She’s the lead writer and creator on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest risk in years — “WandaVision,” a show that is part sitcom, part Marvel movie and part ... something else. It was a different project than the traditional Marvel films. Its first three episodes are basically three different sitcom shows. Nothing in the plot has been fully explained yet. And it’s about really confusing concepts.
But the risk has paid off. “WandaVision” has been a success. It has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and an 80% from the average audience. It’s constantly in the headlines. And — like most Marvel projects — it’s fodder for theories, suspicions and questions galore.
But Schaeffer said so far the show has worked — and it has been an innovation to storytelling and creation.
“You can come up with a cool concept. Right? People can come up with a cool concept. Sticking the landing is the thing everything is judged on — how it ends up,” she said.
Schaeffer recently spoke to the Deseret News about the new Marvel Cinematic Universe show. She detailed what makes the Disney+ show so innovative and different than what the MCU has created before — and what it might mean for the future of television.
You can review the eight questions below to see what she had to say.
Note: This article has been edited for length and clarity.
Deseret News: What makes ‘WandaVision’ so innovative and different from other television shows? What does it mean for the future of television?
Jac Schaeffer: I feel like “WandaVision” is reflective of the moments that we’re having in television. I mean it really is peak TV. There’s so much exceptional comedy content out there. And certainly, like I have had my mind blown over and over again these past few years, with shows, particularly in the half-hour format that really defines how we understand a half-hour comedy. And, the fact that there are so many series right now that start going in one direction and then do a 180.
I feel it’s indicative of this moment where you don’t have to follow all the rules of what a half-hour show has to be. I think that streaming platforms like Disney+ afford more opportunity to get weird. Also, fans are so smart right now. You’re creating content for people who are bringing so much to the table. It’s not just a cold audience. When you have a fan base that’s so smart, so dedicated so ready, you can take big leaps.
DN: What was the scariest part of creating the show? What was the biggest risk?
JS: In the actual doing the show. I felt through most of the process very insulated from those kinds of pressures. The pressure was really mostly like — will Kevin (Fiege) like it? That was my day to day — will Kevin like it? And then, will I like it? Will I be proud of it? Will my team be proud of it? Are we putting something into the world that makes the world a better place, right? Those are the larger questions that I am asking myself day to day. But yeah, as it got close to actually premiering, I started to panic sure, but so far it seems like it’s going OK.
DN: What keeps you up at night about “WandaVision” right now?
JS: You can come up with a cool concept — lots of people can come up with cool concepts. Sticking the landing is the thing that everything is judged on — how it ends up. I stand by where the show goes, and I’m very proud of my team and so impressed and in awe of all of the collaborators on this enormous show. And it’s my hope that the fanbase feels the same excitement and emotional response that we all had in making it.
DN: Marvel is taking a lot of risks right now. And it’s been known to take risks at every turn. Was that an exciting opportunity for you as a creative person?
JS: I mean, I really love being a part of something that’s so grand in scale. I like being a part of a community of creatives who are all there to push things farther and to delight this fan base that’s so committed. I like being in a company that has so many talented people.
I was always really intimidated by television when I was early in my career. The idea of spinning out a story for 22 episodes a season for multiple seasons just seemed impossible. I don’t have enough ideas for that. And so to be a part of something where so many ideas already exist — it’s my job to just carry that forward and make it more bizarre and more challenging. I find that really gratifying.
DN: Was there anything totally wild or out of bounds that you wanted to add to the show that got nixed? Or is there something wild you added that will come into the show soon?
JS: Yeah, I mean there were definitely things that I liked. There wasn’t anything that I was like, ‘I’m gonna walk off this project because you won’t do this’ — like nothing was ever like that intense. There are certainly things that I wish we had tried, but I do think all of those things that fall into that category are things that fell by the wayside in an effort to strengthen a cohesive story. The series itself is such an enormous swing. So, whatever weirder (things) that I wanted to do — I think we sort of nailed it with being an odd duck.
DN: If people are scared of a show like “WandaVision” because of the format and style of the opening episodes, what would you tell them to get them interested?
JS: Well, luckily, because of Disney PR marketing, I don’t have to tell anybody to watch the show (laughs). I have family members who don’t know the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I did have to give them little tutorials so that they sit in order to enhance their viewing of the show.
I think that it is a show that you can watch with a cursory understanding of the MCU, but it — and this speaks to the geniuses of the people in charge — the more content you watch, the better the viewership, the better your experience is. So I really think that if you have an understanding of this show, you can find something in it. But like with the sitcom stuff, people who aren’t into the MCU seem to really love the sitcom, so to that, I’m like, ‘If you like sitcoms, watch this sitcom.’
DN: What do most people ask you about?
There’s a handful. I get the season two question. I get — what theories are right? What theories aren’t right? And then I’m not going to tell you the other ones because I don’t want to say words — I don’t want to actually say the words that I’m not supposed to talk about.
DN: Is there anything else about “WandaVision” that you haven’t told anyone yet, or anything you want people to know?
JS: I mean there’s a lot that I want to talk about that I still can’t talk about. There is so much work that went into the big picture of the show. That’s what I can’t speak to — where everything started and really what we were thinking.
I always like an opportunity to like brag about how smart my writers are and talk about them specifically. I’ll tell you about my assistant. She’s wonderful, and she came up with the joke that is in Episode Three when Dottie’s like, “Do these earrings make me look fat?” And the lights go out, he’s like, “Oh my gosh.” That was my amazing assistant Laura. She gave me a list because my brain was fried and I was like, “Can you give me ideas?” And she gave me this list and I was like, “We’ve gotta gem on the page right there. Somebody send that away because it’s perfect.”