In what may be one of the most baffling admissions made by a creative attempting to promote their work, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law head writer Jessica Gao has revealed that the upcoming Disney Plus series was originally pitched, greenlit, and developed as a full-blown legal procedural up until its writers began their duties and suddenly “realized none of us are that adept at writing rousing trial scenes”.
Speaking with Variety as part of She-Hulk’s press tour, Gao was asked by the outlet’s senior entertainment writer Adam B. Vary if she could detail her “initial pitch” for the series, to which she recalled, “My pitch for the show is pretty close to the show that you’re watching.”
“All the kind of key foundational elements were there,” said the writer. “Emil Blonsky/Abomination was always in the pitch. Bruce was always in the pitch. I didn’t know if I could use them. I didn’t know what their relationship was to Abomination anymore. But I thought, you know what? This is what I want — so I’ll just pitch it.”
“Thankfully, they liked all of it,” she concluded.
Despite these elements being shared with her original vision for the Jade Giantess’ solo outing, Gao disclosed that the series was actually conceived with a much different tone and focus, as “when I went in, it definitely skewed a lot more heavily towards Blonsky’s trial.”
“In my original pitch, it was an actual trial and it spanned multiple episodes,” Gao told Vary before turning to the ostensible main reason her initial vision for She-Hulk’s MCU debut never came to pass.
“When we got into the writers’ room, inevitably things change as you’re developing the show and as you start writing,” explained the writer. “And one thing that we all realized very slowly was none of us are that adept at writing, you know, rousing trial scenes.”
Gao would also provide insight into how she handled Shulkie’s signature fourth-wall breaking gimmick, noting to Vary that her initial pitch heavily referenced the drama series Better Call Saul and Fleabag, latter in particular for its fourth-wall breaking protagonist.
“I love fourth-wall breaking, and if I had my druthers, it would just be nonstop — and it really was kind of nonstop in the early phases,” she exclaimed. “It was so much that Marvel was like, “OK, calm down, this is too much. She can’t just be talking to the audience the entire time.”
Teasing what could have been – and in the process revealing that, if any positive can be found in She-Hulk’s production, it may be the fact that Marvel was able to help audiences dodge this particular bullet – Gao elaborated, “I might have really overdone it because at a certain point, they even asked me to do a version where there was no fourth-wall breaking, but there was still kind of a meta kind of nature to it.”
“I really love editor’s notes in comics, and so for a span of probably several months, there was going to be editor’s notes that kind of popped up in little text boxes on the screen, and then she would actually acknowledge the editor’s box and argue with the person who was writing the notes,” she added. “Then we scrapped all of that and decided OK, let’s just let her break the fourth wall: But you know, not as much.”
The head writer also detailed how the exact comedic tone she “wanted for the show from the outset” was, essentially, just one overdrawn ‘fish out of water’ joke.
“My favorite type of comedy is taking a very high concept thing, like an extraordinary being who is a Hulk, and then grounding them in the minutiae of everyday life,” asserted Gao. “That’s the funniest thing to me, taking an Avenger who just yesterday saved the entire universe from destruction, but today, on a Wednesday afternoon, they have to do laundry.”
“On the weekends, they have to go see their mom for dinner or listen to their mom bitch at them about not giving her grandchildren,” she continued. “They have to pay their bills and clean their kitchen.”
Giving one final hint as to what viewers can expect of She-Hulk’s writing, Gao recounted to vary her pitch process for the scene in the Tumblr level scene wherein Jen inquires to her cousin as to whether or not his Avengers teammate, Captain America, is a virgin.
“We just started putting it in scripts,” she said. “There used to be a season-long runner where the thing that is constantly gnawing away at Jen is this question of whether or not Steve Rogers had ever had sex. You just regularly see her like googling it, talking about it. You got the sense that she was just constantly pestering people in her life, this question that was burning away at her soul.”
“I can’t describe to you how thrilled and shocked I was that not only was Kevin on board with answering the question, that he supplied me with the canon answer,” the writer concluded.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law hits Disney Plus this Thursday, August 18th.