Today (November 12) Disney makes media and entertainment history by launching Disney+, the company’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated streaming service. The subscription video-on-demand will offer hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of film and TV content from the vast, combined libraries of Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, 20th Century Fox, complemented by the Disney-owned services of Hulu and ESPN.
One of the most exciting developments of Disney+ will be the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the TV space. While Marvel Television has produced shows for ABC and Netflix that have been tangentially connected to the greater MCU, the Marvel Studios team led by Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige is launching Phase 4 and beyond of the MCU not just with movies like Black Widow, The Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder, but with Disney+ series such as Loki, WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Moon Knight.
One of the key Marvel executives involved in both the movies and the Disney+ series is Trinh Tran. Starting as a production assistant on Iron Man (2008), she worked her way up to the role of creative executive on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016), before becoming a full-fledged executive producer on last year’s Avengers: Infinity War and this year’s Avengers: Endgame. She’s now executive producer on Hawkeye, the Disney+ show which will find Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton handing the Hawkeye mantle to newly minted superhero Kate Bishop.
Den of Geek sat down recently with Tran to discuss the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, its Oscar chances, Martin Scorsese’s recent disparaging remarks about Marvel, the launch of Disney+ and the MCU’s Phase 4, and her hopes for Hawkeye.
Den of Geek: Have you and Kevin and everyone had a chance to take a breath and process what you accomplished with Endgame and the MCU to date?
Trinh Tran: Great question. It’s like a machine here. We don’t stop. It was a little bit of, “You know what, wow, I can’t believe we did this,” in that sense, but we have so many other projects going on. So it was just like onto the next. We’re working on the future of Marvel. So it wasn’t that long of a time, and we’ve just kept going. It’s exciting. I mean, when something like this happens, we have to acknowledge the fact that there were so many people that worked so hard on it. To be able to get to where we are compared to 10 years ago when we first started, it’s an incredible journey, one I’m so, so happy to be a part of.
Black Panther got a Best Picture nomination this year, which was unprecedented for this genre. That movie also had a lot of cultural weight to it and a lot of cultural significance. Do you think Avengers Endgame could get nominated, but maybe not for the same reasons as Black Panther?
Yeah, I think Endgame to me, for Marvel, is personally one of the most emotional movies. It wouldn’t be in the same capacity as Black Panther, but I think that this movie deserves a shot at it because when I see audiences come out of it and it impacted them in such a personal way, I feel like we’ve done our job to tell the story that we needed to tell to connect with the public. And whether they connected with Tony, or Thor, or our other characters, it’s speaking to the relatability that we had with our characters to the audiences.
I have to ask your thoughts on the recent comments from Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola, the former saying that superhero movies are “not cinema” and the latter calling them “despicable.”
Well, as much as I want to talk about that, I feel like we should concentrate and focus on our amazing filmmakers on Endgame. But I will say everybody’s entitled to their opinions, and I respect these filmmakers because they’re amazing filmmakers, but that’s as much as I’ll speak of that.
The family that you’ve put together here, are a lot of those folks still involved as you go forward on the next phase of things?
I think a lot of our crew members on the previous shows leading up to Endgame have been a part of the family for over a decade. And they’ve continued on, and some of them moved on to some of our Disney+ streaming shows that Marvel’s working on as well as the features. So we tend to keep a lot of our crew in that aspect.
I love the Russo brothers and I love (Christopher) Markus and (Stephen) McFeely (Endgame screenwriters), and I’ve worked with them on the last four projects for over eight years now. Those are the core group that I’ve only sort of worked with in terms of writers and directors. So it’s really, for me, hard to let them go because I love them to death. But it’s also paving the way of getting more people in, fresh eyes in that sense. But I want to say a majority of our crew members have stuck around to continue working on the future movies.
Is it interesting or even a little scary that some of your biggest characters like Iron Man and Cap and Black Widow are going away? Does it feel almost like you’re starting over in a way?
I think it’s always — I was trying to figure out another word for scary — but it is like we’re starting over in that sense. We’ve lost a lot of our key players, but it’s also opening up a lot of doors for us to introduce a lot of new key players that we can hopefully get to the next 10 years with, and have a lot of people invested in characters like they did with Tony Stark and Cap.
