After a one-week run in IMAX, Marvel’s Inhumans is hitting the small screen this Friday, premiering at 8 p.m ET on ABC and CTV. While Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have introduced us to terrigenesis and the Kree’s Inhumans, Marvel’s new series give us a look like never before. Inhumans tells the story of the royal family of Inhumans, led by Black Bolt (Anson Mount), a man rendered silent thanks to his deadly voice, and Medusa (Serinda Swan), whose hair has a life of its own, in Attilan, the home of the Inhumans. Family drama and power dynamics quickly come into play when Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (Iwan Rheon), makes a play for power.
We spoke with the royal Inhuman couple on the challenges of communicating, building their on-screen rapport, and what it was like to film such a massive television project.
The TV Junkies: Marvel is such a juggernaut in the film and television industry right now. How did it feel to step into that world?
Serinda Swan: Any time Marvel is involved I think there is a heightened sense of reality where you’re like, “I’m working in the MCU? Thank you so much!” It’s such an inclusive family. The fans are incredible and there’s so much history. It’s terrifying because you want to do it justice at the same time. [laughs] You definitely have to do your due diligence and make sure you’re doing the research needed for your character, but that also you get to play and bring such an iconic character to life.
TTVJ: Anson, your character Black Bolt doesn’t speak, so in getting into your character, how did you develop his personality through his physicality?
Anson Mount: That just came as a part of the process in developing the language. I didn’t have to think about how I was going to express myself physically because the character does express himself physically. I just had to figure out what the language was. In terms of where to start, it’s all the source material. Script is king and, in this case, the graphic novels are the grandfather of the king. I really got a good sense of the character and there’s some really important qualities about [Black Bolt] that if you don’t understand those you’d be lost trying to tackle a role like this. What really helped me was to discover Black Bolt’s emotional reticence in a lot of the work. I thought it was a great place to start. It was an even bigger challenge to not just play someone who doesn’t speak, but somebody whose way of dealing with being a leader is being emotionally removed. That’s another layer on top of that, but I like a good challenge, so, for me, I was a bee in honey.
TTVJ: You also have the added layer of Medusa interpreting Black Bolt’s language, so how was building that rapport to create the natural communication level?
AM: It was horrible–I can’t wait until today is over then I never have to deal with Serinda Swan again. [laughs]
SS: Never again! We hate each other. [laughs]
AM: No, we worked really well in tandem together. One of the best parts of this job for me was having a really good partner that was interested in coming to the language sessions, and was interested in seeing what the translation of my lines were, so she’d know what I’m saying when. Who wanted to rehearse in three different ways and is responsible as she is to help me do a better job.
SS: Well, it was incredible. What he was willing to do for me, a lot of actors would not have done. I asked for videos of his work, so each night when he would learn or, I guess, create his sign language, he would send me a video of the next day’s work so I could time my speech and learning my lines to the exact words, so as he was signing it I’m saying it, which really helped me to get the message across and have Black Bolt’s voice be present. Also, when we were rehearsing on the day, there were times when I would ask, “Can you say this line as you would want Black Bolt to say it?” The cadence and the inflection so I could hit that and there was a definite difference between when Medusa is speaking and when Black Bolt is speaking.
We had to do this crash course in communication that they would’ve had years to do, but it was still enough that we had that connection and the moments we needed to so we would honor their love story. It was really fun and an interesting challenge to take on, but it turned into something I really enjoyed at the end of the day.
TTVJ: I always love to hear the process and the hard work actors go into to developing that on-screen chemistry.
SS: These characters have been around since 1965. They have history, they have all of this. You don’t usually get a lot of time for prep in television. I got the job on a Friday and I was in Hawaii on Sunday. You kind of have to think on your feet and do it while you’re shooting and it was amazing to have someone as committed as I was to make sure the love story that’s been written for many years stays true, and people can recognize the story that they loved in the comics on screen as well.
