'WandaVision' Director Explains Why the Series Didn't Introduce Wiccan and Speed (Exclusive)
By John Boone
WandaVision is a show about saying goodbye, but in the process of getting to that final sendoff, the series introduced quite a few characters from the comics into the MCU, including centuries-old witch Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), a fully superpowered Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), White Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch herself (Elizabeth Olsen).
And although WandaVision brought in the titular couple's immaculately conjured offspring, Billy and Tommy, and even revealed their respective power sets, the series stopped short of aging them into their teenage comic book counterparts, Wiccan and Speed. Instead, "The Series Finale" ended with Wanda taking down the Hex and, in the process, breaking the spell that created her kids.
Following the finale, ET caught up with director Matt Shakman, who helmed all nine episodes, to discuss the super-twins, deleted scenes, unanswered questions and, of course, Ralph Bohner.
ET: It was clear the ways in which the first episodes were different from anything Marvel had done before. When you get to the finale, what with all of the action and special effects we want in a Marvel movie, how were you able to still make it feel like you were putting your specific fingerprint on it?
Matt Shakman: The story that we were always telling was the story of Wanda dealing with her grief and her loss. That story plays out in small but powerful ways in the earlier episodes. She's living out this fantasy in this world she's created, and we learned from the penultimate episode that she doesn't even really know how she created that world, so she's in denial in a way. But we see the grief and the trauma breaks through from time to time, and we're building towards a finale that's all about, "How is she going to accept the loss of Vision? How is she going to accept who she really is -- this new persona, The Scarlet Witch, that's pulling her towards her future?" The story was always the same story, it just changed how we told it. That's what I loved about working on the show. Even though it felt like it was making these big turns, it was always following a really strong emotional spine. It's a beautiful love story, and it's also a meditation on how we come back from loss. That's consistent throughout.
It's safe to say everyone lost their minds with the big Scarlet Witch reveal, seeing Lizzie assume the mantle and appear in that costume for the first time via this explosion of power. Break that down for me. How did you arrive at your vision for that sequence?
Lot of conversations about when that would happen, would that happened early on, and then would the battle between Agatha and Wanda be a battle between the Scarlet Witch and Agatha Harkness? But we really loved this idea of identity being the crux of that fight. It's the same thing that's driving the Vision fight too. "Who am I? Who is the real Vision?" And here's Agatha saying, "You think that you're one thing, but you're actually this other thing completely." And Wanda's saying, "I'm not that thing. I'm not that thing," until she gets to the end and she's like, "I am that thing." And like a Phoenix reborn from the ashes, she allows herself to basically die. She comes right to the edge. All of her power is taken from her and then she pulls it all back and in an explosion becomes herself. And she says, "I don't need you to tell me who I am." So, it's about identity, and when we finally latched on to where we felt it would play best structurally, the pieces kind of fell into place.
Fans have been waiting to see Lizzie in that suit for a long time. What was her reaction the first time she put it on?
She is so practical. I love her. [Laughs] She is so practical that she immediately put it on and she was like, "OK, I can do this move and I can't do this move. And I need to be able to do this move." We were like, "Great!" So then we have to re-engineer it, because those suits are tough. I mean, it's one thing to look amazing. It's another thing to actually function. And she knows what she has to do better than anybody, having done this for years now. She's so adept at the physical work -- she's beyond adept at every part of her job -- so she was quickly picking apart how it would work. But I do remember vividly when she emerged in that outfit, we were in a dusty field across from our soundstages in Atlanta at the S.W.O.R.D base that we had built in this field, and she was cloaked and brought over surrounded by umbrellas and all sorts of things to hide her from any paparazzi photographers. And then we took off the cloak and there was the Scarlet Witch. That was pretty awesome.
That's a moment. I hope they filmed that for the making-of doc. What sort of say does Lizzie have in the aesthetics of the suit? Does she bring specific things she wants to see?
Oh, definitely. We consulted with her. I showed her the art as it was coming along and she loved it, I think. She was really excited about it. She was also really excited about her Halloween costume, the classic Scarlet Witch look. She loved that. Hats off to Andy Park and the visual development team at Marvel, they're amazing. We went through many different versions of what that would look like before we landed perfectly on that one. The crown was obviously the biggest discussion. We started with a much smaller one, because your initial instinct is, how big can you really go? Because it's so big in the comics. And then we quickly realized, go big or go home! So, we got bigger.
Tommy and Billy play such a large role in the back half of the season. Having been a child actor yourself, how does that inform the way you direct the child actors in your cast?
