke fun at things and really point out these things."
Speaking of Banner, Gao also explained how the development of She-Hulk impacted other MCU properties, namely the credits tag from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which featured Bruce back in human form after showing off his "Smart Hulk" persona for Avengers: Endgame. According to the showrunner, we saw human Bruce in that film specifically because she needed him that way for She-Hulk's (Tatiana Maslany) origin story.
"No, he was in human form in the Shang-Chi tag because of our show, and the reason we had him in human form was because of the nature of the accident," Gao explained. "We knew that we wanted him to bleed onto Jen, which is how she got his blood. Hulk would not bleed; you can’t pierce Hulk’s skin, certainly not through a dinky car accident. So we needed to have him be in human form in order to have his Gamma-radiated blood get onto Jen and into her system, and we had to come up with a reason for why he was human."
Two episodes in, and She-Hulk's already having a big impact. New episodes drop Wednesdays on Disney+.