'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' Team Talks Jennifer Walters' Identity Crisis and Breaking the Fourth Wall

Jen 'can see in real time how the world treats her differently ... it completely changes the dynamics of every relationship she's in,' says head writer and executive producer Jessica Gao.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Tatiana Maslany in 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law'


Jennifer Walters had her life planned out, and her plan was coming to fruition, working as a high-powered lawyer, when she was accidentally exposed to her cousin's blood and developed the ability to become She-Hulk. Disney+'s upcoming comedy centered on Jen, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, the eponymous character is now dealing with an identity crisis, not only because of her new abilities, but also because of the way the world now treats her.

"When she's She-Hulk, she's treated very differently than when she's Jen. There's a lot of really having to affirm her intelligence when she's Jen and assert her role to try to get respect, whereas when she's She-Hulk, there's an inherent awe inspired by her. And I think Jen has a conflict with that; it's really at odds with how she wants to be perceived," Tatiana Maslany, who plays Jen, said during the Television Critics Association press tour panel for the series.

That conflict, Maslany continued, is incredibly fun to navigate as an actor, but poses emotional complications because of how Jen (and to an extent even her cousin Bruce, aka Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo) feel like "outsiders [who] don't fit in the world."

Head writer and executive producer Jessica Gao added that because "so much of perception is how the world receives you" and Jen "can see in real time how the world treats her differently ... it completely changes the dynamics of every relationship she's in" throughout the course of the series.

That includes the relationship with the audience, as Jen will break the fourth wall from time to time to address the viewers directly.

"The show is very meta and self aware in the same way that the Burn Run was very meta and self aware. It's present in the show, but it's not overpowering," Gao said.

At some points, executive producer and director Kat Coiro said, the audience will be "watching her cling onto a sense of self." But ultimately, she will have to adjust to her new duality, as Bruce did before her.

"Her anger, her largeness, her taking up space in a room, all of that is fertile ground — and playing with it comedically too. You can flip that on its head and laugh at it but you're aware that it's every woman walking into a space," Maslany said. "What is it to walk into a room as a 6-foot-7 woman, and what it is to walk into a room as a 5-foot-2 woman? I find that so rife."

"Jen is always Jen ... The fun for me was finding how she moves through space. She's not really a fighter — she doesn't really know how to do it — which was also fun to come up with: How does she fight? She's not very aware of now how long her limbs are. But also, maintaining the consciousness that's still the same," Maslany continued.

Maslany shared that she leaned into the technology on set, even the simple platforms she would stand on to shoot certain scenes, to assist with finding Jen's physical parameters when she was in She-Hulk mode. Acting opposite Ginger Gonzaga, who plays Nikki Ramos, in those moments often meant Gonzaga having to look above where Maslany's real head was, at a frozen one elevated at the 6-foot-7 mark where she would be on-screen, after visual effects were added.

"All of that stuff is discombobulating and helps in bringing Jen into this place where she's like, 'I can't connect with anybody' or 'I don't know who I am' or is a little out of sorts. That stuff really helps to sink me into that physicality," Maslany said.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has been moved to an Aug. 18 premiere date