It's been established that Marvel's WandaVision series will pay homage to the black and white family sitcoms of the mid-20th century, but did you know that the show actually filmed in front of a live studio audience for those segments?
Sure, the production could've added canned laughter in post, but Marvel Studios — the first name in comic book-related entertainment — went the extra mile in gathering an actual chuckling audience, "all of whom signed very, very strict NDAs," reports Entertainment Weekly. Not only that, but the crew also wore period-specific clothing while on set and utilized camera lenses from the '50s for that idyllic, Leave It to Beaver aesthetic. And since Vision's magenta skin didn't quite register in the monochromatic color scheme, actor Paul Bettany had to be painted a shade of blue.
The whole experience gave Elizabeth Olsen ("Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch") flashbacks to when her sisters — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — filmed a certain beloved sitcom throughout the '90s. “It was insanity,” the actress told EW. “There was something very meta for my own life because I would visit those tapings as a kid, where my sisters were working [on Full House]."
"The show is a love letter to the golden age of television,” explained showrunner Jac Schaeffer. “We’re paying tribute and honoring all of these incredible shows and people who came before us, [but] we’re also trying to blaze new territory."
Turns out, it was MCU mastermind Kevin Feige who came up with the sitcom idea. “I would get ready for the day and watch some old sitcom because I couldn’t take the news anymore,” he said. “Getting ready to go to set over the last few years, I kept thinking of how influential these programs were on our society and on myself, and how certainly I was using it as an escape from reality where things could be tied up in a nice bow in 30 minutes.”
As if the costumes, lenses, and live audience weren't enough, Feige turned to a living alumnus of Golden Age Television for advice. During D23 Expo last summer, Feige and series director Matt Shakman (Game of Thrones) sat down with the Dick Van Dyke to discuss his self-named sitcom that ran for five seasons on CBS between 1961 and 1966.
“[The Dick Van Dyke Show] can be very broad with silly physical-comedy gags, and yet it never feels false, and I wondered how they did that,” Shakman said. “His answer was really simple: He basically said that if it couldn’t happen in real life, it couldn’t happen on the show.”
The icing on the cake was getting to film some of the '50s-inspired sequences on Blondie Street at the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank. A piece of Hollywood history, Blondie Street was the home of several classic TV productions such as Father Knows Best and Bewitched. Obviously, the latter was a big influence on WandaVision, which features a witch as well as a nosy neighbor (played by Kathryn Hahn).
“I was kind of surrounded by these ghosts of television past — including my own ghosts,” Shakman added. “I had been there as a kid, and [it] was deeply moving to me that here we were doing something many, many years later. You can’t find a real street that feels like Blondie Street. You need it to have that weird sense of fakeness.”
WandaVision is expected to drop on Disney+ sometime next month. Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, Randall Park, Fred Melamed, and Debra Jo Rupp co-star.