Clare Grant and Cort Lane Talk Titania, She-Hulk and Skaar’s Bad Manners in ‘Hulk and the Agents Of SMASH’ [Interview]
Marvel’s animated shows are in part a way for the company to reach a wider audience than comics can, and to introduce a whole new generation of kids to the Marvel universe. This is a fact that wasn’t lost on Clare Grant when the actress signed on to play Titania in Hulk and the Agents of SMASH. A noted comic book fan, Grant got into comics in part because of the ’90s X-Men animated series, so it’s perfectly understandable why she’d see this as an opportunity to reach a new generation of kids, and help introduce them to the characters she loves.
We spoke to Grant and supervising producer Cort Lane about Titania’s future on the show, getting into the Marvel universe at an early age, and playing a female character in a show largely dominated by male Hulks.
ComicsAlliance: You’re Titania in this episode, but you do a lot of voice work for multiple shows. What was that experience like versus other shows you’ve done? Was this a character you were very familiar with before you did this episode?
Clare Grant: Yes, I was familiar with Titania before I did the episode so I was really excited that I got to play her on the show! When I did the voice for Titania it was with a room full of other cast members. It was definitely the largest cast member recording that I’ve been a part of and there were so many talented voice actors in the room with me. I was very excited.
CA: Titania and Absorbing Man obviously have a long history — in the comics they’re kind of an on again, off again couple — but so do Titania and She-Hulk, who fight in this episode. The first time they meet, Titania’s introduction in the comics, she kind of beats the crap out of She-Hulk. But in this episode she loses so I felt like you got robbed a little bit.
CG: [Laughs] I haven’t seen it yet but the show is about the Hulk, and She-Hulk is the number two on the show, so I can’t imagine her taking too many licks from anybody, even if it is Titania who is one of the strongest women in the Marvel Universe and definitely can go toe to toe with She-Hulk.
Cort Lane: But I will say that Titania will have another shot at She-Hulk
CA: I was going to ask about that! I thought that might be the case. Even though Titania is not in the episode for very long, it’s a nice cameo because she’s used in the comics, especially in her introduction, as a metaphor for bullying. So to have her teamed up with the Absorbing Man, who’s kind of the ultimate bully and thug, I always thought made a lot of sense. It also makes sense to have her be an antagonist for She-Hulk, who is very anti-that philosophy of using strength to intimidate, I think. So I’m glad she’ll be coming back for another episode.
CG: I think there are two or three episodes, I can’t remember
CL: I can’t give away anything except for that she’s coming back
CG: Yeah that’s all I know [laughs].
CL: It’s really awesome to have a kick ass female villain in the show, we don’t get a lot of that so Titania is our girl for that and she can hold her own. That’s nice to see and it’s nice to see She-Hulk go toe to toe with someone at her level and it’s just a dynamic we don’t get much on the show.
CA: Clare, you’re familiar with Titania, and an avid comic readers. When you were getting ready for this, did you go back and read any earlier comics or did you know how you’d approach it immediately? Were there specific instructions or did you just come in and offer your take?
CG: We collect all the new awesome Marvel 3 3/4 that are coming out, the figures and each one comes with a comic. There must be Secret Wars comics so I’ve been re-reading those, which is nice because that’s where Titania’s introduction is. So I had actually read her origin within a year from me going in a reading [for the part].
CA: Good timing!
CG: [Laughs] Yeah
CA: Cort, I have a couple questions for you about the episode, of course.
CA: I think the Absorbing Man stands in stark contrast to the villains the Hulk has faced so far. You use him as a metaphor here, about how power can corrupt, and it’s really effective. But first and foremost, Absorbing Man is just a thug that happens to have magical powers. How is working on a character like that different from working on Ego or the Collector?
CL: Well we’re not always tied to selecting villains to have a metaphorical message. In the case of Absorbing Man, he was a villain that we definitely wanted to have in the show, we knew that from the beginning. We needed the right story, but this story is essentially about Skaar and how Skaar doesn’t fit within the team, or even the culture. We just wanted a guy who is such a big challenge and could hit them where they live so to speak, so that they would need Skaar and his particular set of abilities. So Absorbing Man fit neatly into that requirement.
CG: I love Skaar, I think he’s so cool [Laughs].
