MARVEL’S INHUMANS ran for eight episodes on ABC in 2017. Marvel completionists can now catch those episodes of the series, adapted for the screen by Scott Buck, on Disney+.
MARVEL’S INHUMANS concerns the title characters, i.e., mutants, who have a hidden and highly class-structured civilization on the moon. Members of the royal family wind up in Hawaii and have to contend with Earth humans, while revolution is brewing back home.
Serinda Swan plays Queen Medusa, wife of the powerful King Black Bolt (Anson Mount), whose voice is so destructive that he dare not speak aloud. She interprets for him to others when he cannot express himself. Medusa is also a skilled fighter, whose main weapon is her mane of hair, that can function as a whip or an extra set of hands.
Swan, from Vancouver, Canada, has previously had series regular roles in BREAKOUT KINGS and GRACELAND, recurring parts on CHICAGO FIRE and BALLERS, and can currently be seen as the title character in CORONER. The first two seasons of the series were originally made for the CBC and now are about to start airing in the U.S. on The CW.
Swan spoke at a Q&A session about playing Medusa on MARVEL’S INHUMANS. After this, she made time for a one-on-one follow-up conversation. This interview combines comments from both.
Swan explains, “All the Inhumans go through Terragenesis [the transformation process that gives them their powers] at age fourteen. So there’s a ceremony that happens. They go into a Terragenesis chamber, they put a Terragenesis crystal into it, and then it releases their powers. So each one has sort of a predestined power within them, and going through Terragenesis opens it up for them. So we have flyers, or we have diggers, or whatever it may be. Mine happens to be my superhuman hair. The Inhumans don’t know what their individual powers will be beforehand.”
Medusa was code-named Margie in the audition scenes for MARVEL’S INHUMANS, Swan relates. “I remember my audition scene was a conversation between myself and Black Bolt. And they were like, ‘The other character isn’t going to speak in the scene.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, but he has lines. So how does that work?’ And they said, ‘That’s just there for you, so you know what he’s saying, and then there are times that he just has no lines, and you have to figure out what he’s saying.’ And I was like, ‘Oookay.’ At first, you are very confused, but then you are like, ‘This is something really good.’ But all the good stuff doesn’t tell you anything. And then I’m sitting in the audition room, at and the very end, [executive producer] Jeph [Loeb] says to be, ‘Can you do it one more time? And when you do it, I want you to just lean in at the end, and I want you to go, “Just remember that I am your queen’.” And I was like, ‘Yes, Margie. I don’t know who you are, but you are so cool. I love you. I want to play Margie.’
“And then I found out ‘Margie’ was Medusa, and Black Bolt was her husband, and that was the dynamic, that he doesn’t speak. And so this is a beautiful thing of getting the videos and making sure that, as I’m talking, out of my peripheral vision, I can see him signing. So if you have a linguist out there that loves this sort of stuff, you’ll notice that the words actually match, the timing matches. And it was really important to make sure that I could actually put it out there and say it on time, because we built the relationship that Medusa and Black Bold had, [although they] had much longer to do it.”
As far as Medusa’s persona, Swan relates, “Medusa is the character that’s caught between the two brothers [Black Bolt and Maximus, his non-powered sibling played by Iwan Rheon], friends to both growing up. She built a relationship through communication with Black Bolt. She was the one that we walk in the room – and they both took risks, obviously, because one whisper from him, and it’s [explosion noise]. She was the only one who would walk in and sit with him, and they developed this language. So she trusted him not to kill her, and he had to trust her with his language, with his communication. So she is the communicator, the translator. But there’s this beautiful thing between the two of them. Part of the reason why I loved Medusa and why I wanted to play her was, she’s not just his translator. She’s this really incredible, powerful character all on her own.
“And the symbiosis between the two – you see this strong, powerful man, and this powerful woman, and then it’s husband and wife, and it’s king and it’s queen. There’s a real dynamic there. And you’ll see little bits, like when we play around – you get to see that family dynamic, and how she has that strong will. And then also, how we interact with humans, both how we expect it to be, and also in a very unexpected way. So there’s a really beautiful duality there and conversations that happen between humans and Inhumans. I always say, it’s a very human drama set in an Inhuman world.”
And then there’s the wig. How long is it, and how much does it weigh? “Those were my questions, too, when I first got in it,” says Swan. “I was like, ‘Okay, great, this is amazing.’ It’s very heavy. You put it on, and everyone is like, ‘You have such good posture. You are so regal.’ And I’m like, ‘No. My head is being pulled backwards. That’s why my neck is up like this. But we worked with Victoria Woods, an incredible wig-maker. She does wigs for everyone in Hollywood. [This kind of wig] has never been done before.”
