As one of the longest-running characters in Marvel Comics — dating back to 1965’s Fantastic Four #36 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — for decades now, Medusa has been associated with a very distinguishing trait: her long red hair. Of course, it also happens to be her superpower, as the hair can stretch, lift objects and be used as a weapon.
For the first time, the character will be portrayed in live-action on the forthcoming Marvel’s Inhumans television show, debuting on Sept. 1 on IMAX theaters for a two-week run of the initial two hours, and then moving to ABC for a TV premiere on Sept. 29. Graceland veteran Serinda Swan will play the role, with the hair represented on screen by both a wig and CGI.
“I didn’t go to acting school, but if I would’ve, I would hope there would be a day on head movements,” Swan told reporters including CBR during a visit to the show’s Hawaii set this past spring.
In advance of the show’s appearance next week at Comic-Con International in San Diego, with a panel on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. in Ballroom 20, CBR has the condensed text of Swan’s interview from the set visit, with CBR and other outlets. Swan talked Medusa’s relationship with Anson Mount’s Black Bolt and the inherent challenges of playing off of a character that doesn’t speak, her excitement over sharing scenes with the CGI-rendered (but realistically adorable) Lockjaw, and, of course, working with all that hair.
What can you tell us about your character?
Serinda Swan: Medusa is married to Black Bolt. She is the Queen of Attilan, which is on the moon. Her and Black Bolt have a very remarkable relationship, because at around 14 he lost the use of his voice, obviously. If he does use his voice, it was basically like an atomic bomb. So at 14, he figured he could never speak or be around people ever again, and Medusa, being the badass that she is — and the reason why I love playing her — enters into the chamber where he is kept and they start building a language together. Over time, through love and this amazing connection, they build this sort of symbiosis between the two where he does sign, but she already knows most of what he’s saying.
Obviously, seeing that she is the queen, they get married and they rule Attilan together. She has her superpower, it’s obviously her beautiful wonderful long red hair, which is a trip to work with and lovely. But she’s a very strong, fierce, fiery character who represents her husband and herself very well.
We definitely want to hear more about that awesome power of her remarkable hair and how it’s deployed in the show, and also in what ways that affects your performance and how it’s captured.
I didn’t go to acting school, but if I would’ve, I would hope there would be a day on head movements. Like, “You grab him by the neck, with your hair!”
Is that what it is on set?
It is. And you have to learn how to do it. So you use the hand movements that you would do. That’s what I do. I do it first how I would do it with my limbs and then from there, you mimic the same facial features that you would do because that’s basically what it is for her. It’s another appendage. So yes, there’s definitely days and moments where I see things and it’s like, “Oh, I do that with my hair. Oh, it does that too. OK.” So it’s really interesting, it shows everything from protection to moves. It picks things up. There’s all of that. So it’s just learning how to use another part of your imagination.
All your co-stars have described the show as very grounded. But having magical hair that can grab stuff, it’s one of the more comic book-y elements of it. So how do you translate that into a more grounded show to make it not seem bizarre?
That’s what you do, you literally use is as a hand. If I’m going to go pick this up, I’m going to pick this up. So if I’m going to pick it up, you just look at it and your hair picks it up and that’s how it goes. So it’s the exact same, she’s so used to that.
And that’s the same thing with Black Bolt and the language, is that they’ve become so used to it that it’s part of their everyday life and nature. So it takes it out of it. Because to us, it’s inhuman. But for them, they are human. So that’s what makes it grounded, because it’s normal.
With the hair, do you have any type of wig on?
I do. I have one that’s phenomenal.
How long? Does it move?
It is really long. When I first got it on it was like, “This is amazing!” Then I went outside in the wind. It was like, “I can’t! I’m claustrophobic, what’s happening?” But yes, they have done her justice, with what I have physically and also what we have done for CGI.
Have you seen any of the CGI?
I haven’t. But I’ve seen some CGI like Lockjaw. But I haven’t seen my hair yet.
Did you and Anson read together before being cast?
Because it sounds like the way you guys communicate, you have to have a really special chemistry.
We do, we just worked really hard before it started. We found little idiosyncrasies, found the beats, found the moments. I had scenes with him and it was great. They’re like, “So, he doesn’t speak.” And I’m like, “That’s new. OK.” “Like, at all, ever. And you have to speak for him.” And I was like, “Oh, so it’s like two roles. St the same time as he’s talking?” “Yeah you’re his translator. But you can’t lose your character when you do it.” So it’s this really interesting duality between keeping Medusa’s presence and not fading away. And also honoring the king and what he represents to the people of Attilan. So we definitely worked hard.
What we’ve heard from several interviews is that the Inhumans aren’t necessarily on the good-to-evil scale in a conventional way. And Medusa in the comics was a villain when she was introduced — although she had amnesia that caused it.
What would you say about your character in terms of her disposition in that sense?
I think she’s very human. I think we all can be assholes. You know what I mean? Catch me on a day and you never know what we’re gonna be like. I think Medusa has a big heart. I think she takes her role very seriously. I think she’s had a lot of things that have happened within her past that lend toward the ruler in her. She’s tough, she’s a tough cookie. So I can see that fine line. Sometimes I read it, I’m like, “Girl, calm down. You’re getting a little angry.”
But that’s what it is, and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the king and queen. Especially with going through Terrigenesis. You don’t get to choose who you are. “I want to be a flier!” And then you get claw hands. That’s not great. So I think there’s a lot of push from the people there too.
But I think all of our characters have a fine line. They all kinda wobble a little bit. And that’s what’s great about Marvel. There’s no like, “Dun dun dun dah, I’m a hero!” I think there’s definitely room to grow within the Inhumans.
Can you talk about her costume? How close is it to the comic version?
Marvel’s pretty good. That’s all I can say. Marvel is doing a very good job at honoring who she is, and working that within the circumstances of real life.
What sets Inhumans apart from the rest of the Marvel series?
I think it’s just an untold story. The beauty of Marvel is the stories, and the characters within them. So it’s an opportunity to tell this one. I think it’s rare that a lead can’t speak and I think between the two of them, there’s a really beautiful connection and this journey that [they] go on. Because you realize if they get separated, Black Bolt can’t communicate to anybody. At all. So there is this codependence there. It’s codependence between two very independent people. That is something that is new within the world of Marvel to show. Obviously, there’s been hints and talks about Inhumans around Marvel. But this is the first time you get to see the true source of the Inhumans on the moon in Attilan.
What was your response to seeing Lockjaw? What do you think he’s going to bring to the show? Fans are very excited.
I’m so excited. Well first off, when I found out who I was, I Googled, and there’s a picture of Medusa and Lockjaw. I have a French bulldog that looks oddly like Lockjaw. Like, oddly. So, when I found out, I was like “Come on, this is my role? I was born for this role! This is amazing.” So I’m very excited about Lockjaw. One of the fans did a mockup of [Swan’s dog] Buddha as Lockjaw. I posted it. I’m so excited. Whenever Lockjaw’s on set [referring to the model used as a stand-in for the CGI character], I just go up and touch him.
Keep reading CBR for more from the set of Inhumans.
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