TTVJ: Marvel’s Inhumans has a huge spectacle element, which comes with the IMAX filming, but from what I’ve read a lot of the story really has to do with family and family dynamics.
SS: Yeah! it’s beautiful. I love it, I keep say it’s a very human drama in an Inhuman world, so there’s a lot of relevance to everyday life. Then you have superpowers that interrupt the moment. [laughs] It’s a really fun show and obviously the visuals are pretty spectacular. They had to create coding for my hair that had never been done before. When you’re doing a project that’s the the first of its kind–
AM: They’re building software for her.
SS: It’s so funny when you have people talking about the hair and you haven’t even seen it. If you want somebody like Marvel and IMAX to do these ground-breaking projects, you have to give them time to develop these things. It’s not like they can just buy the software for magical moving hair, they have to create it. They had to be the first to do it in that capacity. When you’re working with IMAX, Marvel and ABC, you know it’s going to come together.
AM: There’s another thing that partnership gave us. Three companies coming together to co-invest, the scale of this thing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, not only on TV. I’ve never worked on a film this large. The sets were out of control, we took over three decommissioned navy hangars in Hawaii that were larger than any sound stage I’ve ever seen. The sets were enormous.
SS: They were huge! Normally when you have a staircase on set it’s about ten steps and then it disappears into nothing because they don’t shoot up the stairs. There were 35 steps and by the end of walking up and down those stairs my legs were shaking. I was actually holding on to Anson. It looks like we’re a royal, regal couple, but no, it’s because my legs were about to give out. [laughs] It was such a huge set. They’d be like, “we’re shooting on stage three today” and you would prep yourself and walk there. By the second episode I was like, “Where are my fuzzy slippers? I’m not wearing my heels anymore, I’m wearing fuzzy slippers to set.”
TTVJ: You had the chance to work with Iwan Rheon, who has some previous experience with large scale projects thanks to Game of Thrones. Was this something he came in with knowledge about or was it just as new for him as well?
SS: I don’t think I can speak to his experience. I know he was an absolute pleasure to work with, such a professional, and tons of fun. I think every project we do is different and that’s the fun of what we do. Each take is something completely new. Doing something that’s never been done before with IMAX, ABC and Marvel, you definitely feel that. It was beyond fun working with him.
AM: I can speak on his behalf. The best part of his experience was working with me. I am, probably, the best thesbian he’s ever shared the board with.
SS: [laughs] He said that every day!
TTVJ: I’m getting the sense, Anson, that it’s really tragic that we’re not going to be able to hear your voice during the series.
AM: I’m just a Southern smartass, you don’t want me talking in a Marvel show.
SS: Yes, we do! We do, we do. Although we don’t, because then we all die. In retrospect, no, don’t talk. But, as a human being, he’s definitely fun to be around. It was amazing because you’d have him on set and we’d be laughing and talking, then all of a sudden it would just be silence. Then they’d yell cut and we’d be laughing again. We were all jealous because he didn’t have to get mic’d, which was an extra ten minutes each day that you’d have to stand there and get a hot water bottle of a mic taped to your back, which in Hawaii is the worst thing ever. He’d just be sitting there drinking his iced coffee.
TTVJ: At the end of the day, what do you think Marvel fans will enjoy most about Inhumans?
SS: Besides Lockjaw? Lockjaw is the best.
I think everybody at some point or another wanted to be a superhero. I know I did when I was younger. I’d stare at pencils and try to move them–
AM: She still stares at pencils.
SS: [laughs] I’m staring at a pencil right now. I’d stare at clouds too. Maybe I was a really awkward child. Everyone wants that special ability, and what’s incredible is that everyone has a special ability in Inhumans, but it makes them normal. You get to explore this world with them and the imagination of Marvel has no bounds. I’m really excited for everyone to see the humanity in the show, there’s humor and lots of explosions. It’s a really fun show.
What are you most looking forward to in the Inhumans premiere? Sound off in the comments below.
Marvel’s Inhumans premieres Friday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.