The Marvels’ Teyonah Parris Is Still Ready to Shine in the MCU

Last year was an odd one for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a lot of ways that couldn’t help but hover over its 2023 output. The biggest example of this was The Marvels: the movie received a mixed reception in November, and ended up being one of the lowest-performing MCU movies to date.

That in and of itself indicated some audience fatigue, which happens naturally when you’ve been at this for 15 years. But what really drew attention was how quickly Disney wanted to wipe its hands of the whole thing, to say nothing of how the company was so comfortable in flinging any blame it could at director Nia DaCosta.

But following The Marvels’ arrival on streaming and DVD in January, more viewers seem to have taken a shine to it and been able to groove with its body-swapping setup. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it was the most-viewed streaming movie last week at 558 million minutes watched. A lot of the film’s appeal comes because of its returning heroes, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). While the movie has its issues, the three leads make it work, an accomplishment which stands out even more since all of them have only had relatively short runs as these characters.

With The Marvels now on Disney+ and DVD/Blu-Ray, io9 had the opportunity to talk with Parris about being a part of the MCU thus far, along with the turnaround on the film now that it’s out of theaters.

Justin Carter, io9: Monica levels up throughout The Marvels. Coming into this franchise with WandaVision, had you expected to make the jump to movies so soon?

Teyonah Parris: I didn’t know where Monica would end up after I signed on for WandaVision. I was hopeful and excited, but focused on the “mission,” aka the show. But around midway through or near the end of production, they approached me about some future plans they had for her. It was exciting to learn where she’d go next, and coming back with The Marvels was an exciting challenge for me.

For me, the biggest difference with Monica in WandaVision and Marvels was her place in the world. With Wanda, I was was able to tap into Monica’s scientific know-how and what she’s capable of without an immense amount of training. In The Marvels, she’s got superpowers now, and she’s with SHIELD—she’s definitely doing a lot more than Teyonah’s point of reference. There was a lot of more studying, training, and fight [choreography]. It was a lot of stamina work to transfer over, but it was fun to push myself so far.

io9: You’d previously worked with [director] Nia DaCosta before on Candyman—what was it like working with her again and continuing that rapport?

Parris: Nia and I had a great working relationship with Candyman, and I love her. That started our foundation for what [we] took into The Marvels together. This is a different movie and genre than Candyman with its own responsibilities and challenges. But what remained the same is, when it came to communicating and collaborating with her actors, Nia remained true to who she is as an artist. Sometimes, what was happening around us was just a case of, “We’ll figure it out.” But overall, working together again was wonderful, and it deepened our working relationship and understanding of each other.

io9: The Marvels is a pretty goofy film. You’ve done comedy before; how much did that previous experiene help you here?

Parris: I come from a theater background, so I’d had some experience with silly, screwball-ish comedies before. Movie-wise, I channeled some of what I did in one of my first films—They Came Together, with Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd—along with They Cloned Tyrone, where I could be pretty kooky in that. What was different here was that [Monica] was more of the straight man, or at least the closest thing to it. Playing that role requires a different skillset while hijinks are happening all around you.

io9: Probably also difficult to do when you have to be the straight man who also explains scientific jargon, right? I don’t know how you did it.

Parris: I don’t even know how I did it! [laughs] They’d change it in the moment, so even though I’d work on it at home, they’d hear it and then go, “Ohhhh, we need to change this to something else.” In those moments, I’d look at them like: “Guys, there’s 18 million things happening, and now I have this whole half a page of scientific stuff that you want to make sound natural and human, but you’re changing in the moment!”

I’m such a Type A person that I want to take it and study it, find out what they are—that helps you understand what you’re saying. So when it’d change, that throws my personal process off. It’s what I said earlier—it was very challenging moving into this larger space, you’d just have to figure it out. There were things specific to my character like that jargon that really called me to task.

Image for article titled The Marvels' Teyonah Parris Is Still Ready to Shine in the MCU

Image: Marvel Studios

io9: So much of Monica’s current baggage surrounds her late mother, Maria. What was it like for you to finally get to see her in the post-credits scene as alive and healthy, albeit as a variant from another universe?

Parris: That was a quiet filming day for me, where I wanted to block everything out. I had to think of my mom and think back to those emotions of loss and grief Monica felt when she returned to that hospital back in WandaVision.

It was a brief shoot, but having Lashana Lynch as an acting and scene partner was amazing. She was very much there for the support, and we had a beautiful time filming that… even though it was devastating.

io9: Both WandaVision and Marvels came out during these weird times in the world. How’s it been for you to have these two big MCU milestones get sandwiched between these real-world events?

Parris: It’s been a challenge, I’ll be real. This has been such a dream role for me, and the creative processes have been so wonderful. The Marvels is a project where you wanna get out there and sing its praises to everybody, to say nothing of the fanbase and core following. I was looking forward to being part of this space: with WandaVision, the pandemic made it so nobody wanted to be around anyone. I figured, that was fine, there’d be the next project, and it’ll happen next time.

Surprise, surprise! It’s been crazy—when you think about it, I’ve been in this universe about five years and haven’t had one press tour to really enjoy. It does suck, because the fans are so engaged, and I want to be able to share that with them and in real time with them. And also, Monica’s such a dope character, and I want more people to know who she is!

io9: The Marvels seemed to click more with audiences once it hit streaming. Have you been paying attention to its turnaround on social media?

Parris: I’ve been getting tagged on social media, and people have been excited about it. It’s been great to see; we all put so much work into it, and it’s its own little quirky, silly piece. To me, it was cool and fun, and I feel like we’re very much true to a comic book film that can be its own thing. I’m glad that people are getting a chance to really see it now and enjoy it, and it’s exciting whenever an audience sees your work and enjoys it.

The Marvels is now on Blu-ray/DVD and Disney+.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.