Art & Entertainment

Jessica Gao On Bringing 'She-Hulk' To Screen: Had A Chance To Infuse Our Life Experiences As Women

It's important for representation behind the camera and in front of it to "match", says Emmy-winning writer Jessica Gao, who believes her latest work "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" is a testament to the effort.

She-Hulk: Attorney At Law

It's important for representation behind the camera and in front of it to "match", says Emmy-winning writer Jessica Gao, who believes her latest work "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" is a testament to the effort.

Besides tackling the central conflict of 'to be or not to be a superhero', the upcoming Disney+ series covers modern-day themes such as mansplaining, casual sexism, and online dating.

It's a show about a woman and the team behind "She-Hulk" has women in majority, pointed out Gao.

"We had a chance to infuse all of our life experiences into this. That's the great thing about having so many women behind the camera because it is important to have representation behind the camera that matches the representation in front the camera as there are things you can't fake and replicate.

"Having so many different kinds of women, everybody has a different perspective, everybody has a different life experience. There's a lot of commonality but there is also lots of specifics that happens to everyone in their life," the head writer told PTI in an interview over Zoom.

Tatiana Maslany stars as attorney Jennifer Walters, who is also a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered Hulk and a cousin of Bruce Banner/ The Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo). The series is directed by Kat Coiro and adapted to screen from Marvel comic books by Gao.

"The more real lived-in experiences of varied backgrounds from different people we have, the more real and fuller the world feels. It feels like these are real people dealing with real problems," the 38-year-old said.

The half-hour legal comedy honours the self-awareness of Jen/ She-Hulk who, Gao observed, knew she was a comic book character.

The viewers will also see how the superhero title 'She-Hulk' sticks to Jen, much to her annoyance, and how it also gets her into trouble.

"She would argue with the writer of the comic book, she would talk about the tropes of comic books themselves. 

"I wanted to bring that element into the show that she would be aware of the dynamics that were happening or how the audience would be reacting because there is an inner understanding that there is someone watching all of this, probably thinking these thoughts," she added.

Gao also carries forward the legacy of John Byrne's story titled "The Sensational She-Hulk", published in the Marvel Graphic Novel #18 in 1985.

Jen/ She-Hulk breaking the fourth wall, which means addressing the viewer directly, was a "foundational" part of the character, something the writer said she couldn't imagine leaving out.

"In terms of the fourth wall breaking, one of John Byrne's comics is the most iconic and that's where she first started doing it. That was what really made me fall in love with this character. 

"That aspect is an essential, foundational part of who the character is. So, there was no way I would ever try to make a show about She-Hulk and not have that in it," she explained.

Gao's credits include Emmy-winning episode 'Pickle Rick' of adult animated sci-fi sitcom "Rick and Morty", comedy series "Silicon Valley", and computer-animated television comedy series "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness".

The writer, who has spent a majority of her 14-year career in TV, said she wanted to treat "She-Hulk" as a comedy series right from the beginning.

"My background is in TV comedy. That's really where my strength is, that's what most of my experience is. I always knew that I wanted it to be a half-hour comedy. It was important that the show be funny as well as relatable," she added.

Her reluctance to be a superhero and adaptability to newfound powers, quicker than her cousin, will see She-Hulk clash with The Hulk quite literally.

"Physically, they still look very different. Jen got a different quantity of gamma radiation than Bruce did. It affected them differently.

"Look at how medicines or diseases affect people differently based on their biology. You might share some commonality because of genetics but everyone is different as well," said Gao.

As a well-meaning, more experienced brother, Bruce is eager to share his "hard life lessons" with his sister and wants to embrace her new avatar for the 'greater good'. Jen, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with superpowers and focus on her law career.

And, this difference of opinion will be "a source of conflict" between the cousins, added the writer.

"The Hulk has a benefit of having gone through all of this, so he wants to guide Jen and part (learnings from) his journey. But what he doesn't understand, to Jen's frustration, is that they are very different people. 

"They are reacting to it in different ways, they want different things. That's kind of the source of conflict, that's very real. It's not like that any one of them is right or wrong. They are both right because they are both coming out from completely different perspectives," Gao said.


"She-Hulk" will start streaming in India on Disney+ Hotstar from Thursday in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and English. 

The series also stars Ginger Gonzaga, Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Jon Bass, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tim Roth, Benedict Wong, and Charlie Cox.