'WandaVision' team details 'nerve wracking' process of recreating different sitcom eras

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New Delhi, Jan 11 (PTI) Disney Plus series 'WandaVision', which marks Marvel Studios foray into digital space, is an ode to sitcoms and their timeless appeal, according to the team behind the show.

Director Matt Shakman, writer Jac Schaeffer and stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany detailed what went into creating the show, dubbed as a cross between American sitcoms of yore and big scale superhero action sequences, in a virtual global press conference.

'WandaVision' marks the start of the phase four Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and follows the 'just married' Marvel superheroes --Olsen's Wanda Maximoff and Bettany's android Vision.

Starting from the 1950s, the series travels to different decades, channelling popular television shows like 'Twilight Zone”, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', 'I Love Lucy', 'I Dream of Jeannie', and 'Bewitched' among others.

To be authentic to the sitcom culture, Shakman and Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige met TV legend Dick Van Dyke, whose words of wisdom influenced the show heavily.

“I remember Kevin and I had this amazing lunch with Dick Van Dyke that remains one of the great afternoons of my life. And we asked him, ‘What was the governing principle behind ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’? Why did it work so well?’ And he said, ‘If it couldn’t happen in real life, it can’t happen on the show,'” he said in the press conference, also attended by PTI.

Apart from revisiting the popular shows of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the makers decided to shoot the first episode in front of the live audience.

Olsen, who made her foray into MCU with 2015 movie 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and went on to feature in 'Captain America: Civil War' (2016), 'Avengers: Infinity War' (2018), and 'Avengers: Endgame' (2019), said it took her a while to be comfortable with the presence of the live audience.

“It was so nerve wracking. There was a lot of adrenaline, there were a lot of quick changes, and it totally confused my brain... The idea of not playing to an audience, but feeding off an audience and having a camera. I was really grateful when we added the fourth wall,' she added. For Bettany, travelling through different eras involved getting the physicality right. The actor, who has been playing the role since 2015 movie 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', said he took a lot of inspiration from veterans Dick Van Dyke and Hugh Laurie.

'Vision is always becoming something else. He's JARVIS, he's part Ultron, he's part Tony Stark. He's omnipotent. He's this naive... I realized I'll just throw a little bit of Dick van Dyke in there, a little bit of Hugh Laurie.. I think what Vision is is just decent and honourable and exists for Wanda,' he said.

The actor added that while the early eras required him to do more slapstick and physical comedy, he didn't have to work too hard in the last few episodes.

'By the time we get to the 90s, they've all made me look so ridiculous that I really didn't have to work that hard for laughs.' Feige said for the 1990s, the team relied on popular sitcom 'Full House', featuring Olsen's sisters Ashley and Mary-Kate.

He said that it was important for them to not make 'WandaVision' look like a satire and capture the real essence of these family sitcoms.

'(Family sitcoms) meant a lot to us, dated and silly as they may seem, there’s a comfort factor there. That was the primary factor behind the comic inspiration versus what led us to putting these ideas together,” Feige said.

Schaeffer said she was attracted to sitcoms for their timeless appeal.

'We had a really incredible writer's room full of people who part of our job was to keep an eye on these things. As Matt said, we zero-ed in on family sitcoms...the family piece kept us very centred. I can't speak to the larger puzzle of what the show is but that was also a piece that kept us on the right track,' she added.

Set to premiere in India on January 15 on Disney + Hotstar Premium, 'WandaVision' also features actors Kathryn Hahn as Agnes and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau.

Actors Kat Dennings and Randall Park are reprising their roles as Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, respectively. PTI SHD SHD BK BK BK