So I think it’s really just leading to more that we can introduce, because there’s so many characters that we have yet to play with. And by closing that door, hopefully, I want to say like the 10-year-olds who first initially got introduced to Tony Stark, will be able to grow into their 20s and fall in love with one of our new characters that we’re introducing in Phase 4.
Which characters do you see stepping forward in the next few years?
I can’t say. I mean it’s a good question because they’re all going to be, I think, different in that aspect. We are introducing new characters in our Disney+ shows that I think can be great leaders as well as in some more feature films. I don’t know there’s anybody particular like Tony Stark, because Tony Stark is unique in his own way. So I guess only time will tell.
Certain Marvel movies incorporate different genres, with The Winter Soldier being a political thriller as the most famous example. When you look at what’s coming ahead, do you have an idea of the tone of something like Eternals or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?
I’m not 100% sure, because I’m not involved on the day to day of what are they referencing in terms of the aspects that they want to get into. I know about the sort of 70s political thriller for Winter Soldier because I was heavily involved in that particular project, so I can’t say 100% certain in terms of what they’re after in that sense because I’m not the point person for those others. But I’m sure the discussion will continue and they’ll fine tune it, and make sure that that is tonally what they want.
So if this is a normal working day for you and you get into your office in the morning, what’s the first thing on your desk that you’re working on today?
I am on Hawkeye at the moment. That’s the project that I’m spearheading at the moment. That one happens to fall under our Disney+ banner, but I’m really passionate about Hawkeye, both Clint Barton’s story as well as Kate Bishop. Introducing a new young female hero, plus just that property and that franchise interested me, so I wanted to get into that.
Do you think now we’re seeing some of the feature film characters like Hawkeye and Wanda crossing into Disney+, and with Marvel television coming under the Marvel Studios umbrella, is there any chance that we might see people like Daredevil or Jessica Jones come back into the fold at some point?
I think it’s a little too early to tell what’s going to happen, so I think there’s going to be many more discussions of how are we going to keep the MCU interconnected in a way. I think that’s always going to be an ongoing discussion, but I think it’s a little too early to tell what’s going to happen in that sense.
Marvel recently unveiled a two-year Phase 4, but some big titles like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Captain Marvel 2 were not in there. Will they be included in perhaps an extension of Phase 4, or will they be part of Phase 5 and possibly another Avengers film?
I think we still need to continue talking about that. We have all of these titles that we’ve revealed and we felt this was a confirmation on our end that this is what we want to do. So past that, it’s still up for discussion what characters and what franchises we want to explore.
At Comic-Con, Kevin mentioned mutants and the Fantastic Four. Is that too early to talk about those?
It is. Because we are so focused on what Phase 4 is right now and making sure that we are delivering these films to the best of our abilities, anything after that is still in discussion and we’re talking about it. Where we’re landing hasn’t been confirmed. But yes, he did throw out a ton of names. And those will all be great at some point in time.
What are you most excited about out of that group?
They’re all so different. I think I’m excited in different ways for a lot of the titles that he had mentioned. Like I said, I’m excited about introducing Kate Bishop because she’s going to be somebody new who’s a young girl who’s going to eventually take over the mantle one day.
I’m excited for Shang-Chi because just the idea that this is a different culture in that sense. I mean, they’re just all very different because the genre and the tone that I think we want to be able to tell, it’s all going to hopefully feel different for audiences.
Diversity seems to be a watchword of the Marvel Universe going forward.
Yes. I think we’re always striving just to make sure that how can we relate to the audience the best that we can, and especially with the world we live in. So I think diversifying our characters and our properties, we’re definitely being mindful of that and trying to head towards the right direction for that. As you can see with all the titles, they’re very different compared to the past.
Do you have a premiere date yet for Hawkeye?
No…I’m not sure if we’ve actually confirmed this, to be honest with you. It’s coming in about two years.
Are your duties changing with Kevin recently getting the promotion to chief creative officer? Does that alter the way the rest of the team is organized?
I think we’re always continuing to do what we’re doing right now, and then we’ll see where the future holds. But as of now my focus is on making sure that this Disney+ show is going to be the best story that I’m able to tell.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye