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“I kind of figured that that was probably it for me,” the actor tells SYFY WIRE. “And then I got a phone call from the boss and the boss said ‘come in and see me.’ You know what that usually means. [Laughs.]”
But, as Bettany started to preemptively thank Marvel Studios’ head honcho Kevin Feige for all the memories, Feige cut him off — they actually wanted Bettany to star in a TV show for Disney+, one that would not just eventually launch a whole new era for the MCU, but also finally given Bettany and his co-star Elizabeth Olsen the franchise’s full spotlight. After four movies in which Vision and Wanda’s stories were essentially relegated to the C-plot at best, WandaVision, premiering on Jan. 15, really explores who these characters are.
“Your screentime in all of these [movies] for all of the characters [is] curtailed. You have to pack a lot into a small amount of time,” Bettany says of the pair’s limited roles in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and Infinity War. And, although he thinks the crowded nature of the movies is quite fun, “it’s been lovely to be able to be kind of expansive.”
WandaVision sees Wanda and Vision (who appears to be alive again for reasons that aren’t immediately revealed), living in domestic bliss like something out of an old sitcom — literally. Each episode is a homage to a classic sitcom style from decades past, ranging from I Love Lucy to The Brady Bunch and beyond. How and why Wanda and Vision are in this sitcom dream is a mystery, and there’s evidence of something sinister lurking behind the sets.
“The thing about this show is that it’s a real puzzle box and we are developing a real delicate mystery along the way,” director Matt Shakman explains. “All of this form is actually part of that narrative.”
The mystery is a slow burn (viewers will likely still be in the dark by the end of the third episode, at least), but MCU’s detour into the sitcom genre offers fans to see a totally unexpected — and revealing — side of the title characters. Although the mask slips on occasion, Wanda is happy and Lucille Ball-style funny, which is a refreshing change from the Sokovian test subject with dangerous powers, a dead brother, and a dead lover.
“It’s taking on a perspective of maybe what she would want to be in a sitcom, as opposed to this woman that we’ve gotten to know through all of her angst and pain,” Elizabeth Olsen says of Wanda. “This is her getting to have an opportunity to be as normal as possible and not be found out by the people in her neighborhood. And that’s where we start in our series.”
For Bettany, the opportunity for Vision to be a sitcom character was actually a natural part of the character’s development over the series.
“When I was thinking about the show, I went ‘How are we going to do this? How does he remain the same person?’” Bettany recalls. “And then I realized, Vision has been changing the whole time. We see him born, and he’s kind of this naive, omnipotent ingenue, and he’s made of Ultron and he’s made of Tony Stark and he’s made of Jarvis. By Civil War, he’s sort of already on his quest to understand humanity and what that is. And then by Infinity War, he’s arguably and ironically the most human of characters.
“I realized, ‘Oh, we’re continuing to change him,’” he continues. “We’re just throwing a bit of Dick Van Dyke in there because of the circumstances. And I think [that works] as long as the core of Vision stays true, which is that he’s decent and honest and thoroughly there for Wanda.”
Wanda and Vision aren’t the only Marvel characters that the Disney+ series is going to focus on, though. Teyonah Parris joins the MCU as a grown-up Monica Rambeau, last seen as a '90s kid in Captain Marvel, in which she was played by Akira Akbar. In the Marvel comics, Monica becomes the heroine Spectrum, and Parris tells SYFY WIRE that she based her performance on the comics and Akbar’s portrayal of her younger self. Fans are naturally excited to see what the MCU’s version of Monica will be, and Parris promises that WandaVision will deliver.
“What we can expect is that you will see Monica as an adult because we last saw her in Captain Marvel as a young girl, so here in WandaVision, we will explore who she’s become, what has happened to her during that time gap, and how she’s evolved (or not) over the last couple of years and her journey forward,” she says. “We get into all of that.”
Because WandaVision is part of the MCU, it will of course be setting up future installments of the franchise. The series is reportedly a direct lead-in to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Monica will feature in Captain Marvel 2. But, Shakman says their focus was on ensuring that WandaVision stood on its own first and foremost.
“The great thing is that we have Kevin,” Shakman says, explaining that Feige’s guidance allowed WandaVision to set up batons for the next installment without getting in the way. “Kevin is the master of spinning all these plates. He is always there to help us understand where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”
Despite all the spinning of said plates, though, WandaVision is about its title characters first and foremost.
“I’m most excited for us to finally get to see more of the Wanda and Vision love story,” Parris says, adding that the series explores their relationship and Wanda’s feelings of grief and loss. “It’s just been such a beautiful journey for them in the Marvel theatrical films, but it never felt like enough, you know? It always left me wanting more. And then after what happened in Infinity War and Endgame... It’s just so sad.”
The sitcom aspect of WandaVision and the mystery behind it might have some MCU fans — especially those who are hankering for superhero action after an unexpected 18-month gap — a little confused at first. But, Shakman assures that WandaVision is an essential, natural part of the MCU.
“This is unusual. It’s new territory, but what’s great about Marvel is that they’re always in new territory. I’m sure people were confused about Guardians of the Galaxy and then loved it,” he says. “Go along for the ride.”