Teyonah Parris introduces the grown-up Monica Rambeau in WandaVision
WandaVision may center on Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany's Vision, but when the series drops on Disney+ this winter, it'll also introduce a new hero: Monica Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris. Monica may not be a household name the way some of her Marvel peers are, but she already has a history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and an even longer one in the comics.
MCU fans first met Monica as a young child in 2019's Captain Marvel, as the daughter of Carol Danvers' best friend and Air Force ally Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch). The young Monica (Akira Akbar) is fast friends with her aunt Carol (Brie Larson), but here, Lieutenant Trouble is all grown up. And she plays a key role in the strange, sitcom-inspired world of WandaVision.
"[She has] a toughness and an ability to be a woman in a man's space," teases head writer Jac Schaeffer. "Teyonah really brought that."
First created by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. in the 1980s, Monica was introduced in the comics as a New Orleans native who gained superpowers after exposure to an intense energy blast. She soon signed up with the Avengers, becoming the first African-American woman to join and eventually taking over as the team’s leader. Over the years, she’s gone by various names, including Captain Marvel, Photon, Pulsar, and Spectrum. (She was actually the first woman to take on the Captain Marvel mantle, preceding Carol Danvers by decades.) And she’s extraordinarily powerful in the comics, with the ability to fly, travel at the speed of light, and even transform herself into pure energy.
“I feel so special and honored to be able to walk in her shoes and bring her story to life,” says the 33-year-old Parris. “I hope that me playing this character (a) gives a group of people who are underrepresented a chance to see themselves, and (b) seeing my face and my Black body helps them engage with Black women and our humanity.”
Marvel Studios had always intended to reintroduce an adult version of Monica after her debut in the ‘90s-set Captain Marvel, but they’re tight-lipped about exactly how she fits into the reality-bending WandaVision. (The first trailer shows her zooming through the air, before crashing through some kind of energy barrier and landing on the ground, surrounded by what look like military agents.) “One of the fun mysteries is how the heck would she become involved in this odd sitcom that Wanda and Vision find themselves in,” teases coexecutive producer Mary Livanos. “That’s a mystery the show unravels along the way.”
And as Livanos points out, pairing her with Wanda and Vision makes sense: In the comics, Wanda, Vision, and Monica fought side-by-side as members of the Avengers.
“Looking back to Monica Rambeau’s comic book history, she’s a leader among heroes,” Livanos adds. “She’s the type of hero that can always talk with other heroes. She’s a huge asset.”
When Parris first auditioned for the role, all she knew was that it was for some sort of Marvel project. “When I found out I actually got it, I tried to jump off a set of stairs because in my body, I was like, ‘I can fly! I can freaking fly!’” she says with a laugh. “My family had to calm me down.”
Best known for her roles in Mad Men, Dear White People, and Chi-Raq, Parris says she had to adjust to the size and scale of working on the MCU’s first Disney+ series — like with that scene in the trailer, where she whizzes through the air.
“What I’m finding challenging is doing things that I’m uncomfortable with and I’ve never had experience with [while] still trying to tell the story at hand,” she explains. “[I have] to look like I know what I’m doing, even though I’m 20 feet hanging in the air, and I’m sweating, and my hair is doing this and that, and I smudged my eyebrow off, and I still have to connect with the actor who’s on the ground waiting on me.”
But ultimately, she says she's excited to introduce audiences to this new version of a decades-old character — and finally give Monica her time in the spotlight.
“I do feel empowered and that I have a voice in this character and who she is and what we’re creating,” Parris says. “I do think that they trust some of my own instincts and they’re valuing what I’m bringing to the character. I’m really appreciative of that.”
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