Actress Virginia Madsen has been cast in DC Universe’s upcoming Swamp Thing TV show as Maria Sunderland. Swamp Thing, which isn't in the same universe as Titans or Doom Patrol, is slated for a mid-2019 release on DC’s streaming platform. While the titular “Thing” has yet to be cast, Madsen, known for her work in Sideways and American Gothic, joins a growing stable of actors including Crystal Reed, Jeryl Prescott and Jennifer Beals.
Madsen won’t be playing a character with any clear comic book roots. There is no Maria Sunderland who interacts with Swamp Thing or any other DC hero in the source material. Maria’s husband, though, who has yet to be cast, does appear to be based on a classic comic villain. However Madsen’s character could be forced to fight against his husband.
Deadline first reported that Virginia Madsen has been cast a “key series regular” in Swamp Thing. Madsen’s Maria Sunderland is described as someone who has traded in a privileged life for an existence in Marais, the swampy town in which Swamp Thing is set. Maria’s life changed when she married businessman Avery Sunderland. Avery is dangerously obsessed with the mysterious swamp in Marais and moved himself and Maria to be closer to the supernatural location.
Maria doesn’t share her husband's attraction to Marias. Avery’s dedication to Marais and its swamp (where Alec Holland aka. the Swamp Thing lives) has strained their marriage. Instead Maria will find herself drawn towards Abby Arcane, played by Crystal Reed, because Abby reminds Maria of her tragically lost daughter Shawna. Swamp Thing is set to use Abby as the main character and audience surrogate. It seems like Maria will become Abby's mother figure in the series.
While Maria does seem to be an original character, her connection to other characters, who do come from the comics, does give some room for speculation. The obvious connection is with Avery. In the comics Avery Sunderland is a ruthless businessman and scientist who is partially responsible for Dr. Alec Holland’s transformation into Swamp Thing. After the transformation, Sunderland captured Swamp Thing and tortured him for “science." Eventually Swamp Thing escaped and sent Sunderland (literally) to Hell. It’s obviously unknown if DC Universe’s version of the character will follow the same trajectory, but his character description and frosty relationship with his wife does suggest he’ll be an antagonist, in Maria’s life if nothing else. It's easy to assume that Sunderland will be the main villain of Swamp Thing season 1 or the entire series.
Still the connection between Maria and Abby might end up becoming more substantial. Abby is an incredibly important character not just in terms of the TV show but the mythology of Swamp Thing. Though she ends up having powers of her own, Abby is typically depicted as Swamp Thing’s connection to the human world. She ties Alec into human existence after his tragic transformation. In some continuities, she has even become Alec's wife and mother to his children. Maria Sunderland’s motherly relationship with Abby will undoubtedly bring her into close contact with Swamp Thing and create a dynamic that’s rarely been seen in the comics.
Swamp Thing is set to premiere sometime in 2019 on DC Universe.