The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow at exponential rates, with 40 theatrical releases under their considerable belts and eight series that have already dropped on Disney+. Marvel’s Secret Invasion aims to deliver something different than the barrage of content that’s come before, leaning into darker territory. The six-episode series, all directed by Ali Selim who has worked on series such as Criminal Minds and Manhunt, turns the spotlight onto Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Having been one of those who turned to dust during the snap, he’s returned as a changed man, who is only called back to earth from his galactic project due to receiving urgent calls from friends such as Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
Created by Kyle Bradstreet, the series also sees the return of characters such as Don Cheadle’s Rhodey while also introducing a number of new characters, such as standout Sonya, played by Olivia Colman. We participated in the show’s press junket where we walked away with three major takeaways.
They’re going full espionage
In their attempts to achieve a greater, more “adult” feel to the series, Kevin Feige notes the collaborative effort of the entire team, mentioning that the idea for the tone began years ago.
“[Producer] Jonathan Schwartz came into my office with this idea of translating the great Secret Invasion comic book storyline from the comics into a darker, grittier spy show, which we hadn’t done. We love to do different genres for everything, and this was an attempt to really dive back into things we touched upon in The Winter Soldier, but hadn’t in a while, and really delving into the tone of a spy show.”
Ali Selim took a filmmaking approach to the series, agreeing with the tonal goal. He cited classic films such as The Third Man and The Conversation as inspirations, “…things like that which are very grounded and really human.”
It’s a point that Selim along with Feige doubled down on as they pointed out the shifting elements and dynamics of the series. Feige in particular noted Fury and Talos’ relationship — one of the highlights of the first episode of the show — noting the contrast between the relationships of the “‘90s buddy action movie, Captain Marvel.”
This is a new Nick Fury
Despite their eventual return, Thanos’s snap had clear repercussions on those affected. While we’ve seen how other characters have dealt with the upheaval of their lives, there’s something more emotionally poignant in Marvel’s Secret Invasion to seeing how the seemingly unflappable Nick Fury has also seemed to suffer due to it. As evidenced in the first episode, he’s been unreachable for some time, returning only when there’s a great enough threat to the world that he can no longer avoid it.
Jackson puts it plainly, saying that Fury has “…been kinda gone for a while. He’s a little tired, and a little vulnerable, but coming back to Earth because he’s been summoned.”
Smulders, whose Maria Hill has often played his second in command, continues this thread, noting her character returning from the snap and likely jumping straight into the action. “I think there was just a mountain of cases to get to, which is part of her resentment towards Fury, ’cause he was not around.” Which, Jackson acknowledges there are reasons why Fury has been absent.
“It definitely has a mental health effect on you, and, you know, it causes a different kind of rift between you and the people that you’ve been around or people that you’re supposed to be close to. And, I mean, like I said, I haven’t been returning her calls. There are a few other people I haven’t been calling back either.”
All of this is very much an integral part of the story as we get to see this character in a much different light as he faces escalating hurdles and challenges. Selim wanted to focus on that humanistic element, beyond just how Fury’s relationships developed.
“It’s a story about him putting his feet back on the ground once again after some time. And I like that because I like human stories that come from the heart and are human-scaled and reach for a universal appeal rather than the reverse of that.” That level of humanity — vulnerability, really — has been a mainstay of the MCU since the start with Iron Man. And, like Tony Stark, Jackson believes that this further exploration can only be a good thing.
“The more you find out about him, then the more you’re gonna like him. The more I like him. You know, it’s just, you know, peeling the onion and having a good time. You meet people that I know, and I never had an in-depth scene with Don [Cheadle].”
New and returning characters will make up a different MCU world
Jackson and Cheadle are both clearly thrilled at the chance to play against one another in Marvel’s Secret Invasion, especially as both characters have been mainstays of the universe since the first few films. Cheadle in particular notes that despite his character being around for so long and so often beholden to the role of Iron Man’s sidekick, he’s finally getting the chance to really develop the character.
“I think we’re just kind of finding out what’s happening with Rhodey as this series goes on. He’s in a different role. We see him as more of a political animal than we have in the past. He’s been more of a military man, but now he’s sort of, in some ways, a right hand of the president and this special envoy, in that regard. But I think what I’m looking forward to is just seeing more, you know, getting under the hood of who he is and seeing how this relationship, not only with Nick Fury, but the other cast members evolves.”
For the newcomers, they share that it was a mix of the cast and the challengers that allured them to the project, with Colman noting she’d been wanting to be a part of the MCU for a while now. Emilia Clarke, who plays Skrull G’iah, is no stranger to major studio universes with fan fervor, having been a part of Game of Thrones, as well as appearing in installments of the Terminator and Star Wars series. The choice to join was easy though, she said, pointing to the cast sitting around her. “All the people sitting right here. Like, literally. Who on Earth would ever not want to be sitting here with this?”
Colman, meanwhile, though wary of spoilers, highlights her dynamic with Jackson’s Fury as a highlight of her character — something that critics thus far have agreed with. While she dances around the actual details of her character’s motives, she does mention that, while Sonya and Fury might not be friends, “…they’ve got history. They trust each other.”
Main antagonist Gravick, played by One Night in Miami… star Kingsley Ben-Adir, also feared accidental spoilers but noted the intensity of the character and the new opportunity it offered. “He just felt like a part that I hadn’t sort of been approached for before. There was an opportunity to do so in a little bit different with this one.”
Mendelsohn summed up the overriding tone of the room. In his first appearance as Talos since his standout role in Captain Marvel, he praises Marvel, saying: “They are the best people that you’ll ever get to work for. In my 40 years, no one comes close to working for Marvel. Working for Marvel is the shiz-nit.”
Marvel’s Secret Invasion premieres June 21 on Disney+ with new episodes every Wednesday.