‘She-Hulk’ Tatiana Maslany on Marvel Publicity and Mark Ruffalo’s Ad Libs

Jen Walters never asked to be a world-famous superhero — and she certainly didn’t ask for the name “She-Hulk.” In the glare of Marvel’s advertising spotlight, it’s something Tatiana Maslany, star of the new Marvel series “She-Hulk: Lawyercan identify with.

“Yeah, I’ve always related to that idea as an actor,” says Maslany, who plays both the ambitious lawyer Walters and the super-powered green giant she transforms into after an encounter with the Hulk, thrusting her into the public eye in a way that is both intoxicating and troubling. “I’m very private, and I want the character to be the thing that people relate to when they see a movie,” Maslany continues. “I don’t want them to be like, oh, yeah, that’s Tat in a wig. I’d rather you could suspend your disbelief and walk into a story with me. So push or be, you know, myself, it’s always felt like a weird byproduct of this job that I don’t quite get. I don’t quite understand why it goes hand in hand with that.”

It feels ironic that we’re having this conversation during the food frenzy of promotional activities surrounding this new Disney Plus show, but Maslany smiles as we chat over Zoom. “I also like to have conversations about work,” she says. “I don’t usually do things that I don’t want to discuss part of it afterwards.”

Streams from August 18 Disney Plus, the 10-episode series also stars MCU mainstays Mark Ruffalo and Benedict Wong, with Tim Roth, Ginger Gonzaga, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jameela Jamil. Showrunner and head writer Jessica Gao, who previously worked on Robot Chicken and Rick & Morty, is leading the show a show that is the most comedic entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.

Watch the trailer to get a taste of the show’s comedic tone, where Jen worries about her love life as much as her superpowers.

If it wasn’t weird enough for an actor to see himself on screen, there’s an extra layer of seeing yourself massive and green. Especially since Maslany didn’t see her final performance until months after filming, when visual effects magicians transform her into the computer-generated character we see on the show.

“It’s such an incredibly crucial component to the success of this show and to believe in this character,” she says, “this collaborative experience that I have with VFX artists that I’ll never meet, but we’re building this character together . Whatever I’m doing in the day, they identify with it and they reinforce it.”

Maslany has a long background in improvisational comedy and theater, but technical considerations put some limitations on the set of She-Hulk when CG characters must interact with real-world scenes and people. For example, Jen in her giant Hulk form towers over everyone else in the room. “It’s choreographed to the point that sometimes I walk on a platform, so I have to stay on that platform,” Maslany explains. “I can’t kind of jump off it and run around. But what’s super surprising is the moments between Mark Ruffalo and I where we’re both in mo-cap [motion capture suits] are some of the moments where we improvise the most, where we physically did things that we hadn’t planned.”

She-Hulk: Attorney At Law stars Mark Ruffalo and Tatiana Maslany in their CG forms.

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel

When Ruffalo and Maslany are both in Hulk form during a scene together, the actors were free from the constraints of interacting with non-CG characters. Maslany cites a training montage in episode 1 as a mix of scripted action and improvised moments. One of her favorite ad libs was Ruffalo jokingly calling her “Fuzzball” because of her curly hair, which you’ll see the last show picked up and ran with. “A lot of the improv made it to the VFX team and made it to the screen,” she says, “so it’s kind of a hidden joy in doing this—it doesn’t limit you as much as you might expect.

Maslany is best known for playing multiple clones with distinct personalities in the sci-fi series Orphan Black, which ran from 2013-2017. The show won her an Emmy Award, two Critics’ Choice Awards and five Canadian Screen Awards. She has also appeared in Heartland, HBO’s Perry Mason, Diary of the Dead and Destroyer, as well as co-starring with Bryan Cranston on stage in a 2019 Broadway production of Network. She will next be seen in the AMC series Invitation to a Bonfire from the 1930s.

She-Hulk is a part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universejoins Moon Knight and Mrs. Marvel in the year’s calendar. Other things upcoming Marvel shows include Echo, WandaVision spinoff Agatha: House of Harkness and three new animated shows: Marvel Zombies, Spider-Man: Freshman Year and a revival of the much-loved X-Men cartoon from the 1990s. It will be followed by Phase 5.

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