WandaVision: Behind the Scenes Of Marvel’s First Sitcom With Kathryn Hahn

Marvel Studios is kicking off Phase 4 with the sitcom-style WandaVision, and star Kathryn Hahn is there for it.

Kathryn Hahn in WandaVision
Photo: Marvel Studios

After a year away due to the pandemic, Marvel Studios is finally kicking off Phase 4 of its ongoing, expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe with…a sitcom.

WandaVision, which premieres Friday (Jan. 15) on Disney+, stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the supernaturally powerful Wanda Maximoff and the equally enhanced synthezoid Vision, with the newly married couple navigating life in suburban Westview, a black and white setting right out of classic half-hour comedies like The Dick van Dyke Show or Bewitched, complete with live audience.

But since Vision was killed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Wanda was not just traumatized by his death but dusted herself by Thanos (only to return, thirsting for vengeance, at the climax of Avengers: Endgame), we have to wonder: how is Vision alive, why are they here, and what is behind this clearly unreal scenario?

While WandaVision will feature returning Marvel characters like Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from Ant-Man and the Wasp and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from the first two Thor films, in addition to its two super-powered stars, the nine-episode show will also feature new personnel, such as archetypal nosy neighbor Agnes, played by Kathryn Hahn with a perpetually cheerful smile and air of smug contentment — with something else lurking under the surface.

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While we have no doubt that more will come to light about Agnes — and the rest of the strange goings-on in the town of Westview — in the weeks ahead, Den of Geek had a chance to speak via Zoom with Hahn (also known for voicing Doc Ock in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) about recreating the sitcom vibe, filming the premiere in front of a live audience, what the future holds for the show and more.

Den of Geek: What was the pitch to you about what the show would be and what Agnes would be?

Kathryn Hahn: They brought me into a conference room with Matt Shakman, the amazing director, and Jac Schaeffer, the writer, and Mary Livanos, our amazing producer, and then they walked me through the arc of the series. Being a little bit of an MCU newbie, they had to go through it a couple of times. But I was just so excited by the ambition baked into it. I couldn’t believe that it could be pulled off at that level.

They told me that I would be playing, basically, the sitcom nosy neighbor trope, that would also be following alongside this couple as they hurdle through these different decades of sitcom history. So I knew that I’d be able to play with different kinds of comedy, just culturally, how we would look at comedy, all of it. So I was very, very excited.

Did you have favorite sitcoms when you were growing up?

There’s so many when I was growing up. They’re just baked in there. Golden Girls was a huge one for me, Family Ties was a really big one for me, just that family. What else? Three’s Company. Loved it, for sure. So many. And then before that, Laverne and Shirley. I loved that show.

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Did it sink into everybody how pervasive these things were to all of us? Plus profesionally, Matt actually starred in one as a child (Just the Ten of Us), Elizabeth’s sisters starred in Full House…sitcoms are part of everyone’s lives in some ways.

I think they’ve touched all of us, the sitcoms, in some way or another. It’s just something that’s baked into our collective consciousness. Just our first viewing experiences have been through the lens of those sitcoms and hearing that laugh track and the comfort of knowing that it’s going to be resolved in the end. I think that there is something, and all of us had some sort of connection to it, in some way or another. I certainly have had failed multi-camera pilots in my past that I could draw from. But at least I had the experience. It’s baked into all of our consciousnesses, I think.

The first episode was done in front of a live audience. What was it like getting into that headspace?

Well, not only was it shot in front of a live studio audience, but I think the cameras were actual period cameras, the lights were period lights. I think (everyone) had period clothing on. So the whole thing felt very much — we just were able to play pretend for a couple days that we were actually in that era. We rehearsed it like a play. That kind of comedy, to look as relaxed as it appears, takes a great deal of rehearsal ahead of time for a lot of those bits and the timing of the doors and yada yada.

I think comedy wise, we’re a little bit more cynical now. We want to have a wink on everything. I love a little bit of anarchic comedy myself. I love to improvise. And there was something about the earnestness of just having to really step inside a world that wasn’t cynical. It was a very hard tone to find, because it’s so antithetical to how we are comedy wise. That was a real challenge and so fun.

As comedy has become a bit darker and more cynical over the decades, does that also happen as you go through the eras of the sitcoms in the show? Does it also get reflected in the costuming?

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Yeah, for sure. It all evolves.

At the same time, how does the character of Agnes evolve? We’re obviously going to learn some more about her. Is it possible that she may have a counterpart in the Marvel Comics canon that may be revealed to us at some point?

I think that there is definitely more to be revealed for everybody that’s involved, and everything that you’ve seen so far in these first couple of episodes. I can only say that it’s going to be constantly evolving and constantly shifting what you think is around the corner. And it will hopefully continue to surprise you. I know I was surprised when I read it for the first time. But yeah, it constantly shifts whatever you’re thinking is around the corner.

You said you were relatively an MCU newbie. Have you gotten more into it since joining the show?

My kids had to be like, “It’s an Infinity Stone.” So I was pretty new. I’ve been able to be introduced to it through them. But I will say, through even watching the movies, the little domestic heartbeat between Vision and Wanda was always so interesting to me because for a world that is so loud and big and expansive, and the stakes are so high, to have this little domesticity in the middle of it was really, really interesting to me. And then to know that this show is going to be able to burrow down into the two of them and be able to really have the luxury of time to get to know them better was very exciting.

Also, to answer your question, I did do a little bit of Scarlet Witch and Wanda Maximoff comic book reading, and boy, is that a dark story. Holy moly, there’s some darkness there.

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Do you think that there could be a future for Agnes in the larger MCU?

Who knows? But I would say that clearly in this world anything is possible. What I’m learning is that the rules are that there really are no rules. So who knows?

How was it working day to day in this universe that Marvel has created?

As a newbie again, I think what I was so surprised by and so excited by was how intimate it really felt for something that was so big. I’m telling you, putting on that show in front of the live studio audience, it felt like it was just this little band of actors with this little group — knowing, of course, that there were hundreds of incredible artisans working so hard on it.

But Matt Shakman, Kevin (Feige, Marvel Studios president) and Mary really created this bubble to make it seem very, very intimate. My hat’s off to Matt for doing that. It’s a real trick that he pulled off, that within this enormous world, he was going to make it feel so personal and so human and so between the people. So for me, it felt very similar to other work that I had done, which I was surprised by. I thought it was going to feel really different.

WandaVision premieres Friday, Jan. 15, on Disney+.

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