The actress behind Medusa on Marvel's Inhumans has explained how the character's fantastical hair works on the small screen. When the Inhumans TV series debuts on IMAX screens this fall, fans will get their first complete look at the royal family of genetically-engineered humans that first featured in Marvel Comics in the 1960s. Black Bolt (Anson Mount), the devastatingly powerful king of this enhanced race of beings, must flee with his family from the secret moon city of Attilan after a coup by his brother, Maximus (Iwan Rheon).
Black Bolt's wife, Medusa, is a striking figure in the comics. Her endless waves of prehensile crimson hair wind across entire pages, each incredibly strong tendril under her control and capable of everything from delicate tasks to heavy lifting and aggressive attacks. When the Inhumans trailer debuted last month, many viewers were concerned at how still and lifeless Medusa's signature tresses appeared.
Serinda Swan, the actress that plays Medusa in the new series, has some assurances for fans that they will see the character they know and love from the comics. During Screen Rant's Inhumans set visit, Swan explained how her powers will manifest on screen through a mixture of CGI and practical effects:
"It’s a hairy situation. I think I’m going to say that several times. One of the cool things with Medusa obviously is her hair and learning how to use it through the wig, but then also through the CGI. So there are moments where you are in fights or intense situations and you have to know how to use your face at the same time that you are using your hair, so there has been a lot of really amazing scenes where I have to sit down and go, “Okay. If it was my arm, how would I do it if it was my arm? What would my face do?” And then have the duality between the two because it’s sort of another appendage for her."
Swan went on to explain the learning process that went into creating this character, and how even just dealing with the wig in everyday life informed her perception of the character:
"So learning that is definitely a skill set that, you know, I like doing my own stunts. I like being active, but I never thought of my hair as a weapon or as a protection system or even something as easy as getting water because she can do everyday things with her hair. But that was sort of the fun of her and bringing that to life and honoring what’s in the comic books and honoring who she is because it’s a huge part of her. Huge! So, yeah, and the length and the size of the wig is quite phenomenal. So learning how to just get through everyday life with that like I got to break for lunch. How do I do this? Like one gust of wind and I’m in massive amounts of trouble, so I’m appreciating her. She has to have control of it because otherwise, as a normal human, not having control of it is as a nightmare."
The Inhumans promotional images and trailer show how the showrunners have tried to create a real-world version of the character, and Swan feels the sleek purple clothing and bright red hair are consistent with Medusa's comic book appearance, stressing that "we are very on point with who she is. That’s one of the great things about Marvel is that she is right in line with what you guys have seen before."
Another big question for Swan was if Medusa's hair would also be an emotional barometer for the Inhumans queen. In the comics, the strands of hair would curl in different ways to denote playful moods or anger, or as a reaction to being threatened:
"Yes. You will definitely see her hair have moods. There will be some moody hair. You know because that’s her! You know, it’s the same when you are in an argument, your fists curl. When you are like meeting someone and you’re nervous, your hands sweat. It’s her. And it is all of that. And it’s a little less when she is out in public because she is like, “ I am queen.” because it would be slightly distracting if I’m doing, if I was like this during the whole interview, you guys would be like, “What is going on?” So she controls it when she is out in public, but you’ll see a much more intimate side with her and her hair with Black Bolt."
Controlling her hair when in public could explain the lack of a dynamic mane in the trailer that fans were worried about. When the royal family flees to the Earth island of Hawaii, it looks like those without drastic physical differences will be doing their best to blend in with the humans, so that would definitely require more control from Medusa. It also makes sense that the queen wouldn't want to reveal her every mood to just anyone.
The good news for fans is that it sounds like Swan has given a lot of thought to the character, her power, and how to make a roiling mass of animate hair look like a realistic extension of who she is. The filming of the initial two episodes in movie-quality IMAX also means there's a chance Medusa could end up being even more spectacular than she appears in comic artwork. It's a complicated challenge to bring this kind of character to screen, and it will be interesting to see the full effect when the series hits theaters.
Inhumans premieres in IMAX on September 1, and on ABC on September 29.