Serinda Swan on Medusa and Black Bolt’s Unique Relationship in ‘Marvel’s Inhumans’
When Marvel’s Inhumans was filming earlier this year in Hawaii, I was able to visit the set with a few other reporters, where we watched filming and talked to most of the cast and filmmakers. I learned a lot about the upcoming show and over the next month, I’ll be posting a lot of cool content revealing how the show came together and what fans can look forward to.
If you’re not familiar with the series, based on the Marvel comic, it’s doing something incredibly cool and unusual. The first two episodes were filmed using IMAX cameras and will premiere globally in IMAX theatres for a two-week period, beginning September 1, 2017, and then ABC will air the entire eight-episode series beginning September 29th. It’s an incredibly ambitious idea, but one I can’t wait to see.
While on set, I got to participate in a group interview with Serinda Swan (who plays Medusa). During the wide-ranging interview she talked about why she wanted to be part of this project, her relationship with Black Bolt (Anson Mount), filming in IMAX, the cool practical sets, how she’s always wanted to be part of the Marvel family, the challenges of palyign against someone that can’t talk, and a lot more.
Finally, before getting to the interview, check out the first teaser trailer for the series followed by the official synopsis:
“Marvel’s Inhumans” explores the never-before-told epic adventure of the royal family including Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding King of the Inhumans, with a voice so powerful that the slightest whisper can destroy a city. After the Royal Family of Inhumans is splintered by a military coup, they barely escape to Hawaii where they are greeted with surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them. Now they must find a way to reunite with each other and return to their home before their way of life is destroyed forever.
“Marvel’s Inhumans” stars Anson Mount as Black Bolt, Iwan Rheon as Maximus, Serinda Swan as Medusa, Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon, Isabelle Cornish as Crystal, Ken Leung as Karnak, Ellen Woglom as an undisclosed character, Sonya Balmores as Auran and Mike Moh as Triton.
The series is executive produced by Scott Buck, along with Marvel’s Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory with Buck serving as showrunner. Roel Reiné directed the first two episodes. This series is a Marvel and IMAX project and is co-produced by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.
Question: So tell us about Medusa and what’s so unique about her.
Serinda Swan: That’s a very broad question. Medusa is… I find her unique because there’s a duality between her and Black Bolt that I don’t think has necessarily been seen before. Because there’s two very… there’s an immense codependence between the two between two very independent people, so when Black Bolt goes through his terrigenesis at 14 and loses the use of his voice, there’s that acceptance that he’s never gonna be able to speak again. There’s massive loss with his parents, there’s everything. And so there’s this isolation and one of the reasons I love Medusa is that she doesn’t care that he can kill her with a whisper and she walks right into his chamber and starts a friendship. And, together, they create this language. Together, they create this connection. And it’s from nothing. It’s literally from nothing. There’s nothing that you can really use. He has to make every word. Figure it out. They have this symbiosis that keeps them intertwined, which I love. And so, obviously, through childhood, they create this language together. Then, they get married.
She becomes the queen and he becomes the king and, through her, he can rule. Because, without her, he can’t. There’s nobody to talk to. I mean, he could, but then it gets really lonely after he talks. But I love her because she’s very powerful. She’s very independent. She doesn’t get lost, even though she’s speaking for the king, she doesn’t get lost within his thoughts. They’re very combative, at some points. It’s very much a marriage, but a super-marriage, a superpower marriage. And I love their connection. I think that’s one of the things we haven’t seen on Marvel before is that… I mean, we’ve never had someone who can’t speak in that capacity, so I think watching the two of them figure it out and watching the two of them have that connection already is really beautiful. And that’s something Anson and I had to find when we first got here. It’s like, OK, when you learn your language, I need to sit there. I need to see on a very small scale what that would be like over the years, so that we can kind of mirror that connection on camera and have that connection.
It’s been a big learning process for you guys in many ways — obviously, the fact that you didn’t have full scripts when you came here, it’s being shot in IMAX. Has that been the most helpful thing to you in the process, your doing all these firsts, these new things, together.
The first two episodes are specifically in IMAX. What can you tease about the scope and scale that people haven’t seen in a Marvel show in the opening two hours.
I mean you said it all there: IMAX. That scale that IMAX brings in. It’s incredible. It was like shooting a feature. So I think everything is bigger. I think there’s a lot of attention to detail. I think they had the time and the resources to be able to make sure that everything’s done right and everything is honoring as much as we can. Because the Inhumans have been around since, what, ‘65? I think they first came out in Fantastic Four, like #45 or something, and they’ve been around for awhile. And there’s a lot there to cover. There’s a lot there to use. So I think, with IMAX, I mean I got to see some of the dailies, and they look beautiful. They look absolutely beautiful. And it’s big. Lots happens. I’m trying to figure out what can I say, what can I not say. But, yeah, having IMAX involved definitely brought us to the next level.
We had a chance to walk through some of the sets here, and it’s huge and it allows you to have the walk-and-talk. How is the script to have this kind of liberty, this freedom?
