WandaVision writer Jac Schaeffercertainly did not expect this series to be her first Marvel work to be released when she joined the project. Schaeffer had previously been a part of the team writing Black Widow but the same delays which held WandaVision's production wrap and eventual release on Disney+ back also pushed Black Widow to a theatrical date further out. Overcoming the delays WandaVision faced due to the global pandemic called for some edits to the show's story but none which were too drastic by comparison to the constantly evolving scripts throughout production. Schaeffer spoke with ComicBook.com in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, taking a look back at the series and the unprecedented adaptations the production was making along the way.
WandaVision's finale turned out to be what it always was at its core: an emotionally-charged conclusion which showcased the evolution of Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff as the Scarlet Witch. The path to this landing might have been different under more traditional circumstances and it may have even included other Marvel characters but, ultimately, Schaeffer was able to tell the story she wanted to tell.
"The end of this show was always about acceptance," Schaeffer said. "From the very beginning, it was about the stages of grief. So was acceptance of her loss, her trauma." The series took a deep look at Wanda's trauma, elements of the character's life which had long been suppressed. In the end, she lost control of her emotions and power and created a new Vision after losing her beloved robot husband in Avengers: Infinity War, only to realize she could not justify this move when it means taking control of other people's lives. As a result, the emotional farewell was imminent.
"I think it was during the COVID writing time that I hooked into the notion of the bind that Wanda is in, that if she takes down the Hex, she loses Vision and the kids and if she keeps it up, she continues to torment these innocent bystanders," Schaeffer explains. "That feels so self evident. It's like, 'Didn't we already know that from the beginning?' But that space gave me the opportunity to underscore that in a way that was like more intuitive for the piece and was just faster, better, stronger storytelling." The goodbye between Wanda and Vision was filmed prior to the shutdown, despite being a scene from late in the series.
With Agatha Harkness revealing herself as the woman-behind-the-curtain who had been pulling all of the strings, the knowledge of Wanda's powers being rooted in Chaos Magic emerged. "She ultimately has to embrace it and integrate it into herself," Schaeffer says. "So that was really a discovery that I felt very proud of, is that we see her triumph in the external physical space. She becomes the Scarlet Witch, she uses the runes. It's an internal thing that she discovers, she doesn't need anybody's help, she figures it out, because she fully embodies her power. And then once that's done, then she has to do the internal piece of it, which is letting Vision go."
Schaeffer shows a great bit of enthusiasm when hearing feedback about the series, especially when it comes to crafting the beautiful lines of dialogue which Paul Bettany delivers as Vision. Though the COVID shutdown and delays may have changed or limited some of the story's outcome, Schaeffer stands by having told the complete story she had been aiming for all along. "We didn't take big story hits, from my perspective," she says. "There's not a lot that I'm like, 'Oh man.' There's a little bit in terms of staging. Matt had boarded the sequence with the townspeople that was a little bit more of like a zombie attack kind of a thing. And so we turned that into about their words and about that it is an assault of language."
Check out the full, uncut interview with Schaeffer below, and subscribe to ComicBook.com's Phase Zero podcast to hear Friday's new episode with director Matt Shakman, where we will take a deeper dive into the series!
ComicBook.com: After talking with director Matt Shakman, it sounds like the delay due to COVID came at the best possible time for WandaVision to be able to maneuver through it, as you all were making a transition from Atlanta production to Los Angeles production. How much were you guys able to shoot and what was it like to come back after the break?
Jac Schaeffer: Yeah, so it did work out in our favor in terms of the majority of what we had to shoot was finale content and the finale was the episode that shifted the most over the course of making the project. So, it gave us time to sort of step back and reassess and be more economical. Service plot lines a little bit better, condense. Specifically, with Agatha, it afforded an opportunity to drill down a little bit more on where she's coming from and a lot of the logic pieces.
I think it was during the COVID writing time that I hooked into the notion of the bind that Wanda is in, that if she takes down the Hex, she loses Vision and the kids and if she keeps it up, she continues to torment these innocent bystanders. That feels so self evident. It's like, "Didn't we already know that from the beginning?" But that space gave me the opportunity to underscore that in a way that was like more intuitive for the piece and was just faster, better, stronger storytelling. So that part of it was really a gift.prevnext
Changes From Delays
CB: Was there anything that as a result of the delay was abbreviated or removed or added?
JS: Yeah, like I said, because of the delay, there was a lot of fine tuning with the logic of the finale, but the goodbye sequence was shot before the pandemic and tucking in the kids and saying goodbye in the living room. That was shot on the Modern Family set, episode seven set and those scenes were written really early in the process. So, while the finale shifted quite a bit, it was mostly action that shifted and those set pieces that shifted.
But the emotion of it and the heart of it existed fairly in whole cloth extremely early on in the process. So, I think that the sacrifices that were made, it was very hard to shoot, there were fires and heat, and pestilence, it was just like everything rained down on the production and that was really hard, but there weren't a lot of... We didn't take big story hits, from my perspective. There's not a lot that I'm like, "Oh man." There's a little bit in terms of staging. Matt had boarded the sequence with the townspeople that was a little bit more of like a zombie attack kind of a thing. And so we turned that into about their words and about that it is an assault of language. I think it ended up working just as well because the performers are so great. And because the sentiment of it is so upsetting.
CB: When you were filming this in Atlanta, you guys were there at the same time as Falcon and Winter Soldier and The Suicide Squad. Did you guys go take peaks in anything and talk to any of the filmmakers? What was that like?
