The first-time Emmy nominee says she's surprised the Disney+ show has become one of TV's biggest hits

By Devan Coggan
July 13, 2021 at 07:30 PM EDT
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It's only fitting that in a year when many of us passed the time by escaping into television, one of TV's biggest hits was a show about exactly that. WandaVision was practically an immediate success from the moment its first two episodes dropped in January: Not only did the series kick-off Disney+'s new foray into Marvel television, but it also married classic sitcom shenanigans and superhero angst to weave a twisted family drama that could be hilarious one moment and devastating the next.

WandaVision's triumphant streak continued Tuesday when it earned a whopping 23 Emmy nominations, including Best Limited Series. One of those recognized was first-time nominee Elizabeth Olsen, who has played Marvel's Wanda Maximoff for the last six years and charted her journey from powerful antagonist to sympathetic Avenger. WandaVision was a chance for Olsen — and by extension, Marvel — to flex new muscles, juggling comedic sitcom moments with grief and heartfelt drama. (Her costars Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn were also nominated.)

EW caught up with Olsen shortly after the nominations were announced on Tuesday to talk about Wanda's unexpected TV journey — and where she might go next.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! Have you talked to Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn and the rest of the WandaVision team yet?

ELIZABETH OLSEN: We all texted each other earlier this morning! And then I had a dialect coach [meeting], and then I started taking these calls. So I haven't even responded to any of my friends yet!

We spoke a year ago when you were still filming, and you talked about how you were so excited for this show, but you weren't sure how it was going to be received. Looking back now, were you surprised at all by the reception?

I am! I'm always surprised when people like anything I'm a part of. [Laughs] You never really know if something will hit and affect an audience. It just depends on what's going on at that time and what else is on television. So yeah, I am surprised! Not because I didn't love it, but just because you never know.

WANDAVISION
Elizabeth Olsen in 'WandaVision'
| Credit: Marvel Studios

Why do you think so many people identified with Wanda and her particular story of grief and loss?

I think there's a few reasons. There's this idea in the script of us needing to create these bubbles and this need to protect ourselves and our family, which she quite literally does. And we were all in a pandemic, where we were all doing the same thing. [Laughs] Then I also feel like people — especially during 2020 and the beginning of 2021 — were really craving comfort. American sitcom television has for generations created that sense of comfort. So I think there were a couple things that just hit a sweet spot for people.

We didn't know about any pandemic when we started making this show! But I feel like it was just meant for this moment in time.

Wanda is a character you've played for years now. What was the most rewarding part of getting to do this deep dive with her in WandaVision?

I never thought I would have this opportunity, and I am so grateful to get to have spent this many hours with her now. I feel like I can do anything with her now. Someone I was talking to was saying that's what is so interesting about the character is you don't know if she's a hero or a villain — and that's kind of the point of that character in the comics. You can't define her as either. The only person that can hurt her is herself. I just love getting to play her because of those complexities.

Especially in a show like WandaVision, which is all about dissecting those complexities.

I kind of try and do that with any character I play because I think I generally choose morally ambiguous characters. I think that for the most part, we all have a bit of both in us, depending on whose perspective you're looking from. As an actor, that's just where I get a kick out of the job the most.

We obviously have not seen the last of Wanda, and you'll be appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is coming up. I know you can't talk too much about it, but what are you most excited about when it comes to Wanda's next chapter?

I mean, I have no idea of what to say. [Laughs] I'm just grateful that I feel like I have a good ownership of the character. I'm excited now that we have the audience understanding her more, and we can take them on different journeys to different places.

The 73rd annual Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS and will stream live on Paramount+.

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