Swan had to work with the stunt and fight choreographers to figure out exactly how to balance herself while wearing the wig. “It’s like a real hair commercial, but with four feet of hair. There’s just a different awareness that you have to bring to the character at all times, because one wrong move, and it’s literally a hair skirt, or a hair sweater, or a hair pair of pants. It depends on where the wind is blowing. So it was another thing to be aware of, but when you’re working for Marvel, you’re like, ‘That’s cool, I’ll figure it out’.”
Swan believes that the hair strands required the development of new CGI software. She can state with certainty, “A lot of it is CGI when you see it moving. But that’s happening when she’s in a fight, when it’s something that needs to come up out of nowhere, that’s when you need to use the CGI.”
All of that hair work is “exciting, because it gives us the opportunity to bring Medusa to the screen. But there were definitely days shooting in Hawaii with a four-pound red wig down to my shins that felt like a very warm cat snuggling my head, one that I was probably allergic to, and one gust of wind went from [the wig being] real cute to an emergency. If you’d hug somebody, sometimes you would get stuck. They would be like, ‘Okay, Serinda, you can let go.’ And I’d be like, ‘No, I really can’t. I’m stuck to you with all of my hair wrapped around you.’ So it was interesting, because you feel kind of Cher-like and fabulous, but then it also changes her stature.
“And there are movements that you have where her hair is prehensile. So it will pick up something and move. And if I’m picking something up, I’m not thinking about it, but if I’m fighting, my body language changes. So it’s that everyday Medusa where you see her straight hair and you see her just relaxing, as if I’m sitting here with my arms. My arms aren’t always doing something, and that’s why the hair could relax. And then there are moments where you see her in danger, and it kind of prickles. It has this little movement, as if you are going to protect yourself. So there is this mixture between feeling the real thing, and then trusting Marvel and everybody with the CGI and going, ‘Okay. We are going to do this, and we are going to figure out how to make it this second character.’ My wig has got attitude. You see a little flip she has. It’s great. It’s like a serious roommate that just is always up in your business.”
As Medusa, Swan also gets to execute some more conventional fight moves. “Medusa is a badass. I came home with a couple of bruises and scrapes. She’s incredible, because before she turned fourteen, she was on the streets of the Moon for a little bit, she was homeless. And there was an issue with her parents, and all these lovely back story things that come along with it. But she’s a tough cookie, she’s a really amazing character, and has come a long way, come a really long way.”
Can Swan explain why there are people living on the Moon that nobody on Earth seems to see? “There’s a really incredible cloaking device that goes over the top of us. You can’t see it. It’s really well-thought-out, how they’ve put it all together.”
Was Swan a Marvel Comics fan before she came aboard MARVEL’S INHUMANS? “Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t know as much as I do now, obviously, but once I got the role, once I found out it was Medusa, I started doing even more research. Obviously, I knew who she was, but I didn’t realize how far she reached within the Marvel Universe. She has been across the board. I think she’s the most diverse character out of a lot of them, actually. You see her in X-MEN, you see her in FANTASTIC FOUR, you see her in SPIDER-MAN – it’s amazing.
AX: Is Medusa in a true-love triangle with Black Bolt and Maximus? “Maximus has only been a friend to her. It’ll never be more, he’ll never be more. I think he was in love with her, he thought that they would be together, she ended up choosing his brother, and not only choosing his brother, she gave the kingdom to Black Bolt. Because Black Bolt was locked in a cell and wouldn’t have been able to be king [without Medusa], which means Maximus would have been king. So Maximus not only lost the girl but lost the kingdom, because through trusting my life to Black Bolt, Black Bolt has entrusted his life to me, and to be the voice for the kingdom. So it’s a really interesting dynamic to show on television, because they technically gave the lead male’s voice to the female, which I like to see.
Given that the Moon Inhumans treat their non-powered humans as second-class citizens, what is Medusa’s attitude toward the non-powered people of Earth? “I don’t think she understands them yet. I think she grew up in a sheltered society and was told stories, so I think she knows the worst of society and not the best. I think that’s the beauty of bringing her to Earth is, she starts to become educated on who the humans are, and why they should be together, why they should work together, and vice-versa, and the humans realize. I think it’s just an education, or a mis-education, and separation. Once you put the two together, you start to see it all come in.”
How did Swan enjoy working in Hawaii, where MARVEL’S INHUMANS was shot? “Do you really need me to answer that question? It’s beautiful. I used to live there back in the day, and it’s so lovely working there. The people and the location is just beyond anything you could ask for.”
What would Swan most like people to know about MARVEL’S INHUMANS? “I think it’s a really fun ride, and that we tried our best, we’re had a lot of fun doing it, and we hope people enjoy it.”
This interview was conducted during ABC’s portion of the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.
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Article: Exclusive Interview: Actress Serinda Swan on MARVEL’S INHUMANS