It’s wonderful. It’s great. One of the things is that, when you have someone who can do such great set design, or who has a vision on a grand scale, you don’t limit it as an actor. So you don’t walk to the end of the room and you’re like, uhp! [And they’re like:] On camera, it’s gonna look massive. But it’s a 10×10, what do you want us to do? And because there’s a lot of CGI and things like that. But [on this set] they really built things to scale here and that’s great. And that’s part of IMAX coming in with Marvel. Originally, this was going to be a movie, so they had this in their mind in such a large way that it’s really cool to see them not compromise on that when they brought it to ABC. There’s walk-and-talks. There’s run-and-talks. I mean I could do like a ballet-and-talk in there.
Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of fighting. I don’t know how much talking we’re doing, but we’re a bit of a dysfunctional family.
What would you say was the most exciting part of being in the Marvel universe?
I think joining the Marvel family. I think that’s something that’s really exciting. I have actually always wanted to be part of the Marvel family. I was on Smallville way back in the day, which is DC, but I remember just being like,‘I love this community. I love the people. I love how much they care. I love that, as soon as [Inhumans] was announced, I got all these drawings of me and my dog — I have a French Bulldog that looks like Lockjaw — so they’ve been doing these Lockjaws out of my French Bulldog, which I’m like, who does that? Who cares this much? And that’s what I love about the Marvel community. And I get to play a super-strong queen with magical hair.
What can you tell us about the visuals of Medusa?
Very striking. She is very close to what you would see if you would Google her. She definitely honors the character, that’s for sure. You’ll definitely see the long red hair. The first time they put that one me, it’s down to here. She has to have control of it because one gust of wind and I’m eating it, it’s like attached to a tree. I’m sitting there, thinking, how do I pull this in? So it’s very much… her look is very, very similar to what you would expect.
You talk about being part of the Marvel family. One part of the family is the children, the fans of Marvel. Are you ready for that level of fandom and scrutiny and love that comes with that.
Yeah, because here’s the thing. One, it’s a job. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, it has to do with my job. Who they love is Medusa. I get to be honored to bring her to the screen. And I look forward to hearing what they think and some of these people have known her a lot longer than I have. I’ve done my due diligence. I’ve really dug into who she is. I’ve tried everything I can. And I love her. So I’m excited to see the people who love her as much as I do and love her more and start on that journey. So, I think there’s the division between who I am as an actor and who I play. But she’s really exciting to play, and I’m looking forward to meeting… like, sometimes when people come up and they’re like, ‘I’m so excited to meet you!’ I’m like, ‘I’m so excited to meet you.’ I’m still in that phase where I’m living my dream. I’ve living what I’ve always wanted to do and to do it at this level and to have this spotlight and to have this community within this spotlight… sometimes you just get that spotlight and it’s just because it’s a movie. Great. But this is a family and so I get to come up into this super loving, amazing family and celebrate at the same time. So, it’s like my success is also the success of another. So, yeah, I think I’m ready. Ask me in like six months.
Can you talk about when you signed on, what they told you about the arc of the character or what they teased you about the arc? How much do you know?
I don’t know hardly anything. What you guys could do research on Medusa and kind of the perils of her life is, I would say, what they pulled from. But we don’t know much. I know that scripts are still being written as we speak, so there is a lot of mystery for everyone. Obviously, I knew what was happening in the first two episodes. I was able to get a grasp on that. But, even when I auditioned, I didn’t know what the project was. I just knew that I got an email and, once you opened it, you had 24 hours and then everything disappeared. I was like, ‘It doesn’t like explode? This isn’t Mission Impossible? What is going on here?’ And so you have to learn your lines in 24 hours and you don’t get them so, when you go into audition, you have nothing in your hand.
How difficult was it to work with someone who can’t talk?
It’s not. Anson is an incredible actor. The work that we did beforehand definitely helped because I know all the words. So, if he goes like this [does a movement with her hands], I know what that word is. If he goes like this [does another movement with her hands], I know what that word is. I know what this is. I know what this is. I know what this is. So he can actually do a speech and my words match what he’s doing exactly. So that’s what we wanted to do so next time you see ‘in’ or ‘jumped,’ it’s not something completely different. So, we’re building this language together. One, for the fans. But, two, for the connection between him and I so we have that, ‘Aw, you’re kind of like Black Bolt right now and I’m kind of like Medusa. We’re learning this language together.’ So, just to put ourselves into the situation as much as we can. But definitely when it comes to, when I read a script, and it’s like ‘Medusa and Black Bolt. And Medusa Black Bolt. And Medusa and Black Bolt.’ And we have this conversation, and I’m like… ‘Oh no. That’s not a conversation. That’s like a monologue because I have to say it all. OK.’ So, that, as an actor, it’s like taking on two roles. But I have an amazing partner in Anson. He does an incredible job, and we’re up to the challenge. Because of how big this is, we’re trying as hard as we can.