Marvel’s ambitious Inhumans series premieres Friday, September 29 on ABC following an IMAX preview several weeks earlier. The series explores the Royal Family of Inhumans first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics over 50 years ago.
Playing Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans with her flowing red hair is Serinda Swan, an actress that fans of comic book TV might recognize from another role, as she played “Zatanna” in two episodes of The CW television series Smallville.
We caught up with Ms. Swan at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California to find out more about what it was like to go from one comic book icon to another.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: When you were playing Zatanna years ago on Smallville, did you ever think you’d be playing another comic book icon a few years later?
SERINDA SWAN: I hoped that I would! I moved onto another show right after I got Zatanna [Breakout Kings], and I got a phone call that Smallville might want me to come back to reprise the role. I had done it already twice. And I was so heartbroken when I couldn’t, because I was already on the other show! So I really wanted to get to return to this world at the some point. I want to play a superhero. I want to have that fun. Playing a female superhero is pretty bad ass and kind of one of my dreams.
When I auditioned for this [Medusa], I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know the network; I didn’t know the character. I knew nothing. I knew it was secret, and amazing, and that was it. And then when I found out it was Medusa, I had quite a celebration.
I remember when they were casting Zatanna and she was called “Cassie” in the sides.
Yes! It’s funny; I remember getting that phone call and they were like “you’ve booked Cassie!” and then TV Guide called and they were like “Congratulations on getting Zatanna! That’s so incredible!” And I was like “oh, no. I’m actually playing Cassie,” and they’re like “no, you’re playing Zatanna Zatara.”
As Zatanna you had an amazing costume, and as Medusa, I know everyone is asking about the hair, but she also has some pretty regal gowns. Can you talk about her fashion?
They’re all custom made for her, obviously. They used some influence from the comic books. They also had to let Hawaii influence them a little bit, because that’s where we’re going to be shooting. They did incredible work with it. I would go in for my fittings, and they’d tailor it again and again, but it really lent itself to the character. When you put those on in the morning, and you put your wig and your dress on, and you stand there, you’re like “Oh, yes. Okay.”
Can you talk about the CGI version of Medusa’s hair and how that looks on the screen?
It’s only going to get better, because the technology and the software, they actually had to build. It didn’t exist. That’s one reason why I think it’s so long to get Inhumans on the screen, because when they did it, they wanted to do it right, and they’re doing it right. It’s going to take a bit of time to get it perfect, but if there’s anybody I’m going to trust with CGI magic, it’s going to be Marvel.
What was it like to see a screening of The Inhumans in IMAX?
That was incredible, because we’ve never seen it before! It was the first time we actually saw Attilan in all its glory. We’re shooting at a bunker in Hawaii and have no idea what’s really around you, and you’re like “oh my God, it’s a wonderful city! This is incredible!” It’s always kind of mind-blowing, the first time you see the full CGI.
Anson Mount mentioned that he does hand gestures as Black Bolt, and that he sends you what they are to prepare. Do you two ever have your own little secret code behind the scenes sometimes?
I mean, yeah. You get really close because of having to learn all this together, which is what happened with Medusa and Black Bolt. There is that same kinship in real life, that there is between Black Bolt and Medusa, and between Anson and I, it’s the same. Sometimes Medusa will slip in extra words, but it was a really fun challenge. It was one that I was excited to work on, but a challenge.
Medusa is such a powerful woman, and one thing I appreciate about The Inhumans is that her and Black Bolt are presented as equals.
Yes. I appreciate that about the show too!
Can you talk about that?
One of the best things that I saw when I first picked up the script was that they stay true to that. She’s not the interpreter; she’s not [just] the wife; she’s her own entity. She is Medusa, the super Inhuman first. She is then a wife. And then she’s an interpreter. You make sure of that.
And we do challenge each other; we don’t always agree, and I don’t always say what he signs. And so in that case, it’s a real marriage with real stakes, not only for us, but for all of Attilan as well. But I love it. I think it’s really rare that you have the male lead’s voice being told by the female. They gave the lead male’s voice to the female. That’s pretty amazing!
I just hope he doesn’t talk in his sleep.
I’d be dead, right? They talk about that in one of the comics; they say that he meditates every night to make sure that he doesn’t talk in his sleep!
Marvel’s Inhumans premieres this Fall on ABC.