In the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tatiana Maslany plays Jennifer Walters, a 30-something single woman and highly skilled legal eagle who specialises in cases involving super humans. Evidently, even superheroes can’t escape the need for good legal representation.
She’s also the cousin of Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo reprising his famous role), whose condition she acquired a milder version of after undergoing an emergency blood transfusion from him, resulting in his gamma-irradiated blood running through her veins.
The injury occurred when she was shot by the underlings of a mob boss she was prosecuting. After she recovers, she learns to navigate her increasingly complicated life while also grappling with a serious identity crisis.
Under the careful (albeit unwanted) tutelage of The Hulk, with whom Maslany has a sibling-like relationship, replete with bantering, ribbing, and sarcasm, she discovers how to live with her new-found superhero skills — and how to utilise her hulking, green-hued, radioactively metamorphosed physique (now over 2m in height) to her best advantage.
“She-Hulk and Hulk sort of feel like outsiders. They do kind of feel like they don’t fit in the world. We’re in these little grey suits with the camera in front of our faces,” Maslany says. “We’re not in super-cool super-suits.”
Maslany seems a little overwhelmed by the love directed at her from the boisterous Marvel fans.
“What’s exciting about She-Hulk is that this show is very different,” she says. “It’s got an irreverent humour and she’s trying not to be a superhero, which is a fun take, I think.”
The Emmy award-winning Canadian-born actress relished the idea of playing out of her comfort zone. Usually associated with gritty and dark fare such as Eastern Promises, Diary of the Dead and Destroyer, she also appeared in the TV series Heartland, Being Erica, and Perry Mason. She is perhaps best known for her award-winning role in Orphan Black.
“I’ve never played anything close to a superhero before so it took me a little while to wrap my head around it. I was so thrilled because not only am I stepping into being a superhero for the first time, but I’m also getting to do a flat-out comedy, which feels like totally a different world,” she says.
Based on the Marvel Comics series, She-Hulk marks Marvel’s first true half-hour TV comedy. The nine-episode series was created by Jessica Gao (Rick and Morty, Silicon Valley, Robot Chicken), who says she enjoyed the humorous aspect of She-Hulk’s personality.
“I love that she’s funny,” she says. “I love that she breaks the fourth wall. I love that she’s super confident with a great attitude.”
The cast also includes Jameela Jamil as She-Hulk’s nemesis Titania, Josh Segarra as Pug, her fellow attorney, and Ginger Gonzaga, who plays her best friend Nikki Ramos, while Tim Roth plays a surprise new client, Emil Blonsky/Abomination.
Gonzaga, best known for her role in the Duplass’ brothers Togetherness, says of her character: “Nikki is the kind of ride or die friend for Jen. And I love seeing female friends who really, really love each other. And that’s kind of their love language. And Nikki likes to get into a lot of good trouble and encourage a lot of risk-taking for Jen.”
As for Jamil, what makes her alter ego tick?
“I would say jealousy and a desperate need for attention, which obviously I have no experience with, so I had to really pull from somewhere,” she laughs. “But yeah, she’s extremely annoying and I drew that from myself. So, you’re welcome”.
Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema, the character was first introduced in 1980 in The Savage She-Hulk comic series.
The character went on to become a member of The Avengers, in 1982, and was featured in the Fantastic Four series. Additionally, the Sensational She-Hulk comic series ran from 1989 to 1994.
The new series relies on humour and She-Hulk’s relate-ability rather than special effects, which sets it apart from other superhero vehicles.
Unlike other superheroes, She-Hulk doesn’t come from another planet, nor was she born with superhuman abilities, she gained her skills by accident — and isn’t too thrilled about it.
“She-Hulk has a realistic relationship to the idea of being a superhero, Gao says.
“She has a sense of humour about her powers and has come to really appreciate the advantages. There’s an aspect of her that is very aspirational.”