What joining the MCU means to Olivia Colman and Emilia Clarke
It has been 15 years since Samuel L. Jackson made his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) via an uncredited cameo as Nick Fury in “Iron Man.”
The six-part espionage series “Secret Invasion,” which debuts on Disney+ today, marks the 74-year-old actor’s 14th production as the founder of the Avengers and former director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But a lot of things have changed since Thanos’ devastating snap in “Avengers: Infinity War”—even for Nick Fury himself.
“This is my second appearance [in the MCU] after the snap,” Samuel told journalists at the “Secret Invasion” press con held last week. “Fury’s been gone for a while. He’s been sort of incognito and has been up there on S.A.B.E.R., his space station, for years. It’s been so long since he’s been in touch with people.
“These days, Fury’s older; he’s tired and a little vulnerable. He’s got a bad knee now, and he’s not so happy. He’s not sure of his footing anymore. But he came back to Earth because he’s been summoned. And we’ll see what happens.”
We’ve seen the first two episodes of the Disney+ series so far, but we’re already learning a lot more about Fury himself than we ever have in 15 years of MCU productions.
Isn’t Samuel afraid that lifting the veil of mystery would weaken his character, or is the intention to “deepen” Fury?
“Well, the more you find out about him, then the more you’re going to like him. Now I like him even more,” he quipped. “It’s like peeling the onion and having a good time [doing it].
“Before this, I never had an in-depth scene with Don (Cheadle, who reprises his role as Col. James Rhodes in a scorching, must-see confrontation with Fury). We’ve been waiting to do this for years and years, you know? So it was wonderful to have that little abrasive confrontation happen between them—and that’s some new information!”
‘Invasion of Earth’
At the press con, Samuel was joined by Marvel boss Kevin Feige, producer Jonathan Schwartz, director Ali Selim, Cobie Smulders (who plays Maria Hill), Ben Mendelsohn (Talos), Cheadle (Rhodes, aka War Machine), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Gravik), Olivia Colman (Sonya Falsworth) and Emilia Clarke (G’iah, Talos’ Skrull warrior daughter), who stars in her first TV series four years after “Game of Thrones” ended.
In Marvel Studios’ new show, set in the present-day MCU, Fury learns of a clandestine invasion of Earth by a faction of shapeshifting Skrulls, led by Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), the young mastermind behind a rebellious faction of the alien race whose mission is to take over Earth.
Fury joins his allies, including Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), Maria Hill and Talos, the Skrull leader who has since made a life for himself on Earth after the events in 2019’s “Captain Marvel.” Together, they race against time to thwart an imminent invasion and save humanity.
Rhodes, like Fury, has evolved in his post-Tony Stark era. Don shared: “Rhodey is in a different role here. Now we see him more as a political animal than we have in the past.
“He was a military man, but he’s now in some ways a right-hand man of the US president … like a special envoy. And I was really looking forward to watching him get under the hood of who he is and seeing how his relationships had evolved, not just with Nick Fury, but also with the other MCU characters.”
Another relationship that the series digs into is the once-shatterproof bond between Fury and Maria Hill which has become strained since the blip—with good reason.
Cobie explained, “The relationship is quite strained because she’s been calling Fury, and he hasn’t been answering. [He’s been ghosting everyone.] Having said that, getting a chance to revisit Maria and Nick was really exciting for me to come back to because working with Sam is my favorite thing in this line of work (a few seats away from Cobie, Samuel is seen laughing) … Sam laughs, but it’s true.”
Grander scheme of things
Since every Marvel movie or TV series has a role to play in the grander scheme of things in the MCU, Kevin disclosed what “Secret Invasion” was tasked with accomplishing.
“There are story points that people will see in the course of the series,” he noted. “Jonathan came into my office a number of years ago, when we were thinking about what kind of shows to do on Disney+.
“He came in with this idea of translating the great secret invasion storyline from the comics in a darker, grittier spy show, which we hadn’t done yet.
