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She-Hulk director wanted to make a sex-positive show that kids could also watch

She-Hulk smashes

She-Hulk walks down a dirt path in a blue dress with white polka dots Image: Marvel Studios

A history of breaking the fourth wall gave Marvel and Disney Plus’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law permission to break pretty much any rule in the established MCU. But what truly opened doors for the creative team, series director Kat Coiro tells Polygon, was Tatiana Maslany’s take on Jennifer Walters, the hustling lawyer under She-Hulk’s gamma-irradiated green skin. Jennifer was decidedly not larger than life — at least not in human form. And without a ticking-clock evil-villain premise pushing her in every direction, Marvel got to explore superherodom in a totally unique way.

“The thing I always loved about the show were the smaller moments and being able to see a superhero coming home and kicking her shoes off after a long day at work,” Coiro says. She cites Ant-Man as one of her favorite Marvel movies, simply because it has the “little kind of peeks at normal life.” And while Coiro was thrilled to stage Daredevil hallway fights and the momentary season finale brawl between Hulk, HulkKing, Abomination, and She-Hulk (which she reveals, thanks to a loopy schedule, was the first scene she actually shot for She-Hulk), she was excited to take the series to uncharted places in the MCU — specifically, the bedroom.

“We always felt like there was a fear around sex and around the idea of sex positivity,” Coiro says. “So it was our job to keep having the conversation. We wanted to say, Look, she’s a woman in her 30s navigating modern life; sex is a part of that story, and [ask] how far could we go.” Maslany was game to take the character there. “I know it’s something that’s very important to her, this idea of sex positivity and kind of smashing the rules when it comes to women and the way that they’re perceived. A lot of the conversations about sexualization in the show came from Tatiana, and were with Tatiana.”

With a resume littered with character-driven comedy — recent gigs include It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Girls5Eva, and the recent Jennifer Lopez rom-com Marry Me — it’s no surprise one of Coiro’s favorite moments in season 1 was teeing up a classic rom-com moment after Jennifer and Matt Murdock hook up. “I loved filming the little scene at the end [of episode 8] where we get to pan across their superhero suits. It’s an homage to the tropes of all the early-2000s rom-coms where you pan across clothing, but this time it was batons and helmets.”

Jennifer lounges on the couch with a big grin on her face saying “Oh we’re happy.” Image: Marvel Studios

She-Hulk is easily one of the horniest shows currently streaming on Disney Plus, and for that, one of the most refreshing. But Coiro says that her goal was still to deliver a show that could play to the broader, youth-skewing Marvel audience. The director says She-Hulk is the first show she’s ever really worked on where she was receiving voicemails from 9-year-olds begging to hear what happened next. And her parents and friends who normally didn’t watch Marvel movies were hooked on She-Hulk. There was a greater responsibility and challenge to make She-Hulk be everything for everyone, without losing its commentary. “We wanted to make it realistic, and about a woman navigating sex, but also make it something that everybody can enjoy, including children, because there is an element of the show that is really fun for young people,” she says.

Coiro, She-Hulk creator Jessica Gao, and the rest of the writers didn’t just think outside the box for Jennifer’s debut, they smashed their way through it. So is there room for her to return elsewhere in the Marvel universe?

“Two of the things that really stood out to me from this season were Jennifer and Bruce’s chemistry and Jennifer and Matt Murdock’s chemistry,” Coiro says. “I know that Daredevil has an 18-episode show coming out, so I could definitely see our She-Hulk appearing there. And then there seem to be hints that there might be some Hulk movies, and I could definitely see She-Hulk joining Hulk and in whatever adventures he’s gonna go on next. But you know that that really is a mystery. And only KEVIN has the answer.”

Coiro’s next project is a episodic reimagining of The Spiderwick Chronicles for Disney Plus, but she says she’d absolutely come back to helm more She-Hulk. “I have a very eclectic resume because it really is about connecting to a character and never about genre,” she says. “And I found She-Hulk to be one of the most collaborative experiences of my life.”

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