Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) hasn't been She-Hulk long, but she's already killing it — though not literally.
In the series premiere of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Jen gets the ability to hulk out after being in a car accident with her cousin Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), in which they are both injured, and he bleeds on her. He then proceeds to train her so she doesn't cause unnecessary destruction, but they both find that she has a quicker handle on certain things than he did.
Jen is able to keep control of her emotions and not slip into a completely different persona when in She-Hulk mode, for one thing, mostly because she is a woman and has had to learn to keep her cool in everyday situations that otherwise would have set off her rage meter or get her murdered. But she also finds control over her She-Hulk body relatively easily, even being able to throw a boulder farther than her larger cousin does.
"What's so interesting about their training is that on the page, it was about an eighth of the page: just 'They train.' And then we saw Mark and Tatiana together, and they just had this incredible chemistry and it was very joyful. And one thing I heard them talking about was wearing these MoCap [motion capture] suits with the camera and the face kind of separated them from all the other actors and the crew, and they bonded. And so, they were kind of in their own little world, and I watched that and I was like, 'This is what we need: We need this playful energy and we need to see them enjoying being Hulks,'" executive producer and director Kat Coiro tells Metacritic.
Therefore, "a lot of the training montage came from them. We just had them in this empty space and we let them play around and do hip rotations and do gymnastics and whatever they could do, and we captured it. So much of this show is about capturing the actors' honest performance. That's what all of the VFX is rooted in," she continues.
But it's not all fun and games. Although Jen does the training, she has no intention of becoming a superhero and calls her cousin "a cautionary tale" for how he gave up his life (and gained immeasurable amounts of trauma) by joining the Avengers. She intends to go back to her normal life, repressing her abilities, and she takes off in his Jeep — after he grabs onto the hood, which means he is dragged for a little while before being thrown into a pile of boulders. He is in Hulk form, so he's fine, but he gets up still spewing concerns about wanting her to do better, which finally has her transforming into She-Hulk mode to take him on for a physical fight.
"Their big fight was really influenced by little kids fighting — by toddlers going at each other. We never wanted to feel like they were hurting each other, but rather, they were siblings fighting," Coiro says.
Still, Jen's time with Bruce sets up the end of the episode in which Titania (Jameela Jamil) bursts into the courtroom in which Jen is trying to present a case, and she has to transform into She-Hulk once again (this time to stop Titania). Although Jen showed impressive skills when working with her cousin, in the courtroom she is a bit intentionally subdued. (Clock how far she threw the table compared to the boulder, for example.)
"You have to imagine you at your place of work suddenly hulking out because you have to but you really don't want people to see it, and you really don't want to hurt people, and you don't want to cause collateral damage," Coiro says. "And all of that is also tied to the idea of feminine rage versus masculine rage: We have these male superheroes who get to rage level one-billion — they destroy whole cities — and here is this woman who could do that, but she is afraid of showing that rage, even if the cause is good."
Additionally, Coiro notes, "we never wanted her to feel like a trained fighter. It was really a lot about telling the stunt people to make it imperfect. And she is new to this and she is reluctant, and so, part of the journey of the show is watching her come into her own with these powers."
Jen was also reluctant to reveal her abilities at all. Although she had previously told her paralegal and friend Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga), exposing herself to a courtroom full of people is a game-changer for her. Luckily, she is able to put herself back together rather quickly, in part because she had the good sense to remove her shoes before transforming.
"That was a brilliant moment that the writers put on the page," Coiro says. "If you're going to transform into a Hulk, you don't want to ruin your favorite shoes! It's those details that the writers brought to it that we all just loved and really responded to in the script."
The first encounter with Titania may just be the tip of the iceberg, but, Coiro teases, "this is a legal show, and so, sometimes the fights might not be physical."
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law streams new episodes weekly on Thursdays