Teyonah Parris' Monica Rambeau is emerging as one of the most dominating presences on the Disney+ series WandaVision. Initially, we find the character unwillingly trapped in Wanda's (Elizabeth Olsen) Pleasantville sitcom hell, trying to act the part of her best friend while trying to maintain her wits within Wanda's magical bubble that would make The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling proud. After Monica's expulsion from the bubble, she, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) try to get to the bottom of the Westview mystery and its inhabitants. Parris spoke with Variety about how the series tackled classic American sitcom's treatment of African Americans, Monica's contentious relationship with her boss, and teases her future. This is your spoilers warning.
With WandaVision's weekly episodes, Parris noticed the increased attention on her social media. "It's been pretty bizarre; when we first started the show, it was pre-pandemic, so it definitely wasn't with that in mind," she said. "The way they've lined up the synergy between the storylines has been pretty incredible to watch. But we had already filmed most of it, pre-pandemic." As Monica's pushed back into the real world, she finds herself in a scenario where life coincidentally imitated art with S.W.O.R.D. director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) disregarding her insight, similar to how African Americans were often backgrounded characters in early American sitcoms.
"I talked to Matt Shakman, our director," Parris said. "We had many conversations before we got on set trying to find the balance between what we know to be true — which is in the history of American sitcoms, these Black characters were sidelined or pushed to the back — and then also in this world, that is not necessarily the case. There is an aspect of it that I did have to lean into in order to keep it true to the time period. But what I love is that we have gotten to see the evolution of where Black women have lived in these spaces, and so as she goes from this sidelined space to modern-day, Monica is taking charge and trying to lead this investigation in a way that is empathetic, with compassion and understanding, realizing that Wanda is grieving and Monica dealing with her own grief of having lost her mother while Monica was blipped away [during the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019)]. I think this is her way of unpacking her own grief and trauma by trying to help Wanda through hers."
Parris is cognizant of her character's destiny the moment news of her casting hit online. "Oh, I knew Monica was a superhero before I even got the role because fans on Twitter had been fan-casting me as Monica Rambeau," she said. "This is way pre-Captain Marvel. So I looked her up, just very casually, like, 'Oh, she's pretty cool. She'll never see the light of day. Moving on!' So that was really my introduction to her, maybe, like five or six years ago when fans started doing that. So when she showed up in Captain Marvel as a young girl, I was like, 'Ooo! Okay!' But again, I didn't expect that she would become a full-grown woman and character in the MCU. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that not only would I be able to tell this woman's story, but that the world would be able to see another Black female superhero in the MCU."
For more where Parris talks about what it would mean to be a Black female superhero and if there's any truth to upcoming ties to the Fantastic Four, you can check it out on Variety. New episodes of WandaVision stream Fridays on Disney+.