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WandaVision's Matt Shakman Breaks Down The Show's Big-Time Reveals - Exclusive Interview

It's an understatement to say a lot has happened since the first time Looper talked with WandaVision director Matt Shakman, who served at the helm of all nine episodes of Marvel Studios' debut series on Disney+. Given the ever-changing, secretive nature of the MCU series, Shakman could only reveal so much about the creation of WandaVision before its January 2021 debut, most notably the classic television sitcom settings where Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) finally got to realize an ideal married life with her love, Vision (Paul Bettany). It's a blissful union that fans thought they would never get to see following Vision's death at the hands of Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War, but as it turns out, Wanda had a bit of (chaos) magic up her sleeve after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

In an exclusive interview with Looper prior to the series finale of WandaVision, Shakman — who brought nearly 20 years of directorial experience with him with such shows as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, and The Boys — talked about some of the biggest reveals in the MCU's first TV foray, as well as the core narrative of the series surrounding Wanda and the devastating loss of Vision.

Keeping a tight lid on the secrets of WandaVision

Hey, there's Matt Shakman again!

Hey, how are you?

Good. We talked, well, day one, at the first WandaVision press junket originally. So, thank you so much for doing this, Matt. I mean, it's funny, during the course of this thing, I mean, obviously talked with Kathryn Hahn the same day I talked with you. And then later on, I talked with Jac Schaeffer. I actually mentioned Agatha Harkness. Didn't want an answer, but I mentioned Agatha to Kathryn, and mentioned Chaos Magic to Jac, and they didn't bat an eyelash. And then, boom! These reveals come to pass. I asked Jess Hall this as well: How difficult has it been to keep all of those secrets buttoned up? They must want to burst outside of you.

Sure. I mean, I think Jess' answer is pretty good, which is that when you're making this show, you are so involved in the making of the show that you don't have anybody to tell secrets to, because the only people you see are the people you're making it with. But since we finished it and we've had to sort of like chat with press about what it could be about, it's hard to keep a straight face and to keep some of those secrets there. But I have to tell you, the person who wants to know the most is my 5-year-old daughter, who loves the show, and she is trying to get me to spill the [secrets]... and I won't do it for her.

From a personal standpoint, I can't help but think you feel elated and maybe humbled to be the guy to tell Wanda Maximoff's origin story. I mean, from her childhood to her courtship with Vision, to his death, to his revival in the sitcom world, the only world that they can find comfort in. And then of course, it's all topped off with Agatha saying, "That makes you the Scarlet Witch." That's a big responsibility to shoulder, given how the MCU fans are so over the moon about this show. But it's wonderful to be able to unpack this in a sort of way, and again, for the first time in live action.

It's great. And I'm humbled, yes, to be able to do it. I'm just a part of an amazing team of filmmakers here: Like you mentioned, Jac Schaeffer, our head writer, and Mary Livanos, our producer at Marvel, and [Marvel President] Kevin Feige, and Lizzie Olsen, who's been carrying this character beautifully from movie to movie. So all of us, we're trying to do our best to honor this amazing character, and love the comic books and love all of the different sort of Scarlet Witch stories that are out there. We wanted to try to pull together and build a story that was new and original, but that honored the past and that would send her forward into the future in a new way.

Matt Shakman on the genius of Kathryn Hahn and understanding Wanda's grief

Absolutely. Well, obviously again, we knew what Elizabeth and Paul could bring to Wanda and Vision. But again, Kathryn Hahn, having this enormous weight on her shoulders that she can't talk about right away. I mean, she was wonderful in those first three episodes, but obviously things began to expand for her. How wonderful was that to see her mow down that character of Agatha Harkness? And better yet, seeing how the fans were reacting in such an enormously positive way?

Oh, it's great. I mean, Kathryn Hahn is a genius. She's a national treasure, an international treasure, and now an iTunes chart-topper. It was so much fun to watch [her theme song] "Agatha All Along" move past Justin Bieber and the Weeknd and everybody last week. It was really fun. She's wonderful. I mean, she is the most playful of actors. And I think that ultimately, that's what acting really is, just remembering what it was like to be a kid in the sandbox and making stuff up, and there's no one better at that than her. She's so alive. No take is like another take. It's wonderful. It's magic, really.

Sure. There's a line in episode 8, which I absolutely love. Everybody online responded to it in such a positive way, too, when Vision says, "But what is grief, if not love persevering?" To me, that line is one of the myriad of reasons why Marvel is so great, because they realize there is so much more than just the heroic actions of these characters. There's so much depth, there's so much complexity. And I'm sure as you realize that fuels what is going to happen in episode 9. I don't think episode 9 would have as much impact, honestly, without the "love persevering" scene. That emotional depth is amazing.

Yeah. I mean, I think that's what's so special about the show, is that it beats with a big heart, and that it is about grief, and it's about how do you come back from loss, impossible loss [and] loss for [Wanda] — and she escaped from it and built this world, this reality. This is her own reality to find solace, and she's sort of forced to confront that again and again and again, to confront that loss. So the purpose of episode 8, really, is to shine a light on something that has been happening throughout the show, which is now, I think, if you hopefully go back and look up episodes 1, 2, and 3, you'll look at them very differently — now that you understand, "Why sitcoms?" and you understand what she's trying to recreate, and what she's lost. But this is about how you process loss, and how you process grief, and how you get beyond it.

'Not brother' Pietro and the finding balance to respect the Marvel fan base

You have a very difficult balance to pull off in this show, in that you have Wanda's "not brother," as Agatha puts it, when working with the Pietro storyline. I love Evan Peters as Pietro. And in the eyes of many people, he is their Quicksilver, he is Pietro in the Fox films, or the 20th Century films, I guess you could call them now. But obviously, people have an affinity for Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the character in the MCU as well. How difficult is it to find that balance? Because you don't want to be de-legitimizing Evan Peters' portrayal of the character in any sort of way.

Oh yeah. Not at all. I think Aaron Taylor-Johnson did an extraordinary job in Age of Ultron. And his death in that movie is a hugely important moment in that film, and he pulled it off beautifully. And it's a hugely important part of Wanda's journey as well. So Evan Peters, I love. He's an amazing actor. Brilliant. And that moment is... as we here discussed, by Agatha. She's in control of him, trying to get some information and manipulate Wanda, and it's about how far will grief allow you to go, when you want to see your brother at the door, but the face doesn't seem quite the same? What do you do?

About that tease of a Luke Skywalker-level cameo

Now, Elizabeth Olsen, of course, has teased a Mandalorian level, Luke Skywalker-type of appearance, via the MCU, coming to WandaVision. Your job as a director has been about finding the right tone and balance, and I don't expect you to obviously to reveal who it is, but how do you do so without making it any sort of distraction and all of a sudden taking Wanda and Vision and Agatha out of the picture? It's got to be really tricky to bring somebody major in — I mean, look, everybody else is major already as far as I'm concerned — but bring somebody else in, Luke Skywalker level.

Well, yeah. We're trying to tell a cohesive story that, like I said, the spine of it is about her wrestling with her grief and her loss. That's the ultimate story that we're telling. It's this romance, this love story and about what she's lost. I think if you would recall that Lizzie said that quite a few weeks ago, actually. And since then, you've seen Evan Peters, you've seen Agatha Harkness revealed, you've seen the White Vision revealed. There've been a lot of reveals since then. So, I would say, for all those who are speculating, continue to speculate, go ahead. But we have continued surprises, and there may be more, but it's a pretty busy chess board as it is.