This week Marvel's new Disney Plus outing, Secret Invasion, snuck onto screens with every ounce of sauveness, slyness and intrigue needed to join SHIELD itself. To celebrate its debut, FILMHOUNDS joined an exclusive press conference to unearth all the secrets we could from Samuel L Jackson, Kevin Feige and their team of shapeshifting skrulls and sneaky secret agents.
Joining the conference was a room full of leading creators including Kevin Feige, Jonathan Schwartz and director Ali Selim, and Marvel stars, both old and new. Amongst the MCU alumn were Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury), Ben Mendelsohn (Talos), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) and Don Cheadle (James ‘Rhodey' Rhodes), alongside an iconic line up of eager newbies including Olivia Colman (Sonya Falsworth), Emilia Clarke (G'iah) and Kingsley Ben-Adir (Gravik).
With the cast of spies, skrulls and executive producers seated, the secrets swirling, and Samuel L Jackson already swearing… it was time to begin!
The tone of the conference was established early, as a reminder of Samuel L Jackson's vast 15 year/14 project long history elicites humour and familiar bad language from the Marvel legend: “Really? I was in there a year and didn't do shit? I mean, didn't do anything?” As laughter rang out across the room, it was clear we were in for a fun time. And the energy only built from there.
Beginning with a quick note from Executive Producer Kevin Feige on the timing of the show, Feige is noticeably clear: “Now is the time because it was finished and ready to go. Ready to be released to the world.”
And when asked about the show's in-universe timing, the answer was equal concise: “The present day MCU. It exists basically along the timeline that the shows come out in.” “Was that an answer?” Samuel L Jackson interjects.
Following with his own update on where Nick Fury is in this timeline of the show, Jackson leds the Marvel alumn in a brief segment of ‘where are they now?' According to SLJ, this is Nick Fury's “This is my second appearance post-snap, and he's been kinda gone for a while. He's a little tired, a little vulnerable, but coming back to Earth because he's been summoned. And we'll see what happens. “He's got a bad knee now so he's not so happy.”
With Secret Invasion focusing on Nick Fury particularly, Jackson notes the unfurling layers of Fury that dominate the narrative: “Well, the more you find out about him, then the more you're gonna like him. The more I like him.”
No stranger to spoiler attempts, SLJ is particularly witty with his response to what exactly we may learn about the former-SHIELD director. “We go to his house. We don't know if it's a condo. What kind of furniture does Nick Fury have? Can he cook? Cooking with Fury. That sort of thing…Nick Fury happens to be the generator, and he leads you to all these other people that are really, really, really, really interesting.”
Jumping to a shapeshifting update on skrull Talos, Ben Mendelsohn reminds us of his brief but iconic appearance in Spider Man: No Way Home: “I did the whole of Spider-Man. Are you trippin'? You forgot about that? That was a really tough job.”
“Now, we're finding Talos in a difficult time.” Of course he won't be tempted into spoiling the new show: “But you're not gonna get this spoiler out of me, so stop trying.” Although Mendelsohn and Emilia Clarke do joke about the excessive amount of planes and ducking that dominates their on-screen appearances: “A lot of ducks and a lot of planes. That's the only spoiler you get.”
Cobie Smulders discusses her character's return to the post-blip MCU: “I think Maria Hill came back and someone else was sitting in her desk, and immediately kicked them out and got to work. I think there was just a mountain of cases to get to, which is part of her resentment towards Fury, 'cause he was not around.” This evolving work relationship between Hill and Fury remains a key aspect of their enjoyment making the show.
“Working with Sam is my favourite thing,” Cobie notes. “He laughs, but it's true. So it was really exciting to come back, but speaking about strain, the relationship is quite strained because she's been calling, and he hasn't been answering.” Jackson elaborates: “[The blip] definitely has a mental health effect on you, and, you know, it causes a different kind of rift between you and the people that you're supposed to be close to. Like I said, I haven't been returning her calls.”
Thinking back to their first meeting during auditions for The Avengers, Jackson describes, “we were actually talking last night about the fact that I remember meeting Cobie for the first time at the screen test. Because I screen tested with all the people that were trying to be Maria Hill. She killed it.”
Another long-time member of the MCU is Don Cheadle's Rhodey, who started off a best friend to Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man, but now seems to be making his own powerful mark. “We see him as more a political animal than we have in the past,” says Cheadle. “He's been more of a military man, but now he's sort of, in some ways, a right hand of the president and this special envoy.”
And when asked about what's its like being in a MCU project without the Avengers the wit and laughter was immediate “it was liberating not to have to carry that dead weight.”
“Careful,” notes host Brandon Davis, “they might be watching.”
