[This story contains spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode five, “Mean, Green, and Straight Poured into These Jeans.”]
She-Hulk director Anu Valia has directed 22 episodes of television since 2020, which is an impressive feat considering how challenging TV production has become in the pandemic era. Three of those episodes feature Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk, and Valia, like many people, assumed she knew what a Marvel set would look like. Instead, she found that there’s a lot more creative freedom than you’d expect from the greatest franchise of all time.
“It was such a collaborative, creative experience, something I may not have realized I was going into. You think of Marvel as this huge machine, but it really isn’t. Kevin [Feige] cares so much, but there was more freedom than I expected,” says Valia News Kidda.
In a recent conversation with THRValia also discusses the mind-boggling way Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) has been treated since becoming She-Hulk.
So who gets credit for the genius title card, She-Hulk: By Titania?
i think it is [head writer] Jessica Gao. The idea of the whole show is to play with your expectations of what you think the show is going to be and keep doing that. And so it’s fun to play with the title cards that way.
What was the most responsive to the material before you got the job?
When I read the scripts, I thought, “Oh my God, what they’re doing with She-Hulk is really fun.” First of all, the issues Jennifer Walters experiences in her daily life are so contemporary and truthful. And then add this new identity that she didn’t ask for. So I felt so close to her when I read it, and it’s just a really funny show. I thought, “Oh man, I really want to be involved.” And then you just try to get that job, honey. (laughs.)
Did you get a peek behind the curtain at Marvel? Have you seen their FBI sign with all the red strings connecting their many different projects?
(laughs.) Yes, there are many different things to keep in mind. Once you’re there, you’ll get stuff downloaded to you, and then you’ll learn what you need to know. But they don’t tell you what you don’t need to know. There are a lot of smart minds out there.
Every job has a series of firsts, so what were those up for you? She-Hulk?
Yes, on every job you learn something. This show took some time and I learned so many technical things. This was the first time I ever worked with a full CGI character as a show lead. And while I was working on the show, I learned about balancing the tone. I also learned so much from the actors. It was such a collaborative, creative experience, something I may not have realized I was going into. You think of Marvel as this massive machine, but it really isn’t. Kevin [Feige] gives so much, but there was more freedom than I expected.
It’s absolutely crazy to me that She-Hulk’s dates, like Arthur, showed no interest in Jen Walters himself. I just can’t get my head around that.
It’s funny you say that because I’ve been thinking a lot about that too. It’s so beautiful what we are discovering, how much it hurts. It’s not like she cares about that guy [Michel Curiel’s Arthur] so much, but what hurts is the fact that he wouldn’t have liked Jen. And the way Tatiana plays is so beautiful and so real. But I do understand what you’re saying. It’s like, “You don’t like Jennifer Walters? She’s hot!” So I hear you about that. I don’t buy it either. (laughs.) She’s so cool. But the gist of what’s being explored is like, ‘You like this other side of me, but not both sides? So am I.” It’s confusing.
Hopefully Matt Murdock doesn’t treat her like that. That doesn’t sound like his style. Does your closing Daredevil tease mean you should start working with Charlie Cox?
(laughs.) You don’t want me to answer that, do you? Sure, I’m scared to answer some of these questions, but I really think the joy of this show will tune into next week. So I don’t want to share things that you are going to discover.
Renée Elise Goldsberry was on fire in this episode. That football line was laughably funny. Could you feel she was in the zone on set?
She is an incredible actor. So much of her stuff is actually on the cutting floor floor, which is a shame because it’s a half-hour comedy; it can’t all fit in there. But she’s so funny, and she’s just an all-star actor. I love her.
Since 2020 you have directed 22 episodes of television and since 2020 you have aired 20 episodes. How did you manage this at a time like this?
I don’t know! (laughs.) I’m a guest director on a show like this. Other directors and showrunners and creators are laying the groundwork, and hopefully I can come in and be additive and find my own personal connection to the story, which I did a lot on She-Hulk. And hopefully what I give will be received. I’ve been so lucky to work on shows where I feel so close to the main character or the storyline or the bigger themes. So I’m really very lucky. Who knows, maybe work just flies up so I have to take it while I can get it. (laughs.)
Given your previous collaborations with Sarah Goldberg, why didn’t you direct? Barry yet? You orchestrated everything else, so who do we blame for this?
Oh God I would love to direct BarryBut listen, Bill Hader does it all, honey. (laughs.) He doesn’t need another director.
She-Hulk now airing on Disney+. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.