Disney+’s ‘She-Hulk’ blends the MCU with an ‘Ally McBeal’-style law show

It’s set in Los Angeles, shot in metro Atlanta

When Disney+’s latest series “She-Hulk” begins, Jennifer Walters is a typical ambitious single 30-something attorney, a more modern version of Ally McBeal or Elle Woods.

But after a car accident, the blood of her cousin Bruce “The Hulk” Banner accidentally intermingles with hers and she ends up becoming a hulk, too. (The first of nine episodes of season one, mostly shot at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, come out Thursday, Aug. 18, with new episodes coming out weekly thereafter.)

The difference: the 5-foot-4 Walters, played by Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black” fame, can control her ability to become a 6-foot-7-inch hulk at will.

She did not sign up for this. She recoils when her best friend and paralegal Nikki Ramos (a vibrant Ginger Gonzaga) dubs her a superhero, preferring to impose justice in a courtroom.

“No,” Walters said. “I did not go to law school and rack up six figures in student loans to become a vigilante. That is for billionaires and narcissists and adult orphans for some reason.”

Nikki: “You can join the Avengers!”

Walters: “Do the Avengers offer health care, maternal benefits and a pension? Are they even paid?”

Credit: DISNEY

Credit: DISNEY

Director and executive producer Kat Coiro, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said she was able to parlay her background in comedy into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having worked on shows like “Modern Family,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Girls5Eva.”

“We leaned into a very simple shooting style,” Coiro said, “so that her outlandishness as a big green woman doesn’t stand out and be overshadowed by the camera.”

Like “Fleabag,” “Deadpool” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Walters every so often breaks the fourth wall to discuss the show itself. It’s what She-Hulk did in the comic book series three decades ago. She’ll comment to viewers about how storylines converge and crack wise about appearances from Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, Tim Roth’s Abomination and Benedict Wong’s Wong.

Wong, who has appeared in many MCU movies, shows up consecutive weeks. As Walters said in the opening of the fourth episode: “Everybody loves Wong! It’s like giving the show Twitter armor for a week!”

“I saw the fourth wall breaking as almost part of her superpowers,” Coiro said. “She gains this sense of self awareness. When she is talking to the cameras, she is acknowledging the meta elements of this show.”

Credit: Chuck Ziotnick

Credit: Chuck Ziotnick

After the origin story and set up in the first couple of episodes, the show gets into the more conventional rhythms of a “case of the week” law drama while incorporating elements of the Marvel world.

Walters as She-Hulk is hired to be the face of the new “Super Human” department at a prestigious law firm because she is the only one with both a legal and superhero background. She has a blend of supportive and jealous colleagues, tropes familiar to anyone who has binged shows like “L.A. Law” and “Private Practice.”

“I’m all into tropes,” Coiro said. “I love leaning into them. You give the audience something very familiar, then go on all these crazy Marvel twists. It was definitely a balancing act.”

“She-Hulk” has the added complication of grappling with clients who may follow the Book of Vashanti, not “the book of American laws,” as she tells a confused Wong at one point.

The series is set in Los Angeles, but a bulk of the season was shot in metro Atlanta, including scenes outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown Atlanta and inside the Garden Room and Atlas restaurants in Buckhead.

Coiro herself liked Atlanta so much while shooting here that she moved her family from Los Angeles to a home near Trilith Studios.

She said Maslany was picked for the lead in part because she was already used to technical challenges having played multiple characters over five seasons on BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” landing an Emmy win in 2018 for lead actress in a drama.

In this case, she had to don an uncomfortable, unflatteringly tight gray motion capture suit (known in the business as a “mocap”) for about two-thirds of her scenes as She-Hulk.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Coiro said. “You feel very disconnected from your fellow actors and crew. You have a camera strapped to your face and you can’t see properly. I did wear gray one day in solidarity.”

It’s taken producers a year to make She-Hulk look authentic on screen. “We aren’t finished yet with post production,” she said.

Coiro hopes the unusual genre blending will draw new viewers who aren’t MCU acolytes. “There are plenty of Easter eggs and back stories for the fans,” she said. “But a huge part of my job was to make it accessible for audiences who haven’t seen every Marvel movie. At the same time, it might make them go back and watch some of them.”


IF YOU WATCH

“She-Hulk,” first episode debuts August 18 on Disney+, with new episodes available weekly

About the Author

Editors' Picks