‘She-Hulk’: The Creative Team on Smashing the Fourth Wall
“She got green, she got big, she got strong, and she gained an awareness that there's somebody else driving the car."
Did you see that? Yeah, you. She-Hulk is talking to you.
Marvel Studio’s She-Hulk is unique for a variety of reasons — because first off, it’s a “lawyer show” — but even more distinct than that, Jennifer Walters wants to let us into her world. Like, literally, bring us right along with her because guess what? She knows we’re watching her.
She-Hulk, the character, has been breaking the fourth wall for over three decades now, starting with SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK (1989), written and penciled by comics creator John Byrne, which head writer Jessica Gao turned to when crafting the character for television.
“The John Byrne run made me fall in love with She-Hulk in the first place, and to me, that is the most iconic run of She-Hulk,” She explains to Marvel.com. “The thing about that run is the fourth-wall breaks and how meta it was, and how she would argue with Byrne, and she would argue with the editor, and she would make fun of comic book tropes. She was aware that she was in comics.”
When it came time to actually make a show about the character, Gao knew there needed to be fourth wall breaks in the series, too, calling it “quintessential She-Hulk.”
“Fourth wall breaking is foundational to who this character is,” She continues. “There is no universe, in all the multiverses, where I would have made a She-Hulk show without a fourth-wall break.”
The fourth wall breaking happens after Jen is turned into a Hulk herself, even starting the series off by cluing viewers in that this is going to be a different kind of MCU journey. Considering her frank candor as she runs through the good and the bad of what’s happening, it feels like Jen is talking to us, as friends, that’s the point.
“We talked so much about how to incorporate the fourth wall breaks into the show, and one of the most important things was having [star] Tatiana [Maslany] and the camera develop a relationship,” Director and Executive Producer Kat Coiro explains. “She's not just talking to a camera, she's talking to a friend and that camera becomes a confidante.”
This gave the creative team behind-the-scenes the ability to really pull back the curtain in a way that’s never been done before, because “at the end of the day, we know she’s living inside a TV show,” Coiro continues. “We were never afraid of the audience being aware of the way the camera moved and really leaning into certain filmic conventions.”
This also lends itself to Jen and She-Hulk as a character, with Coiro adding that she thinks of “the fourth wall breaking as an extension of her superpower.”
“She got green, she got big, she got strong, and she gained an awareness that there's somebody else driving the car,” Coiro says.
As for what’s everyone’s favorite fourth wall break, surprisingly they all happen within the first three episodes of the series. For Coiro, it’s the very first time it happens in Episode 1.
“I'm very partial to the first moment that she realizes that there is somebody or something out there, when she's building back Bruce's bar. She turns to the camera and then he turns and sees her, and they turn back, kind of, what was that? It was such a magical moment that happened organically on set.”
Gao and Maslany’s favorite fourth wall breaks happening Episode 3, with Maslany loving the part where Jen takes her hands off the steering wheel to note that this is not a “cameo of the week” show. Gao, meanwhile, cites a truly laugh-out-loud moment later in the episode.
“My absolute favorite fourth wall break is when she and Nikki and Pug are sitting at the bar, and Pug joins Nikki in the booth. And then, you just see Jen's little head pop into frame, and she goes, ‘Connecting the A and B stories? Nice.’”
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