“We love doing different genres, so this is an attempt to really dive back into things we touched upon in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier,’ but hadn’t in a while … to really delve into the tone of a spy show. And seeing a very different dynamic between Fury and Talos in sort of our ‘90s buddy action movie.”
Chiming in, director Ali Selim, who directed all episodes, said, “It’s a very human show surrounding Nick Fury’s story. He’s human, but he does have his own version of superpowers, although they’re not like superhero-type superpowers.
“It’s a story about him putting his feet back on the ground once again. And I like that because I love human-scaled stories that come from the heart … stories that reach for a universal appeal rather than the reverse of that.
“I liked the espionage, political-thriller element to it, so we went back to look at [the Orson Welles starrer] ‘The Third Man’ and Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Conversation,’ which are very grounded. So I hope we brought enough of that to create the tone we wanted.
“And then, without spoiling this, there’s a point in the story where Fury realizes that this is his own battle, and he sort of becomes a classic American western hero. Thereafter, the tone sort of shifts in the later episodes to that of Nick Fury as someone like John Wayne.”
Diving into the series’ intriguingly bleak but bristling development are MCU newbies, Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman, who show an undeniably creepy and sinister side to her affable, likable countenance.
Asked what attracted her to this particular title in the MCU, Emilia, hot on the heels of an enviable body of work that includes “Game of Thrones,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Terminator Genisys,” said she found the project irresistible because of its formidable cast.
“I was drawn to this because of all the people sitting right here with me—like, literally,” she said, gushing. “Who on Earth would ever not want to work with these incredible guys? It’s like, even a single one of these people on his or her own is enough. So yeah, that’s why.”
As for the scene-stealing and perpetually sublime Olivia, who won an Oscar for portraying Queen Anne in 2018’s “The Favourite,” she said she was just thrilled at the chance to finally work with Samuel.
Ribbed by Samuel about what he described as “the first explicit love scene ever in the Marvel Universe” between Fury and Olivia’s character Sonya—it’s a joke, dear readers—the actress countered, “Yes, the two characters have a lovely ‘friendship.’ Although, Sonya does quite like to bully Fury with her heavies (laughs). It doesn’t strike me much as a friendship, but they’ve got history.
“They trust each other … but maybe they don’t! Oh, God [I’m spoiling it] … I’ll never be invited back to another Marvel press conference. Under all this makeup, I’ve gone very red! Ugh, I can’t remember anything about it now, so you’ll all just have to wait and see.”
Indeed, while Olivia has had a marvelous acting career, there was never a superhero in sight for her—until now. Why did she join “Secret Invasion”?
She admitted, “After every Marvel movie has landed in cinemas, I found my agent and said, ‘Please, can I be in a Marvel film?’ Either she got fed up with me calling her nonstop or it just finally happened. So it wasn’t because ‘Secret Invasion’ came calling.
“Any mention of the word Marvel and I went, ‘Yes, please!’—so that’s why I’m here. And I had an absolute ball! It lived up to everything that I was hoping for.”
Did the other Marvel alum offer any advice to Emilia and Kingsley for stepping into this world, other than “Don’t spoil anything, or Kevin Feige will get you”?
Emilia answered, “As you know, I’ve been well-prepped in ‘spoilerland-ness’ (laughs). I’m always trying to be careful of spoilers, and people are like, “For real, no, we just saw the darn movie. Like, tell us exactly what happened!’
“So yeah, I was aware of that. But what I can definitely say is that it was the warmest, most gorgeous, safe, lovely, happy and playful set I’ve ever been on.
“So it’s less advice in being in the world of Marvel. You know you’re coming into the top of the tree … you’re there, and then you find that everyone who’s there is just having a really good time. That’s kind of how it felt.”
Ben added, “There’s nothing like Marvel, really. They are the best people you’ll ever get to work for. In my 40 years as an actor, no one comes close to working for Marvel.”
“Yeah, they really look after you,” agreed Kingsley. INQ