Wanda Maximoff may have been the first person to officially break the fourth wall in the MCU — sorry Deadpool, you were technically doing it before Disney acquired 20th Century Studios — but Jen Walters is taking it to an art form in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” And that aspect of the show is one that required a bit of finessing from the series’ star and director.
“It was really about cultivating a friendship between Jennifer, She-Hulk, and the audience so that when she turns to speak to the camera, there’s a connection,” director Kat Coiro explained to TheWrap. “And we talked a lot about that, Tatiana and I, about how she could really, you know, connect to the audience and draw them in. And then after she developed that relationship with the camera, it was really about finding the balance so that we could draw the audience in, but not doing it so much that we alienated them from the story in the world that we were building.”
Granted, the team took a swing in having the first fourth wall break comes in the first 10 minutes of the premiere. It happens as Jen Walters (Maslany) sends her colleagues out of her office just before she enters the court room. She uses that break to explain “Yeah, I’m a Hulk” and catch viewers up on how she got to where we find her.
But, it becomes clear that the first fourth wall break of the show isn’t the first fourth wall break of Jen’s new life. That comes back on Hulk Island — that’s not actually what Bruce’s (Mark Ruffalo) safehouse is called, but it just fits — as she’s helping her cousin rebuild his bar. When Bruce tells her that he understands if she wants to return to her old life as a lawyer instead of becoming a superhero, and that he’ll respect her choice, Jen turns to camera and tells viewers “He doesn’t mean that.”
“That was one of those magical little moments where we had planned for that to be the first time she breaks the fourth wall,” Coiro said. “The discussions were very much like, she gains all these superpowers in terms of strength, and height, and speed and agility. But also she gains this new level of self awareness that leads her to know that there’s someone else out there. And so that little moment is where she realizes there’s somebody else driving her story. There’s somebody else watching her.”
The moment seems to even surprise Jen herself, as she realizes what she’s just done. And that feeling is something that Tatiana Maslany took great joy in playing.
“For me, it spoke to some of the deeper themes of the show,” Maslany told TheWrap. “Just Jen’s transformation, her ability to stay in the same consciousness and to stay herself throughout this transformation, says so much about how she, as a human woman, has moved through the world, and how she’s dealt with her emotions, and how she’s had to repress them or push them down or control them. And the address to camera, while it’s just also funny and like fun to bring people in, it’s also a wink to her hyper-consciousness. She’s so aware of all of the mechanisms in play around her and where she fits into them. And to me that’s like this amazing double meta thing that the show is doing that feels very resonant to me and very kind of alive as a woman.”
But, the synchronicity of that moment — when Smart Hulk and She-Hulk turn move their heads in complete unison, as if Bruce is in on the fourth wall break as well — was all natural. According to Coiro, Maslany and Ruffalo were really just in tune with each other and unexpectedly moved as one.