Serinda Swan has made the journey from Smallville to the Blue Area of the Moon, and from the DC Comics television universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actress, who debuted in 2009 as the magician Zatanna during the eighth season of Smallville, now stars as queen Medusa on Marvel’s Inhumans – and she admits that diving deep into her comic book research was a big part of the fun, as she was particularly fascinated by the character’s long, complex mythology and sometimes-shifting allegiances.
“Medusa started in 1965,” says Swan, whose credits also include Ballers, Graceland and TRON: Legacy. “She's got layers. She's got different volumes of her. She's a villain one day, and a hero the next, and I think that's what makes it be timeless. You get to see all the sides of these perfectly flawed Inhumans.”
Ahead of Friday's broadcast premiere of Inhumans, Swan joined CBR and other outlets at ABC’s press day for the Television Critics Association to reveal why the role made her flip her literal wig.
Did you go back and look at the comics? You sound like you did the research on it.
Serinda Swan: Yes, absolutely. She's existed long before I have, and I think it's important that you go back and you take a look. One of the things that [showrunner] Scott Buck had told us was, "Please don't tie yourself to what you've read. Not because we don't want to do it justice, but because we're not showing every single side."
If I tried to get all the years and all of the nuances of Medusa into one show, it'd be very confusing. It'd be very hard, and it would be a failure because we'd be very schizophrenic. So what we've done is we've taken a very specific slice of who this person is, and we're showing that, and then we hope to grow it from there, through time and support.
What does excite you about the potential, knowing all the facets of her that you've read in the comic books?
How powerful she is. She is awesome! One of the things is, she stands alone. She's not an interpreter. She's not just the queen. She stands beside him. When she doesn't like something she says, she challenges him. If she leaves or gets left out of decision-making, you'll see her challenge him and say, "This is not what I'm here for."
I think she's strong and she's flawed and she's brilliant, and I think she is confused at times and I think the question on sort of the inequality is she comes from this thing. From this family where she has this belief system that the humans are not the answer. You know we did have to flee and we did have to run away. And then you see her go to Earth and she begins to make friend with the humans. So there is that beautiful balance where yes, there's always the two opposing sides, but I think Marvel does a really good job of blending the two together and finding, you know, showing the duality between both sides.
But I just love how diverse her story is. I mean, she started in 1965, you see her in X-Men, you see her in Spider-Man, she crosses over, so there's like all these little slices that I've picked up. But the common thread is her power. She is such a powerful character, and loving and loyal-ish – some episodes she's not so loyal. [Laughs]. I picked up those ones and I was like, "Oh! What happened to my husband? OK."
But you know when it comes around, when you're doing a story for that long there has to be some spice in it and this is one of the little slices you get to see: the loyalty and love in the royal family.