WandaVision, Marvel’s first Disney+ series, initially appeared to be a parody or satire of traditional sitcoms: The first two episodes played out in the style of 60s shows like I Love Lucy and Bewitched down to being filmed in black and white, and each episode since has advanced a decade with a corresponding homage: The Brady Bunch for the 70s, Malcolm in the Middle for the aughts, etc. But from episode four onward, the show has become an increasingly meditative story about grief as it turns out that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has created this false world in order to come to terms with the death of her lover, the synthetic android named Vision (Paul Bettany).
The show has also begun to fold broader events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the character of Monica Rambeau, played by Mad Men and If Beale Street Could Talk actress Teyonah Parris. Rambeau is a beloved Marvel Comics character who first made her MCU appearance as a young girl alongside Brie Larson in Captain Marvel; in WandaVision, she’s now a grown-up government agent for SWORD, currently tasked with de-escalating Wanda’s increasingly harmful alternate reality. We first meet Monica as another captive in Wanda’s fantasy world, but from episode four onward she’s been back in the real world, working to stop Wanda while being sympathetic to her grief. Parris’s kinetic performance helps to anchor both worlds as Wanda’s reality becomes increasingly unstable.
With WandaVision heading into its final stretch, GQ caught up with Parris to talk about the secretive Marvel audition process, going to “sitcom bootcamp,” , and how the show connects with the larger MCU.
What’s it been like for you to see fans figure out what’s going on in WandaVision on a week-to-week basis?
Well, at first I was really hoping that [Marvel] would drop all of them, because I wanted to watch them all and I wanted everyone to see all the secrets and everything that was happening so we could talk about it. But I’ve really been enjoying it. We don’t have those week-to-week experiences anymore and I feel like it gives everyone a chance to catch up and see it and have that conversation. Reading all of the theories, seeing the easter egg drops — it gives everyone a chance to get on the same playing field as we move forward.
Marvel can be really secretive about their projects, so when you were in the initial stages of auditioning for the show, what specifics did you know about the role?
I didn’t know much at all. I didn’t know anything about the character. I saw the sides [script pages that are being shot that day] — and I know now they were sides from Episode 3, the 70s [episode]. I was very confused. I was like, “I thought we said this was for Marvel? This doesn’t really make sense.” And it was the speech, or a version of the speech, where I was on the couch talking to Wanda. I’m like, “What am I going on about? I don’t get this.” [laughs] You know what I mean?
But they just said, “Just have fun with it, go with it.” So I went for it and that was that. I did it, sent it off, and literally forgot about it. Because that’s a part of my process — once you do something, just let it go. If it comes back around it will. It was a couple of weeks later, my agent called and was like, “It’s looking good on that Marvel thing” and I was like, “What Marvel thing?” And again, it was sides that didn’t equate Marvel to me.