Jameela Jamil 'didn't recognize' herself while playing a supervillain influencer on She-Hulk
The week that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiered, Jameela Jamil suited up as her character Titania, a supervillain influencer, to strut around the streets of Los Angeles and vandalize posters for the Marvel comedy. And what made that promotional stunt even more enjoyable for the actress was the fact that she was barely in the first episode.
"I loved the idea that when everyone saw how much promo I was doing and all my stunts, they thought that I only had a 10-second role," Jamil tells EW. "It made me laugh. I was almost sad that more of my part came out [in last week's episode], because I thought there was something so iconic about someone promoting a 10-second part that much — just very desperate."
While Jamil's villain made her super-short debut in the series premiere, it wasn't until episode 5 that viewers really got to meet her when Titania sued Jen Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), for use of the name She-Hulk — which Titania had trademarked just to make Jen's life more difficult. Jamil was excited for people to finally meet "this relentless pain in the arse of a woman coming back to continuously haunt She-Hulk, who's just trying to get on with her life and do her job."
"There's nothing funnier to me than one-way beef, where you are consumed with someone else and they are not thinking about you at all," Jamil says with a laugh. "There's truly nothing more pathetic than that."
Below, Jamil dives deep into bringing Titania to life, what fans can expect from her in the second half of the season, and why she thinks people who are critical of the show "just haven't seen it."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We haven't seen anyone quite like Titania in the MCU before. What kinds of conversations did you have with head writer Jessica Gao about who this character was going to be?
JAMEELA JAMIL: I actually had the role before I knew what I was doing. I was given no information about what I was auditioning for, I was told it was just a little cameo. I wasn't told I had superpowers or would be doing any action or anything. [Director] Kat Coiro is a very slippery sucker, and she knew that I was nervous and she just had more faith in me than I had in myself, so she pushed me to audition for this and I'm super grateful, because it's changed my life. Thanks to Kat!
Once I got there I was told what the role was, and I was so excited because I was such a big fan of Titania from the comics. I couldn't believe that I was playing my favorite character. And Jessica had a very clear idea of what she wanted her to represent, and it's a satire of the worst side of influencer culture. We wanted to find the funniest way to tell the story of why do we buy into these people and what drives them.
Did you look at real influencers for inspiration?
Yeah, I had to find the voice, and the vocal fry, and just the way that she moves. We've never had someone super violent and evil who maneuvered like that. I worked a lot with Ann Foley, who's the head of our costume department, to create someone who just screams, "Look at me!" because that's who Titania has always been: someone who just wants to be the only one you are looking at in any given room. We got to have so much fun, with the wildest designers. I am quite shy and I'm not good at trying new things as me, but Titania gave me the freedom to put on things that I would never even try on my body or try on my face. She was very empowering to play, because she just does not give a f---, to her own self-detriment.
But it's quite fun seeing a woman be so rebellious. I love all the different flaws and complexities of women that Jessica has written into this show. I think it's really cool and important to see, because so often we are stereotyped and I don't think there's any one single woman — including Madisynn, "with a Y, but it's not where you think" — we're all surprising and unusual, and I really credit Jessica with that.
What did you think when you saw yourself as Titania, in her clothes and makeup and speaking in her voice, for the first time?
It was just very surreal and very liberating, because when you're in that much costume and that much makeup and wig, you just don't feel at all like yourself. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I had the freedom to completely lose myself in this infuriating woman, and that was just a joy. It was a very playful set. Mark Ruffalo is such a big kid. He made it feel like a school play, so I adored the experience. I would do it a thousand times again. And it was really funny for me to play the antithesis of everything that I stand for myself, personally and publicly.
How long did it take you to lock in on Titania's voice, since it's extremely different from your own?
It came quite naturally because of how much time I've spent looking at and talking about and bitching about these aspects of our society. I was weirdly ready. And I only had about a week from getting the role and touching down and then starting on camera, so I didn't have a lot of time to prep. That meant going through a body transformation, and it was quite intense — I had to eat more food than my stomach could gracefully handle, practically eating pizza while doing squats and trying to get bigger, stronger thighs, and bigger, stronger arms. That was also fantastic, to try and have bigger, stronger thighs and arms after a lifetime of thinking that women are supposed to be feminine, which is to be small and lithe and to not take up space. She-Hulk is good at reinventing what it is to be feminine, which is to be whatever you want. It's a great message. It's important.
We haven't learned much about what Titania really wants outside of trademarking the name She-Hulk, so what can you reveal about that?
People don't get to find out her backstory in this, but anyone who's read the comic books knows that Titania was really badly bullied as a kid. She was bullied for her size, because she was small and she wasn't very strong, and she had very small breasts, and all she ever wanted was to be big and strong and voluptuous and powerful. She's attained powers and done a deal with the devil in that if she has these powers that make her everything she wants to be, she has to be a bad person.
She's just still trying to fulfill that little kid's need to show all those bullies that I'm actually the biggest and the strongest and the hottest and the best now. She's just got something to prove. She's very aggressive, and she's very, very insecure. That's how I read all of her behavior and all of her makeup looks. What drives anyone to be a villain? I think it's normally just the fact that they're sad. And [villains] are the only characters I'm interested in playing. I don't do almost any auditions, because the characters that always most speak to me are the bad guy. It's really weird how few roles for female villains there are in Hollywood, considering how we demonize women in every aspect of culture and society. I'm amazed all the villains aren't women. I love imperfect women. I am such an imperfect woman myself. I think that's what's really cool about shows like this.
And I think some men who haven't seen the show or who don't understand the show have been a little bit upset about it. I think that's just because they think that we're attacking them, but we're not. Men just aren't accustomed to having to see the world through our lens, but we have silently sat and watched the world through a man's lens, and watched women through a man's lens, for decades now. We're just trying to invite men in so they can see that misogyny hurts all of us. And Titania is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, misogynists in the entire show, and she's a woman. This is a conversation about patriarchy, it's a conversation about misogyny. We're just inviting men in to see what the world looks like from our point of view so that maybe we can figure this out together. I think the people who really rail against our show just haven't seen it.
And listen, you can choose not to watch our show, that's fine. But I think you'll learn something if you do, and I think you'll like it. Kevin Feige is the ultimate Marvel king and nerd, and he's never going to let anything go out that he, as a fan himself, wouldn't enjoy watching. We're very true to the Marvel universe — it's just Marvel keeps pushing the envelope of where they're allowed to take the superhero genre, and I think that that's amazing.
New episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law debut Thursdays on Disney+.
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