After last year's box office smash Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has found itself in a somewhat-unprecedented territory. The hit franchise is set to expand even further with a new "phase" of movies and Disney+ television shows, which were unveiled during a series of convention appearances last summer. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a lot of Marvel's initial plans into disarray, the franchise is still finding a few ways to get fans excited for the future -- including last Thursday's surprise news that Orphan Black and Perry Mason star Tatiana Maslany will be playing Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk in her own eponymous Disney+ series, with the goal for her to also appear in future MCU movies. While we're still (at best) several months away from cameras rolling on the She-Hulk series, and even further away from it theoretically debuting in 2022, Maslany's casting in the role has captivated and excited MCU fans in a way that they weren't expecting -- and for good reason. Maslany might be a household name yet, but she is the absolutely perfect actress to bring She-Hulk to the masses, and provide the kind of nuanced, magnetic performance that will help usher the MCU into a new era.
For the uninitiated, Jennifer Walters is a high-profile lawyer and the cousin of Bruce Banner, who receives an emergency blood transfusion from him after an accident. This leads to Jennifer occasionally adopting a version of Banner's Hulk superhuman powers and green skin, which she uses to not only operate as a superhero, but as legal counsel to the other superheroes in her orbit. Although she has had a slew of different comic interpretations over the years, John Byrne's take on her in The Sensational She-Hulk is often regarded as the most iconic -- both for further developing her as a character, and for satirizing the comic book tropes of the time. In the decades since, She-Hulk has consistently remained spirited and feisty, but also incredibly intelligent, empathetic, and altruistic, both in her life as a superhero and as a lawyer.
Shortly after Maslany's casting was announced, some naysayers began to question if she was the best choice for She-Hulk, with some criticizing her 5'4" height or other arbitrary goalposts (conveniently ignoring the MCU's precedent for using CGI to create the Hulk, as well as the fact that no one criticized Mark Ruffalo or Edward Norton for not being eight feet tall or weighing 1,400 pounds). But if anyone is looking for proof that Maslany can inhabit all of the qualities (and so many more) required for She-Hulk, they need to look no further than her Emmy-winning work on Orphan Black. The Canadian sci-fi series, which aired from 2013 to 2017 on BBC America and Space, opened with Maslany portraying Sarah Manning, a streetwise British hustler who quickly learns that she is part of a global human cloning conspiracy. As Sarah dives deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole, she and the audience meet an eclectic roster of additional clones, with Maslany ultimately embodying over a dozen different characters onscreen across the five-season run.
On top of that, many of Orphan Black's most buzzworthy or jaw-dropping involved multiple Maslany characters interacting with each other in a single frame, as well as sequences where one clone would "cloneswap" and impersonate one of her sisters. Season 2's "four clone dance party" and Season 3's dinner party scene are already a technical triumph without big-budget special effects, but they really work thanks to Maslany's physicality and her earnest approach to each character she plays. (This is still overwhelmingly apparent years after Orphan Black's finale, as Maslany recently narrated the Orphan Black: The Next Chapter audio series and also played several clones during a virtual table read for charity this past May, recreating the magic of the show through the power of audio or a Zoom screen.)
In a sense, the characters Maslany portrayed on Orphan Black each showcase a nugget of what her She-Hulk could bring. The show's five main clones - the aforementioned Sarah, "geek monkey" scientist Cosima Niehaus, uptight housewife Alison Hendrix, ice queen businesswoman Rachel Duncan, and chaotic Ukrainian assassin Helena - all have a nuance to them that could easily bleed over into both Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk. It's not hard to picture Maslany's Jennifer commanding a courtroom after watching Rachel deliver one monologue after another, or imagine her "hulking out" after watching Helena commit gruesome violence with a smile. If the show decides to lean into the comedic aspect of She-Hulk's comic past, Maslany has you covered as well, between the truly ridiculous comedic rapport between Alison and her husband, Donnie Hendrix (Kristian Bruun), or the Kroll Show-inspired addition of Krystal Goderitch, a "dumb blonde" clone who is much more than meets the eye. (She also has made some standout post-Orphan Black appearances on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, which further showcase her comedic timing and improv skills.)
Even on a larger scale, Orphan Black tackled feminism, sisterhood, agency, and identity in ways that are still praised to this day, and are themes that will undoubtedly be part of She-Hulk's overall story in the MCU. With the franchise gearing towards more female-fronted storytelling - both with established characters like Captain Marvel, Valkyrie, and Scarlet Witch, and through the introduction of new heroines like Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Thor - Maslany's take on She-Hulk would be a worthy and dynamic addition to whatever roster of female heroes Marvel has planned. It also doesn't hurt that Maslany and Captain Marvel star Brie Larson have been candid about their appreciation for each other, with Larson tweeting in 2017 that she feels so lucky to "get to live on this Earth at the same time" as Maslany.
Tatiana Maslany's casting as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's She-Hulk was undoubtedly unexpected, especially after months of fans assuming that other actresses would take on the role. But it truly is a pleasant surprise that she's taking on the role, as it will not only introduce her talents to the masses, but will provide the MCU with an actress that they're genuinely lucky to have. Even with an Emmy and countless other awards under her belt, Maslany has been one of the most underrated gems of the entertainment industry for almost a decade now -- one who injects every role she plays with profound earnestness and an unmatched technical craft. With Maslany attached to the role, She-Hulk has the potential to become one of the most compelling new characters to join the MCU in the coming years, and the next superhero that audiences everywhere are sure to love.