SHE-HULK Head Writer Jessica Gao On Big MCU Questions, No Spider-Man, A Big Cameo, & More (Exclusive)

Along with director Kat Coiro, we sat down with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law head writer Jessica Gao to talk about the new Marvel Studios series starring Tatiana Maslany, which starts streaming tomorrow!

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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law starts streaming tomorrow, and ahead of its premiere, we sat down with head writer Jessica Gao (Rick and MortySilicon Valley) to talk about developing the acclaimed Marvel Studios series starring Primetime Emmy-winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan BlackPerry Mason) in the lead role.

Gao tells us all about not wasting any time with Jennifer Walters' origin story, answering some of the MCU's most outrageous questions, bringing in different characters from all over, how one very big celebrity cameo came together, and a whole lot more. 

Check out the full video interview below!

ROHAN: One thing I really appreciate about the show is that it wastes no time turning Jennifer Walters into a superhero? There isn't like five episodes of buildup and she accepts her destiny in the finale or anything like that, she's pretty much a superhero from the jump. What was the most important aspect that you wanted to get across during her journey?

JESSICA: I didn't want to spend a lot of time with an origin, because I feel like we want to get to the meat of this. Let’s get to the fun stuff that we want to see, which is the 6’7 Hulk, having to be a lawyer and having to deal with superhero issues, but also like regular 30-something working professional issues. So, we didn't want to spend more than one episode on the origin and what happened, because we wanted to just get right to it and have the fun of the episode. What's great about half hour comedies is that you can be episodic and that was really important to be able to tell a full story - beginning, middle and end - for each episode, even though there is a seasonal arc that kind of goes through it, but you would be able to watch one episode and just feel like you watched a complete story.

ROHAN: You have Tatiana Maslany as your leading lady, who, as a massive Orphan Black fan, I know is capable of pretty much anything. When writing the series, did you have any moments where you were like “I wonder if Tatiana can pull that off?” or “Of course Tat can do that, I’m going to make this scene even crazier!”

JESSICA: After working with her, I fully believe that she can do literally anything. I think she can play any role, probably on the same show - I mean, obviously, on the same show she can play multiple roles, she's so, so talented, and this was also a physically demanding role. The amount of work she had to do, and the amount of extra things she had to do in order to play a CG character, and she did everything just perfectly and added so much to what was already on the page. I mean, truly, I genuinely believe she can do anything.

ROHAN: The show answers a big question about Captain America in the premiere - were there any other big questions you wanted to answer before the end of the season? Like, maybe what's going on with that giant Celestial in the ocean?

JESSICA: We just make a lot of references to things that have already happened in the MCU. The only times that we really had to pull back and not mention something is if we were a little too mean, poking fun *laughs*, but in general, there are little bits, you kind of just get little bits and details of - that are references to at what point we are here in the timeline, and that kind of brings back some of the things, some threads and details from previous movies that you might have felt like were dropped, or you might have felt like, “Hey, let's check in on what was going on with that.”

ROHAN: The show really makes us realize that being a superhero is kind of ridiculous. You get to pull in MCU characters from all over - were there any characters you were unable to fit into season one?

JESSICA: There were a lot of - we mined the movies and we mined the comics for characters that we wanted to pull in that we thought would be really funny to see - if we were going to use this character, what's a funny reason for them to be in legal trouble? Like, why would they end up in a trial or in a courtroom?

We pulled a lot of characters from the comics, but I would say a third to almost half of the time, we would be told that we can't use it either because there was a rights issue, or because there were already plans for them in the MCU that don't involve us, so those were always kind of bummers, because we'd get pretty far down the road where we'd already come up with a story that we kind of fell in love with before we were told you can't do it because we're already using it somewhere else or because of rights.

In terms of the MCU, I think the biggest bummer for our specific writers room was not being able to use anybody from Spider-Man because we just had so many diehard Spider-Man fans in the room.

ROHAN: No spoilers, but there is a very big celebrity cameo in episode two or three I think. Was that all written? How did that come together?

JESSICA: We knew we needed a very famous and beautiful, desirable woman, like a female celebrity, and it didn't have to be music-centric, but that would help certainly help. We thought about a lot of different kinds of people, but really, this person came up because one of our other actors knew her personally, and when we heard that we could have her, I mean, we just couldn't believe it and it was probably the greatest day of all of our lives, and Tatiana was such an enormous fan of hers that I mean, I think it was her dream come true.

ROHAN: You're working with Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige - what is the collaborative process working with him as a producer? And also, with you, Michael Waldron and Jeff Loveness, how big of a Rick and Morty fan is he? 

JESSICA: I know, I feel like, you know what, it just kept working for them, so they were like, why stop the strategy? *laughs*

I really love Kevin, working with him has been probably one of the greatest joys of my professional life, because he, I mean, I hate to add to the mounds of compliments he's constantly getting but reluctantly, I have to confirm it is true. He is brilliant. He truly is the creative genius that everybody says he is. He is, I think the best creative producer working in Hollywood today, and he's also just like a nice dude. who's very easy to talk to.

Part of the reason I respect him so much is he lets me be incredibly mean to him and he lets me bully him constantly, and I don't think any other president of a studio would ever let me do that, but he also just comes up with like brilliant ideas. There were so many elements in the show that were his pitches, and he's truly egoless because there have been times where he'll pitch a really good idea, and I'll be like, “That's great!,” and I'll use it. I'll put it in a script, and then weeks later, he'll read the script, and he'll have forgotten that it was his idea, and he'll say, “Oh, that was really smart. That was great.,” and I'd be like, “No, that was your idea, dummy.” Like, how did you forget this brilliant idea that saved the script.

Plus, check out our full video interview with director Kat Coiro below:

In Marvel Studios’ “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany)—an attorney specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases—must navigate the complicated life of a single, 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk. The nine-episode comedy series welcomes a host of MCU vets, including Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and Benedict Wong as Wong, as well as Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Ginger Gonzaga, Jon Bass and Renée Elise Goldsberry. The series is directed by Kat Coiro (Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9) and Anu Valia (Episodes 5, 6, 7) with Jessica Gao as head writer. Executive producers are Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum, Coiro and Gao, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” streams exclusively on Disney+ beginning August 18, 2022.

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