CL: He is so cool, Clare’s right, he’s just really fun. But we wanted to touch on the fact that he’s so crude and so alien to our culture, such a fish out of water, and we really needed to address if that’s okay. It’s really about being okay with someone who is so different from you and embracing them for who they are and even Skaar has to embrace himself for who he is. He worked so hard with Doc Samson to change, and I think this is an interesting use of Doc Samson, but really they need Skaar as Skaar. He’s part of the team and that’s why they love him.
CA: Will we see Skaar change going forward? He definitely reaches a significant point at the end of this episode.
CL: Yeah, it’s sort of a turning point for Skaar. At the beginning of the season we dealt with questions of “Is he even on our side? Is he a traitor?” Then it became does he fit in because he’s just so different and now for the rest of the season he’s one of the guys and girls, he’s a member of the team and we can focus on other bigger issues. We’re still not done with the whole story line involving The Leader’s connection to Skaar. That will get resolved at the end of the season.
CA: One of the things that really jumped out to me with this episode was a point early on where the Absorbing Man hits the Hulk and it’s shown in slow motion, and in the previous episode with Wolverine and the Wendigo’s you guys tried something else different that you hadn’t done yet, using a few still shots instead of animation. Those are two things you hadn’t done yet in the series. Going forward will you guys experiment more with the animation?
CL: Oh yeah, our supervising director is extraordinarily creative and even given the challenges of creating a weekly series like this, he’s always pushing the envelope. Absorbing Man being the threat that he is, slo-mo just felt like something fun that we could do. Every episode we get a nice surprise.
CA: Let’s talk about Doc Samson. I liked him a lot in this episode because he’s played really over the top in terms of his refinement, and I think that made him really amusing.
CL: The thing with Doc Samson is we don’t really need another guy to be big and muscular and smash stuff. Even though he has gamma powers, what we were most interested in was the whole therapist element, the Doc part of Doc Samson. Not only was it really fun, we brought in a very different actor who we hadn’t worked with really before, John Paul Karliak, to play Doc Samson and to give him that therapist vibe. Obviously we were playing the humor of it, but we needed a different kind of character to get across the therapist element. It wouldn’t play as realistically if a big smashy, deep voice, gruff guy was playing a therapist with Skaar. We needed a contrast between him and Skaar for all the comedy elements to work.
CA: Speaking of the contrast, this episode has one of my favorite moments from the series so far. Doc Samson is obviously brought in to help Skaar and they’re talking and he explains to him that he has to say please when he’s making any kind of request, and Skaar says “Why?” Then Doc tries to explain it and Skaar just sincerely asks “Why?” again, and it goes back and forth like that unitl Doc almost snaps. I feel like every parent I’ve ever know has had that experience. I wanted to call my dad and just say sorry without explaining myself.
CL: Skaar is a great entry point character for kids because his point of view is not that different, particularly to younger kids, and that’s intentional. And then on the other side we have A-Bomb whose enthusiasm for the world of the Hulk and everything that happens there, and his interests frankly from playing music through making a web show are also very much relatable to a kid, so we have those two characters as POV characters for kids watching the show. That definitely came up in the [writer’s room]. Skaar asks the questions that a six-year-old would ask: Why do I have to say please? Why do I have to hold my cup this way? Why do I have to wait for desert?
CA: Yeah and it’s the questions that you realize that you ultimately can’t answer and you get really frustrated as a parent.
CL: Yeah, you can’t answer that.
CA: I want to go back to talking about Titania and She-Hulk. In general there haven’t been that many female characters in this show so far, and there’s often an absence of female characters in shows based on comics in general. I was interested to see if you guys want to discuss that a little bit, specifically the opportunity to play a female character in a show that’s mostly dominated by male Hulks, Clare.
CG: It’s pretty cool to play a female character in a world dominated by male characters and growing up a comic book and video game fan, it’s pretty fun getting to play a Marvel character, even being one of the only girls.
CA: I imagine there are some young female comic readers and female animation fans who really identify with you and see the success you’ve had and are really happy, maybe even inspired, by it.
CG: I think it’s really cool. When I was in junior high I discovered the ’90s animated X-Men show and it made me fall in love with all those characters in a different way than I had previously. The characters, X-Men in general for me, the comics, I always really wanted to be a part of that and I hope that there are other girls who are young or pre-teen and are finding comics and stuff like that through these animated shows that are much easier to access. So I’m happy lots and lots of girls who are into this stuff get to see a strong woman who can completely hold her own against the guys.