WandaVision isn't like anything that Marvel Studios has ever done before. It's a TV series on Disney+, for one thing, and it's playing with genre and format in a way that no previous MCU entry has ever attempted. Sure, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was kind of a pastiche of '70s-style political thrillers, and the Spider-Man films have shades of John Hughes' '80s-era teen movies, but WandaVision is basically doing full-on episodes of classic sitcoms. Perhaps unexpectedly, the series' head writer Jac Schaeffer says that actually made it easier to write than a standard superhero story — and she would know.
"I like the sort of crazy pond of being 'it's a sitcom and it's the MCU,'" Schaeffer tells SYFY WIRE. "That is incredibly challenging but it's something I enjoy and it makes sense to me, the puzzle of it. I worked on [the upcoming Black Widow movie], and I found it harder to do more of a straight-ahead superhero story. It was just a little harder to hold on to, whereas the experiment that was WandaVision used every single piece of my brain and that of my writers'.
"It was sort of like doing a period place, in that the restriction was helpful," she continues. "It sort of gave me guardrails, I guess."
Schaeffer, who also contributed to Captain Marvel's script in addition to her credited work on Black Widow and WandaVision, didn't come up with the initial idea for the TV show. That was Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. But Schaeffer pitched an idea for how to make Feige's vision work.
"They had the basics — Wanda and Vision and a lot of sort of big bag of ideas. And I was tasked with how to unify all that," she explains. "Out of the gate, it was a logic knot to untangle. And, inside of that, it was constant conversations about the character, about the emotional truth of the story, and that kind of thing.
"And also building a sitcom," she adds.
Schaeffer admits that putting MCU characters into a sitcom setting for large parts of the series rather than having them fight crime or do traditional heroics was "a gamble," but that was part of the appeal.
"I think that's what got us all excited and what we thought was hilarious and crazy, to put these characters in this scenario."
As the fourth episode shows, though, WandaVision isn't entirely a sitcom. Last week's episode, fittingly titled "We Interrupt This Broadcast," largely left the confines of Westview and revealed what's been going on outside of Wanda Maximoff's televised reality, teasing the larger, more MCU-core plot. Making that fit with the sitcom aspects of the series was a fun challenge for Schaeffer, but it also offered an unexpected opportunity to revisit a character she'd previously written. Monica Rambeau, the rambunctious little kid seen in the '90s-set Captain Marvel, returns as an adult in WandaVision (now played by Teyonah Parris). Schaeffer had a hand in writing some of the scenes involving child-aged Monica, and now for WandaVision she got to help shape who this character had become.
"That was particularly special — to write for a character as a child, not anticipating that I would ever work with that character again, and then to follow through with the adult version of that character was a very particular thrill," she says. When writing young Monica, Schaeffer was able to formulate a full sense of who she was as a character, because so much of her identity came from her two role models: Maria Rambeau and Carol Danvers. Already knowing Monica so well made it a snap (no pun intended) to conceive of who she had become.
"It was a very sort of internal way to come at a grown character," she says.
As for what's next for WandaVision, Monica, and the MCU as a whole?
"I'm excited for everyone to go on this ride and what I know of what comes after [WandaVision] is pretty exciting," Schaeffer teases.
New episodes of WandaVision premiere on Disney+ every Friday.