Turning now to the newbies of the show, why they chose now to join a Marvel project was a core question for the group.
A Game of Thrones alumni, Emilia Clarke is no stranger to large casts and creative filmmaking. And it's this blend of people that drew her to the project, where she plays G'iah. “All the people sitting right here. Who on Earth would ever not want to be sitting here with them?”
“What I can definitely say is that it was the warmest, most gorgeous, safe, lovely, happy, playful set I've ever been on. You've just gone to the top of the tree, you're there, and then you find everyone who's there is just having a really good time.”
Legendary British film star, Olivia Colman, claims to have been pushing to join the MCU for a long time: “After every Marvel film that's landed in cinemas, I phoned my agent and said, “please can I be in a Marvel?”
“Any mention of the word Marvel and I went, “yes, please.” So that's why I joined, and I had an absolute ball, and it lived up to everything that I was hoping for.” Describing her role as the sneaky Sonya, who spends a large portion of time opposing Samuel L. Jackson's Fury, the pair discussed their filmic relationship with lighthearted banter.
SLJ laughs: “There's no tension. The love scene is still in the movie,” before Colman responds “I'm not sure it made the final edit, though. I was just so excited to meet Samuel L. Jackson. It doesn't strike me as much of a friendship, but they've got history.”
There is a short list of what Colman can share with us about the new character: “Sonya works for MI6. She likes wearing red. She's quite funny. And she's potentially a little bit ‘not that nice' sometimes.”
“And she's the most dangerous woman in the UK,” Jackson confirms.
Newcomer Kingsley Ben-Adir was drawn to Secret Invasion by the intriguing promise of his evolving antagonist, Gravik. “I don't think he's too fond of anyone… it was about how to make him as unsentimental as possible, in his hatred.”
“I don't really trust why anything was coming to me. But he just felt like a part that I hadn't sort of been approached for before. There was an opportunity to do so in a little bit different with this one.”
Returning to the evolution of Secret Invasion itself, the assembled filmmaking team offered just enough tonal hints to excite us for its thrilling debut this week. Feige begins, “[it came from this] idea of translating the great Secret Invasion storyline from the comics in a darker, grittier spy show, which we hadn't done.”
“This was an attempt to really dive back into things we touched upon in The Winter Soldier, Captain America 2, but hadn't in a while, and really delving into the tone of a spy show…and seeing a very different dynamic between Fury and Talos than we had seen in sort of our '90s buddy action movie, Captain Marvel.”
Jonathan Schwartz elborated: “The Disney Plus door sort of opened up and we got the opportunity to kind of play more in genres and expand the sandbox of what we can do…and I think that's what really brought the show to life.”
Director Ali Selim offered a description of the heart and soul of the show. “Well, it's a very human show. It's the Nick Fury story. And it's a story about him putting his feet back on the ground once again after some time. And I like that because I like human stories that come from the heart and are human-scaled and reach for a universal appeal. His inspirations built off this grounded, human aspect of the narrative, “I liked the espionage, political-thriller element, and we went back to look at The Third Man, and The Conversation.”
Even western films made their way into the bible of the shows creation, with a third act change of pace hinted at by Selim. “Nick Fury then realises this is his own battle, and he sort of becomes a classic American western hero. And the tone sort of shifted in the later episodes to Nick Fury as John Wayne” although Jackson objects to this specific comparison with a wink, seeing himself as more of the Clint Eastwood of the MCU world.
Ultimately though, the show remains very distinct from anything the creative team have worked on before, with Selim noting the primary position of “very simple human emotions, like trust and suspicion and the personal life of Nick Fury and inner life of Nick Fury.”
“It's very different than people flying through the air.” Elaborating on the elements of heart-warming humour and fun that have driven the press conference, and thus, Secret Invasion so far, the cast were all keen to describe on their playful experiences on set.
Samuel L. Jackson shared: “Making movies for me is like my playground. It's like, when I get up in the morning, I eat breakfast, I go out and look for my friends. What are we playing today, you know? I want everybody to have as much fun as I'm having telling a story.”
Ben Mendelsohn added: “Marvel are the best people that you'll ever get to work for. In my 40 years, no one comes close to working for Marvel. Working for Marvel is the shiz-nit.”
And if anyone out there was concerned about Samuel L Jackson missing out on the MCU's first F-bomb (which was said instead by Chris Pratt in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), you can rest easy.
Jackson confirms: “No. I never thought about it, actually.”
“He did deliver the MCU's first F bomb in his very first appearance as Nick Fury. It just happened to be cut out of the movie,” Feige concludes.
Secret Invasion is streaming on Disney Plus from June 21st, with episodes releasing weekly. Read our review HERE.