Home Entertainment WandaVision’s first episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience

WandaVision’s first episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience

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There’s a lot about WandaVision that is still just guesswork for us. One thing we do know for sure though is that Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ miniseries will be unlike anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before. Literally. As the first trailer confirmed, the show will see Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany’s Vision living an idyllic suburban life in what appears to be a fake world (maaaaaaybe created by Wanda) that takes its cues from classic American sitcoms from the various decades the characters cycle through. And Marvel is leaning into that aspect even further than we thought.

The first episode will be pulling from iconic 1950s/1960s sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, etc. We’ve already seen glimpses of the black and white presentation, costumes, and tropes that will be on display, but in a brand new feature by Entertainment Weekly, it’s revealed that the premiere episode was even filmed in front of a live studio audience to provide those signature laugh tracks. To nail that authenticity even more, Bettany was painted blue (instead of his normal crimson tones) to pop more in black and white, while director Matt Shakman (who was a child sitcom actor himself) eschewed CGI and instead used wire tricks and clever camera angles to pull off Wanda’s “magic”, just like was done on Bewitched back in the day. Hell, they even shot on the very same sound stages as these shows.

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For Olsen, this was a bit a throwback. Her older sisters are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twins who played Michelle Tanner on 90s sitcom Full House. Olsen grew up visiting those sets, seeing how these shows were made, and now she had to do it herself.

It was insanity. 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].

For WandaVision, Olsen and Bettany would rehearse scene entrances and exits like a live stage play, which “terrified them more than any Marvel supervillain” at first. But once they got the live audience laughing, they apparently dove right in and didn’t want to stop, as Bettany explained.

I thought, God, I’ve ruined my whole life [laughing]. I should have been doing sitcoms all this time.

We were all so high by the end of it, we wanted to keep on running the show. Maybe take it out on tour or something. WandaVision on ice.

So how did this incredibly unconventional approach to a superhero show come about? Well, just like so much of the MCU’s unprecedented success, it’s all thanks to Marvel boss Kevin Feige. The fan-favourite exec came up with the idea of putting Wanda and Vision (the latter who is supposed to be dead – another mystery to solve) in this “strange fantasy world of suburban bliss”. His inspiration came from the fact that he is a “self-professed sitcom nerd” who has made it a habit of watching reruns of old shows daily.

I would get ready for the day and watch some old sitcom because I couldn’t take the news anymore. 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.

Showrunner/lead writer Jac Schaeffer continued, saying that “The show is a love letter to the golden age of television.”

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.

And new territory is correct. Had COVID-19 not reared its ugly head, it would have been Black Widow that kicked the MCU’s Phase 4 in cinemas earlier this year. It would also have been The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that would have been Marvel’s big miniseries debut on Disney+. With cinema closures and production shutdowns though, its meant that both those tasks have now fallen to WandaVision. No pressure.

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And Marvel is not holding back here. WandaVision may start off like a small 50s sitcom, but it most definitely doesn’t stay that way. And that bigger picture filmmaking style is something the studio has already proven to do better than anybody else, as exec producer Mary Livanos explained:

It’s really incredible to be able to tell a long-form story the way the comics did. In a sense, [a TV show] is a multi-issue comic-book run, which is something that, from the Marvel development side, we totally do understand.

Actress Teyonah Parris added that “I was like, ‘Oh, I thought we were doing a little show,’ but no, it’s six Marvel movies packed into what they’re presenting as a sitcom.” Parris will be playing Monica Rambeau, the grown-up version of the little kid we first met in the 1990s-set Captain Marvel.

The details of her role in WandaVision are still being kept quiet, but the plan is for her to show up Marvel’s movies further down the line. Not surprising seeing as how in the comics she’s a big-time superhero herself – even bearing the mantle of Captain Marvel for a while – who made history as the first African-American member of the Avengers.

I feel so special and honored to be able to walk in her shoes and bring her story to life. I hope that me playing this character (a) gives a group of people who are underrepresented a chance to see themselves, and (b) seeing my face and my Black body helps them engage with Black women and our humanity.

Another new face in WandaVision will be Agnes, “the prototypical nosy neighbour” usually found in sitcoms. The trailer appears to hint that she has a much bigger role to play but Hahn is not spilling any beans, simply saying that “I’ve always loved that gasp of human magic that [these characters] have.

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Speaking of magic though, this is very much Wanda’s show. The name was probably a giveaway. We’ve been teased that WandaVision will finally see Olsen’s character fully become the Scarlet Witch persona of the comics (and we’ve even been treated to glimpses of her in-costume, though that may be another fake-out) complete with her full power set. According to Olsen, Feige apparently had her reference very specific Scarlet Witch storylines – though she won’t share which ones – in preparation for diving deep into the character.

It’s been the biggest gift that Marvel’s given me, getting to do this show. You get to just focus on her and not how she felt through everyone else’s story lines.

I already felt like I had ownership of her because Marvel always encourages you to be part of the process. But even more so now, I feel I have a really strong sense of ownership. If anyone wanted to ask me a question about the future or just a question about what she would think, I feel like this time has provided that.

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As for Bettany’s Vision… well, he thought he was done with the MCU after Thanos ripped the Mind Stone from his synthezoid head in Avengers: Infinity War killing him. So imagine his surprise when a return in a groundbreaking miniseries was pitched to him.

I thought I was being brought in to be let go. I thought Kevin was doing the decent thing and bringing me in, and he and [executive producer] Louis [D’Esposito] were going to tell me, ‘It’s been a great ride, and it’s over.’ So it was a really pleasant surprise for me and my bank manager, too, obviously.

WandaVision really is shaping up to be something momentous. Not just for its unprecedented presentation, but it’s new status as Phase 4 opener. And if that wasn’t enough responsibility, Feige has confirmed that the miniseries will directly set up the events of 2022’s Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness, in which Olsen will co-star with Benedict Cumberbatch (If you have some time, you may want to check out my crazy idea about how that would all fit together).

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WandaVision won’t be unique in this approach though. As Feige explained, of the seven – yes, SEVEN – Disney+ shows that Marvel currently has in development, all of them will connect to past or future MCU films. And it all begins with this trippy, decade-hopping sitcom-that’s-also-six-movies, which is apparently a great entry point for newcomers.

If you haven’t seen any of them and just want to step into this weird thing because you love The Dick Van Dyke Show, it’s going to work. “But if you’ve been tracking the 23 movies we’ve made and following along the stories into Phase 4, there’ll be a wealth of rewards waiting for you as it all unfolds.

The six-episode WandaVision is currently scheduled to premiere on Disney+ in December, though an exact date has not been revealed yet.

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Last Updated: November 11, 2020

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