WandaVision: Writer Laura Donney (Emmy Nominated)

‘WandaVision’ Writer Breaks Down Moment When Wanda Faces Traumatic History

WandaVision, the TV miniseries created by Jac Schaeffer for Disney+, is based on Marvel Comics featuring the characters Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch and Vision.

It’s the first TV series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) produced by Marvel Studios, sharing continuity with the films of the franchise and taking place after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Schaeffer served as head writer with Matt Shakman directing.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as Wanda Maximoff and Vision from the film series, with Debra Jo Rupp, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, and Evan Peters also starring.

By September 2018, Marvel Studios was developing a number of limited series for Disney+ centered on supporting characters from the MCU films such as Maximoff and Vision.

The series pays homage to past sitcoms, with Maximoff and Vision living in a reality that takes them through different decades of TV tropes.

Filming began in Atlanta, Georgia in November 2019, before production halted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in Los Angeles in September 2020 and wrapped that November.

WandaVision premiered with its first two episodes on January 15, 2021, and ran for 9 episodes, concluding on March 5.

It is the first series, and beginning, of Phase Four of the MCU.

The series received praise from critics for its settings and tropes, dark tonal shifts, and the performances of Olsen, Bettany, and Hahn.

It was widely discussed and analyzed by fans based on various popular theories and perceived mysteries, as well as for its use of sitcom references and exploration of grief.

The series received 23 Emmy Awards nominations, among other accolades.

WandaVision serves as a direct set-up to the film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), in which Olsen reprises her role as Maximoff.

Emmy-nominated writer Laura Donney details the episode titled “Previously On,” which gives Marvel fans a deeper look at Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff.

“We always knew we were going to have an episode dedicated to looking at Wanda’s past, because we needed to figure out how we got here,” says Laura Donney, who earned an Emmy nomination for writing “Previously On.”

Since WandaVision brings more weight to the character of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) than has been seen in the Marvel films, this allowed the show a chance to dig deeper into the trauma she experienced, which is the root of the TV sitcom-inspired alternate reality that has held captive the residents of Westview.
Therapy Session
“We wanted Wanda to have this sort of therapy episode where she has to look at all these moments in her life that she has not spent enough time processing — and in a lot of ways, that was also a tool for our audience.”

“It’s like Wanda’s giving a tour of a museum and Agatha is the loud, rude patron,” says Donney.

In the previous episode, Kathryn Hahn’s nosy neighbor Agnes is revealed to be the witch Agatha Harkness, who has placed a hex on Wanda. “We wanted her there, first of all, for comic relief,” the writer explains. “What Wanda has to do is so heavy, and we wanted her to have a scene partner who can lift the moment as well. Agatha was always a foil to Wanda. In these moments, which are sad and hard, to be a foil means to be sassy and a little cheeky.”

By being the antagonist to Wanda, Agatha serves as a way into Wanda’s emotional breakthrough. “We needed Wanda to have someone pushing and challenging her.”

The goal for WandaVision was to bring more dimension to these supporting Marvel characters. “We know her parents died, we know her brother died. We know at some point she and Vision fell in love,” Donney says. “We got little peeks [at Wanda’s story], but we never really stayed in those moments very long.”

“Vision’s very nature is that he is not human,” explains Donney. Despite the connection he shares with Wanda, Vision is still missing elements of human expression — he (along with the audience) is learning to process Wanda’s grief at the same time she is. “She can’t talk in shorthand with him. She can’t say, ‘You know how it is when someone dies?’ “

“Vision likes clarity and is pretty direct, and in a lot of ways he always finds the poetic reality of a situation,” Donney says. “It pushes Wanda to say what she’s really feeling. She knows he’s not going to come at her with judgment — he’s never had this experience. It really opened the door for Wanda to be vulnerable with him.”

While the more comedic moments of WandaVision allowed its actors to play around with dialogue and timing, but the heavier material in this scene evolved once the actors were on set.

“My original line didn’t have ‘grief’ in it,” Donney reveals of this moment, which became more specific — and thus, more honest and direct. “I think everyone felt like we had to name [the emotion], and then this beautiful line bloomed.” For Donney, this represents how the collaborative nature of the show results in the best possible work. “I think of it as the scene is written, and then the choreography of language can change,” she says. “That’s what can happen when you have amazing hearts and minds all working together.”

A challenge for the entire series was keeping the emotional weight balanced with the “bells and whistles and fantasy” of the MCU.

“You can’t ignore what is a true and honest emotional feeling, even when there’s a bunch of marvelous stuff happening around the character,” Donney says. But the supernatural elements provide more room for emotional honesty. “We had to figure out how to take advantage of Wanda’s world: How does the metaphor of the witch in the magic world serve that human expression?”