‘WandaVision’: Debra Jo Rupp Talks Figuring Out What’s Going On and Being Sworn to Secrecy
The Marvel Studios series is now streaming on Disney+!
Debra Jo Rupp is not your typical Marvel Cinematic Universe star. Prior to her role in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision playing Mrs. Hart, she had seen a grand total of zero MCU movies, but was vaguely aware that Robert Downey Jr. was somehow involved in them, exclaiming, “I really like him!” But now, after joining the ever-expanding universe in WandaVision, it might be hard for her to step away from it, because according to her, filming the series was “one of the most fun things I've ever done.”
Following the release of the first two episodes of WandaVision on Disney+, Marvel.com talked with Rupp about how she came to the role, what the fabulous costumes were like (even though viewers are only seeing them in black and white), and if she had any idea what’s going on in Westview.
Marvel.com: Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Did you ever think you would be joining it, let alone on a project like WandaVision?
Debra Jo Rupp: I didn't know what [the show] was. So, I mean honestly, I didn't know what it was. I had no idea, absolutely no idea. This Marvel thing is gigantic. It's just gigantic. And it's also full of nice people, which makes it even better.
Marvel.com: Were you approached for the role, and did you even know what you were auditioning for? What did you know before it started?
Debra Jo Rupp: I was called by director Matt Shakman for the role. He knew me from theater. I had worked at his theater for a time period a few years ago, two years ago. He said that they wanted someone who was familiar with sitcoms, which I am, and could also do some drama. So I just was very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.
Marvel.com: And what was your exposure to the MCU before WandaVision? Have you seen any of the movies? Are you a huge comics fan?
Debra Jo Rupp: Zero. I thought it was — well, look at my age! It's like I didn't grow up with it or anything. I thought it was a cartoon. I knew that there were Marvel comic books because I could see that in my head. But I hadn't read them. I knew nothing. I absolutely knew nothing. I knew that Robert Downey Jr. was in something because I really like him.
And then my great nephew, Johnny, said, “Aunt Debbie, if you don't do this—” because I was saying, “Oh, I don't know. It's this cartoon thing.” I had been working and traveling a lot, and I kept going, “Oh I don't know.” And he went, “Aunt Debbie if you don't do this, I will never speak to you again.” Then I thought, “Oh, well maybe I should look into this.” And then it was like, boom, boom, done. I'm so happy that I made the decision that I made.
Marvel.com: Considering how secretive Marvel is, when you started filming the first episode, “Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience,” did you know what was happening at all? Or were you just like, “We’re a sitcom husband and wife,” you and Mr. Hart (Fred Melamed)?
Debra Jo Rupp: No. I knew — well, when the director called me, and Jac [Schaeffer], the executive producer and head writer, when they called me, they said, “It's weird, Deb. We'll try to explain it.” So they tried to explain it. I understood none of it, none of it. But I heard sitcom. And I went, “Well, I know I can do that. OK. I'll do it.”
I understood nothing. And when I got there, I just kept asking questions and asking questions. And I finally pieced some stuff together. My stuff, I mean Matt was ever patient, so patient because I kept going, “What? You want me to do what? Well, why would I be doing that, Matt?” So he was very patient. And finally, finally I got it in my head. And then it was one of the most fun things I've ever done. It was so fun. It's doing two things at once. It was the best.
Marvel.com: And the first episode is shot completely in front of a live studio audience, which is something you have done before. What past experience did you bring to the role of WandaVision?
Debra Jo Rupp: Well, sitcoms are generally three to four cameras. Not one. And so I'm pretty good at knowing where the camera is, where I need to stand, and how I need to clear for someone else. I have all that pretty much down. So the mechanics are there for me. I don't have to think about that. I just get to act, and be funny, and look pretty in '50s clothing.
Marvel.com: And speaking of '50s clothing, it's all amazing. Everything I've seen, your costumes in the first two episodes. Could you speak a little bit more about your costumes, like something the viewers didn't see because the episodes were completely in black and white?
Debra Jo Rupp: Well, oh, the dress is the most beautiful sea blue. It's two pieces. But it's just beautiful. It's like a silk fabric — I think it was silk. I'm not really good with fabrics. I don't sew. I don't, but I know when it feels good. The thing that you don't see is this corset thing that I had to wear that ties you in. And it was so tight. And then there was some kind of petticoat slip thing under; there were a lot of undergarments, a lot. And it kept being layer, and layer, and layer.
But once you get it all on and get put together, you feel like you're in the '50s. You physically feel like you're in the '50s. And then the hat was to die for. Then you put the hat on and you're there. You are golden. I mean you can't mess it up because you got the hat. I loved it.
Marvel.com: And I just want to go back to the studio audience for a second, because you are a veteran of that. But Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are not. Did you give them any sort of pointers? Or did they come to you for kind of like, how do we do this with the cameras?
Debra Jo Rupp: No, I think they were very comfortable with the acting part of it. I think the unknown for them was the audience and you can't really prepare someone for that. They just have to experience it. But I have found that most actors when they get that first laugh, forget it. They are gone. They are in heaven. And I think that's what happened.
Marvel.com: You are not the only Westview resident and in Episode 2, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” we see everyone together for the first time. Did you all become friends? All the Westview residents trying to figure out what's happening in the show, or just trading theories about what you think might be happening?
Debra Jo Rupp: No. There was no theory trading. I think that we were so terrified of the “Don't say anything.” “Sign your name here.” We were terrified. I remember Kathryn Hahn talking to me and she went, “Oh, wait. Do you know [what’s going on?]” And I went, “No, it's OK. I know [what’s going on].” And she went, “Oh, good.” We were all just so nervous about [keeping] the secrets.
Look how it pays off! Watching it, it's a whole different thing to me. It's like watching a show that I know nothing about. It's so different in black and white because things become more important. And then there are little moments that I know that I read in the script, but I paid no attention to, and now all of a sudden they're blinking, or they're moving, or something. And it's like, it's great. It's great.
Catch Debra Jo Rupp as Mrs. Hart on Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
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