JS: We did! With Suicide Squad, there's this one big exterior set that they built. And so we walked down there a lot, because we were like, "Holy crap!" That was really cool. But Falcon and Winter Soldier, they shot so many places. They were constantly on the move. So we didn't see them that often. And they were a little staggered to us and truth be told, it was such an intense shooting period. There wasn't a lot of like, "Hey guys, let's go grab a drink!"prevnext
CB: We get the big action packed showdown at the end of the episode with two fights but it's the emotion and the character growth that really is what sends the show home. Specifically, I would love to hear you talk about Wanda, mentally and physically, who you wanted her to become as she transitioned into the Scarlet Witch, after this journey we just took in the show.
JS: Yeah. I mean, so the end of this show was always about acceptance. And it was from the very beginning, it was about the stages of grief. So was acceptance of her loss, her trauma. And so we knew we would land where they're saying goodbye. We also knew that we wanted a full exploration of Wanda Maximoff as the Scarlet Witch. And what ended up happening, and I do think it has a lot to do with the break that we had because of COVID that allowed us to sort of drill down a little bit more on the schematics, is we ended up being able to tell both of those stories in concert. So the external is that she accepts herself as the Scarlet Witch. And she fully steps into that power after denying it and after rejecting it and after being in doubt of it.
And so then with grief, it's the same story. She's been in denial of it. She's been rejecting it. And she ultimately has to embrace it and integrate it into herself. So that was really a discovery that I felt very proud of, is that we see her triumph in the external physical space. She becomes the Scarlet Witch, she uses the runes. It's an internal thing that she discovers, she doesn't need anybody's help, she figures it out, because she fully embodies her power. And then once that's done, then she has to do the internal piece of it, which is letting Vision go.
CB: One of the popular theories is the fact that the Darkhold was a part of it, which was a part of Agents of Shield. Did the writers room ever have to be like, "Well, this was part of SHIELD," when you were writing it? Did anybody ever mention that or bring that up?
JS: No, there wasn't really a big of the conversation. No, is the short answer.prevnext
CB: I also loved Vision's conclusion and his dialogue in this show was just incredible. He has some of the best lines in the MCU before this, but the dialogue that comes out in WandaVision, I mean, people are going to be getting that tattooed on themselves.
JS: So Brandon, that really, really means a lot to me because it was a tall order to write for Vision. It's really hard to write for Vision.
CB: I'd love to hear about that line, and also the, "It stands to reason, we'll say hello again," line. How do you guys come up with that?
JS: The grief line, I've told the story a bit in the press because it's kind of a complicated story, but the short version is Laura Donney just wrote one of the most beautiful episodes ever. She did an incredible amount of work. And she infused it with herself and she is truly a poet. And then when we were getting closer to production on that scene, to shooting that scene, Paul and Lizzie both had thoughts. With Lizzie, like how she wanted to articulate what she was feeling and in that conversation, we came up with the notion of a wave. I can't remember what it was first. I think it was more of like a phantom limb type of a thing.
But the wave really made sense to her that it just keeps coming for her. And so I wrote that little speech for her. And then Paul really wanted a line that was like a distillation of theme, similar to his, "A thing is not beautiful because it lasts," line from Ultron. So he told me that's what he was after. And I was like, "Oh man." So like someone looking at me and being like, "So I want to line that meaningful and beautiful and well phrased, let me know when you have it." That's not him. He did not approach it to me like that way. He's lovely. And he's a writer himself.
But I was like, "He's right. He's right." And what we wanted most of all was we wanted this scene to be about Vision giving Wanda the tools she needed to move on. That it was actually like seeing this scene again is actually arming herself for the finale and what she goes through in the finale. So we were like, "We need a definition of grief that is hopeful and that he illuminates for her, that grief isn't all bad. That it isn't all sorrow, that it is born of beauty. It is love." So I wrote a couple of versions of it. And I think the thing that I got closest with was, "What is grief, if not love surviving?"
And my producer, Mary Livanos and my assistant Laura Monti and I, we just were just like "This isn't it. Surviving feels kind of desperate. And it sort of implies something that doesn't..." It just wasn't the thing. And my assistant Laura Monti came up with the word persevering.
And I remember the moment I remember where we were sitting and I remember it clicking. And I was like, "That, girl... That is it. That is it, it, it, you're a genius." And then Paul and Lizzie performed that scene and it's just a really incredible testament to all of the infrastructure of the show. Like, everybody being united in trying to tell something beautiful and I'm shocked that it's hit the way that it has, but I'm really grateful and happy.
CB: It's wild how these kind of definitive lines like that and, "I am Iron Man" just kind of come up. They're not part of that first version, but then you find it and when you find it, you just know. Just like, "That's it."
JS: That's it. That's it.prevnext
Black Widow Plans0comments
CB: On Tuesday's Disney investor meeting, Disney said they're still looking at May 7th for Black Widow. You know that movie inside and out, it's from your brain before you even did WandaVision. As somebody who knows the ins and outs of that movie and all of the trailers that we've already seen, how much more can they show us without kind of spoiling too much?
JS: So I am one of three writers credited. So I am not at all trying to take ownership of that movie. There's a lot of brains on that movie. And then there's the wonderful Cate Shortland who is incredible. I don't know. I really feel like that that movie is a lot about the chemistry of the performers. And so to me, it's not really a question of spoilers. I just think it's going to be a fun watch, no matter how much you know about it.prev