I'm deeply empathetic having gone through the experience -- I know how it feels -- and so I try to make it as fun and as comfortable as possible. I remember how I felt around directors that I admired and the tone that they created when I was a kid, and I want to try to create a similar tone. And that's true for everybody, though. I think that's true for kid actors and adult actors. It's really important for a director to create the proper tone on set where you feel like you can take bold risks. It's that rule of improv. Yes and. There was no no, really. It's, "Let's try this. Let's try this. Let's try this." I think that works whether you're working with a 70 or 80-year-old actor or whether they're working with a 10-year-old actor. Everyone needs to feel permission to try things.
I was never too caught up in the theories about Mephisto and the multiverse. But I did think that Tommy and Billy might age up one last time in the finale to fight alongside their parents. Did you always know the twins would stay 10 through the remainer of the series? Or was there ever talk of aging them up to that Young Avengers-Wiccan and Speed age?
No, we wanted to keep them at that age. Wanda has obviously missed out on the first 10 years of their life [which] went by really fast, so we didn't want to deprive her of even more time with them. And once we got to know them, we had so little screen time with 10-year-old Billy and Tommy that we wanted to take advantage of what we did have to get to know them really well as people. There's so much innocence there. To have them age up one more time, I think, would have been unfair to those actors and those characters.
You revealed that you shot a whole Goonies-esque sequence with Darcy and Monica and the twins in Agatha's basement facing a demon. With the movies, we can expect to see some of that cut material someday in bonus features. Do you know if Disney+ has plans to release any of that?
That particular sequence, no, because we never finished it. We abandoned it pretty early on, because we were reformatting the structure of the finale and it no longer really had a place, despite having done some great shooting on it. So, there exists no version of that that could be released. In terms of other things being released, potentially!
The only legitimate complaint I saw people have with the finale is that there wasn't enough Dr. Darcy Lewis, so you need to get that footage to the people somehow.
We would love to. The schedule was tough, because we had to stop and come back and schedules didn't always align. So, we did hope to have a few more scenes with Kat [Dennings] in the final version, but we just weren't able to make the schedules work, unfortunately. But I think the way she comes in and takes out Hayward is pretty great.
We have to talk about Ralph. Evan Peters is so good in this, but you got a lot of people's hopes up that he was playing the same Quicksilver from the X-Men movies. When you started to see the viewer reaction, did you have any concerns knowing your reveal was Ralph Bohner?
No, I didn't have any regrets. We were doing a couple of different things there that I'm proud of. One is that grief can sometimes cloud your ability to look at the world in a clear way, and it can also make you bargain -- to borrow from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross -- and when Wanda sees Ralph at the door, she wants to see Pietro and she's willing to allow herself to see Pietro. Which is, again, about grief and about how we grieve and the lengths that we're willing to go in order to try to bring back the people that we love. He's being controlled by Agatha -- he's there as her minion, as we know -- and he's trying to get information out of her.
So, the fact that it's not the Pietro that we'd met before works on so many different levels. I think if we hand't answered "Who was Ralph?", there would have been an upper as well, so you got to meet Ralph. He's been living in that house and Agatha moved in and life changed dramatically for him. Plus, as a show that was playing with meta, there's been a lot of sit-com recasting, and we were having a good time with that idea of the second Darrin. For the fans that were disappointed, I'm just going to say: you know that those things are coming, right? The multi-verse is coming. Mutants are coming. So, there you go.
A theory I love is that Ralph Bohner is Jimmy's witness protection person and he chose that name for himself. Are you able to confirm who the witness protection person is?
Not as yet, but stay tuned.
One more clarification I hope you can offer me: What happened to our friend the S.W.O.R.D. agent beekeeper when Wanda rewinds his ass out of Westview? Where'd he go?
I'm sure that he got turned back into a guy in a hazmat suit. He's probably wandering somewhere around Westview, New Jersey, looking for some S.W.O.R.D agents to help.
Last we talked, you told me about having lunch with Dick Van Dyke and how he let you pick his brain for the series. And I told you, "People are going to start to suspect there could be a Dick Van Dyke cameo." We saw him in episode 8, in The Dick Van Dyke Show, but Wanda can create any reality she wants. Did you ever attempt to enlist Mr. Van Dyke for a cameo?
We didn't. We knew that he would have an important role to play in that flashback scene. And that really was the best way to have him be involved. We didn't want to populate Westview with sitcom cameos. We intentionally moved away from casting a well-known sitcom person, for instance, as the doctor. There were a lot of opportunities where we could have, but this was the town of Westview, New Jersey, that Wanda had come into and turned into her sitcom. So, why would it be full of famous people? Why would Dick Van Dyke be in that world? It's just the town of Westview, New Jersey, when all is said and done.
All episodes of WandaVision are now streaming on Disney+.