Marvel‘s television empire has grown into an array of shows across many networks and streaming platforms.
After the tremendous success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, television in Marvel’s world has branched out from the tightly connected Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to MCU spin-offs like Daredevil and Jessica Jones to increasingly diverse shows like The Gifted and Runaways.
From the beginning, Marvel shows were put in the unique and difficult position of producing superheroes related to the blockbuster Marvel movies that have been hitting the theaters regularly.
The shows were set in the same world as the grand-scale Avengers adventures, but had to work on a smaller, more everyday scale. The writers were also commonly hit with curveballs from the movies that drastically changed the stories they could do.
Marvel shows have always been complicated to make. Behind-the-scenes conflict has shaped the entire trajectory of Marvel shows, and not always in a good way. Corporate politics has sometimes resulted in disappointing television, financial failures, and cancelled shows.
Even successful shows have been rocked by unexpected backlash and unfortunate timing– keeping Marvel’s television world running often sounds like a job for the Avengers.
Here are the 15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Didn’t Know About Marvel Shows.
15. Marvel Studios and ABC do not get along
While most of Marvel’s television shows are loosely based around the events of the MCU, the MCU and Marvel television have mostly gone in different directions. The tension is due to divisions between the movie and television branches of Marvel.
Joss Whedon explained, “I think actually the movie people were a little bit cross about the TV show. They were sort of like ‘Well you can have this but not this. And this but not that.’ It’s complicated enough as it is without me adding another layer of complication. We also created a TV show called S.H.I.E.L.D. right before they made a movie where they destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D.. So everybody’s having a GREAT time!”
14. Jessica Jones’ showrunner got unexpected backlash for the interracial relationship
When Jessica Jones premiered, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg knew it would be controversial. The first season dealt with heavy topics like assault and abortion.
Rosenberg expected backlash, particularly for the abortion storyline, a topic that is still difficult to discuss on television. Instead, she was surprised about the backlash she got for the interracial relationship between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have been an iconic Marvel couple since Jessica’s run started in the comic books, but the television portrayal made the superpowered couple more well-known than ever. The backlash against the relationship even landed Rosenberg on a Nazi hate site.
13. A conflict at Marvel caused Marvel TV and the MCU to go in different directions
The MCU’s stellar success has been accompanied by significant shake-ups at Marvel. The current film universe is controlled by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, but he has worked under the control of Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter and Marvel’s creative committee.
After a conflict over the budget for Civil War, Feige threatened to leave unless he was freed from the control of Perlmutter.
After the split, Kevin Feige has retained his control of the MCU, but he does not have much involvement with Marvel’s television projects. The television shows are still under the control of Perlmutter and Marvel’s committee.
The new structure with two separate spheres of creative control has put distance between the film and television projects at Marvel. This shake-up sent the movies and the TV shows in two different directions.
12. Marvel Studios was angry that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revived Coulson
It was hard not to love the dynamic, adorable Agent Coulson when he was introduced in The Avengers. His magnetic personality gave his death in the movie an emotional weight for both the heroes and the fans.
He was so popular that when Marvel’s new world spread to television, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revived Coulson and set him up as the central character. While many fans celebrated the return of Coulson, Marvel Studios was less enthusiastic.
According to Joss Whedon, Marvel Studios was unhappy with the decision to create a series for a character the MCU had just killed off. Whedon also feels it is important that Coulson remain dead to the MCU heroes.
11. Agent Carter was cancelled to put Hayley Atwell in a more mainstream show
The cancellation of Agent Carter took many people by surprise, especially as other shows in Marvel’s lineup continued and flourished. The smart, female-led period piece driven by Hayley Atwell ran for only two seasons. Hayley Atwell revealed the cancellation had a lot to do with network politics.
Atwell stated, “They wanted to put me in something mainstream to get their ratings up rather than something that was more genre specific.
There were a lot of economic decisions behind it and I wasn’t a part of the conversation. We were all really surprised about that because we kind of got the sense that people were liking it. It had this cult following.”
10. Charlie Cox found out Daredevil is blind the day before his audition
Auditioning for a new role can be an awkward process, especially when details are left out to keep the secrets of an upcoming production. Charlie Cox barely dodged this bullet when he was auditioning for the lead role in Daredevil.
The script he received for the audition had a fake title and fake character names. The materials mentioned nothing about Daredevil’s blindness, an important and defining aspect of the character. However, Cox was told that the production was probably Daredevil.
He only found out the character he was auditioning for was blind when running lines with a friend. Cox explained, “And he said, ‘I think — isn’t Daredevil blind?’… And I was like, ‘No, dude, I’m pretty sure they would have told me if the guy was blind.’”
9. The Punisher was difficult to market after recent gun violence
The Punisher‘s premiere came at an unfortunate time, coinciding with real mass shootings and heated debate about gun violence in the United States.
The series focuses on ex-soldier-turned-vigilante Frank Castle on a quest to avenge the murder of his family, and the focus on gun violence within the show made it difficult for Marvel to properly market.
Netflix even postponed the premiere after the Las Vegas shooting, but another mass shooting in Sutherland Springs occurred just a day before the rescheduled premiere.
Star Jon Bernthal commented, “I hope, more than anything else, that people will recognize the gravity of this problem, and I’m just hoping a dialogue will be opened. Art, at its absolute best, can hold a mirror to society and can make society look at and question itself… If this show does that in some way, I think that’s a really positive thing.”
8. Marvel Studios creative control likely prevents any crossover with the MCU
Although many fans would love to see beloved television characters like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Quake team up with the big-budget MCU heroes, the creative control at Marvel Studios makes a crossover an unlikely possibility.
Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon, commented on a possible crossover, “Kevin Feige is very specific about how he wants the Marvel Universe to be seen in the film world.”
Daredevil star Charlie Cox also explained, “Marvel TV and Marvel Studios are two very different things. So even if the character were to appear in that film, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I would appear in that film.”
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige isn’t counting out the possibility completely, though. He added, “The future’s a long time. So, the truth is, I don’t really know… At some point, there’s going to be a crossover. Crossover, repetition, or something.”
7. Finn Jones left Twitter because of the backlash over his casting as Iron Fist
When news of Iron Fist became public, the show quickly became a source of controversy. Like many other heroes from Marvel’s long history, Iron Fist had a few problems with racial representation. Critics were quick to point out the problematic racial tropes the show relies upon, calling the story too stereotyped and colonialist and too much of a white savior narrative.
Some fans hoped the hero could be salvaged from these tropes by casting an Asian actor as the lead. These fans were disappointed when Finn Jones was instead announced in the role of Danny Rand.
Jones defended his casting on Twitter, saying everyone at the show cared about creating a socially progressive story and addressing the problematic aspects of Danny Rand’s character. After facing backlash, Jones deleted his Twitter account soon after.
6. ABC intended to cancel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Disney prevented it
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kick-started a new era of Marvel’s television branch, and it has survived when other MCU spin-offs were quietly cancelled.
However, even this staple of Marvel television almost got axed. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled off a successful fourth season. It was praised by critics and fans for its tight writing throughout the Ghost Rider and LMD story arcs. Despite the positive reception overall, ABC wanted to cancel it after the fourth season.
ABC’s ratings had stagnated and left them in a “ratings rut,” and they hoped to cut existing shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as some ABC executives felt the show had run its course. Fortunately, the show had an unlikely protector in The Mouse. Disney stepped in to overrule ABC’s cancellation and renew S.H.I.E.L.D. for a fifth season. The reason for Disney’s corporate meddling is still unclear.
5. Daredevil was inaccessible to people with blindness when first released
Daredevil is known for being a revolutionary figure, breaking barriers in representation for people with disabilities.
When Netflix decided to create the Daredevil series, fans were excited about the representation Daredevil would bring on television. Unfortunately, when the show premiered, Netflix did not make the show accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
A petition rolled out for Netflix to add an audio description option, which describes what is happening on screen for those who cannot see it. To their credit, Netflix made quick work of adding audio description to Daredevil and to many other shows in their library.
However, the irony was not lost on Netflix’s critics. They had released a show about a blind superhero without thinking about how real-life blind people would experience it. Fortunately, the misstep did bring attention to the need for accessibility.
4. Chloe Bennet had to change her name to be cast in Hollywood
Audiences have become increasingly aware of whitewashing in recent years, and superhero films and shows have been some of the most prominent offenders.
Recently, Ed Skrein dropped out of his casting for Hellboy after realizing the character he played was supposed to have mixed Asian heritage. In the wake of these scandals, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet revealed she had to change her Asian name to be cast in Hollywood.
She was born Chloe Wang, but could not get work under the name. She added, “The first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked. So that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.”
When she received backlash for praising Skrein’s decision given her own name change, she explained, “It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable.”
3. Inhumans was such a failure that IMAX will likely never produce television again
Inhumans was a blunder for Marvel on many levels. It was first released as a movie-length pilot in IMAX format, an experimental move that failed miserably.
The two-week run in IMAX was a huge disappointment, garnering only $3.5 million at the box office. IMAX realized too late that few customers were willing to pay their prices to see a television pilot that would soon premiere on their usual cable lineup. Even worse, Inhumans‘ entire 8-episode run was panned by critics.
Later, IMAX admitted that this was a misstep on their part. IMAX had co-produced the pilot of Inhumans, meaning the company sunk its own money into a failed project.
The IMAX CEO commented, “Customers expected a production akin to a mega-budget blockbuster movie, rather than pilots for a television show,” adding that they intended to be more conservative about investing IMAX money in a project again.
2. Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennet’s on-set injuries had to be written into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has demanded intense stunts from its stars, and these stunts have caused on-set injuries more than once. Ming-Na Wen tore her ACL while filming season four, and she did not completely recover before filming for the new season began.
The writers decided to write Wen’s real injury into the story, giving May a similar injury during season five to explain her reduced role in the action.
Chloe Bennet also had to work with an on-set injury during the second season. In one fight scene, Bennet fractured her arm. Not realizing her arm was broken, she continued to film another fight scene. Bennet filmed the rest of the season with a broken arm, but she was back at her stunts in time for the third season.
1. Inhumans was supposed to be a movie that would have tied in with Infinity War
Inhumans was a disappointing television experiment for Marvel, but it might have been so much more. Originally, Inhumans was announced as a movie in Marvel’s Phase Three.
The Inhumans likely would have made an appearance in the upcoming Infinity War crossover. However, the movie was dropped from Marvel lineup and turned into a lower-budget television show instead.
Inhumans’ drop out of the MCU was probably the result of several factors. Marvel regained the rights to Spider-Man, and fringe MCU characters like Ant-Man performed better than expected. The focus shifted to other projects, leaving the Inhumans out in the cold.
Inhumans was also reported to be the pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who recently split from the MCU on Kevin Feige’s demand. Perhaps under different circumstances without the corporate politics, Inhumans could have been a greater success.
Can you think of any other behind the scenes secrets about Marvel shows? Sound off in the comment section!
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