The Marvel universe works in mysterious ways. Heros often die and then one film later miraculously come back to life. Storylines are interconnected in the most mind-bending of ways. And in the case of Kat Dennings, “a fun side character” can make an unexpected return in a completely different franchise when you least expect it. It has been seven years since Dennings was last seen as Jane Foster’s quick-witted assistant Darcy Lewis in the original Thor films, Thor and Thor: The Dark World, so when she appeared in episode four of WandaVision (the first of many Marvel television series landing at Disney+), fans were both surprised and delighted. But probably no one was more surprised and delighted than Dennings herself when she got the call to join the highly anticipated series.
WandaVision is utterly unique and captivating in its visual storytelling. Set in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the series centers on Wanda Maximoff aka. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living, at first glance, an idyllic life in the suburban town of Westview. A TV show within a TV show, each episode plays out like a popular sitcom from a different decade with the dialogue, fashion, and filming style evolving further into the present-day as the story goes on. But this “perfect” world is far from what it seems, leaving its inhabitants and audiences to question, What exactly is going on here? And who is behind this world? Darcy Lewis, who we can only presume spent the last seven years in school studying to become an astrophysicist, might just be the one to give us the answer.
The return of Ms. Lewis (and Dennings!) to the MCU is a celebratory event indeed, so I caught up with the actress to talk about revisiting the character while also getting her take on everything from the best-ever sitcom (it’s a ’90s classic) to the superior fashion decade (the Golden Age, of course), and why we ever wore jeans in the first place.
Photo:Kat Dennings for Who What Wear
WandaVision is an unusual Marvel project and it also kicks off a new era of MCU television shows. What was your initial reaction to getting the phone call to be a part of this series?
It is, as you say, an incredibly unique show. It’s unlike anything ever in the MCU. It’s filled with surprises, and no one was more surprised than I to get the call about it because it had been a long time since Darcy [first] appeared [in the Marvel universe]. I had no expectations because that’s how I live my life and it has served me well, so when I got the call, I was like, “Well, of course, I’ll do whatever you want.” When Marvel asks, you just say yes, no matter what it is. And when I heard it was this, I was so intrigued because Darcy Lewis has had pretty much no contact with anyone in the WandaVision sphere at all. It was a really interesting concept, and I didn’t really know what was going on until much later, until a meeting where I signed an NDA in the lobby, and then I signed another NDA in the office, and then on the way out, so I was like, “Wow. What is this?” I was just so excited to get into it. I’m really excited for people to see what happens.
Each episode references a sitcom style from a different decade. Do you have a favorite sitcom?
You know I’ve thought about this. It’s an interesting answer, but my favorite sitcom—because I was born in 1986 and grew up with the ’90s sitcoms—is Boy Meets World. It’s great! I’m sorry it’s one of the best sitcoms ever made. Don’t you think? Maybe it’s a memory of being whatever age I was when that came out, but it was such a touchstone for my young life and Eric Matthews, played by Will Friedle, may be the best comedic performance in all of sitcoms.
Your character Darcy Lewis appeared in earlier Thor films as Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) assistant. What, if anything, can you reveal about how she got to this point in WandaVision working with S.W.O.R.D.?
Well, it’s partially a mystery to me as well, so that’s a fun thing as an actor to fill in that back story. Obviously, Jane Foster and Dr. Eric Selvig from the Thor films had a huge impact on Darcy’s trajectory professionally because in the first Thor movie, the joke was that Darcy is interning for Jane Foster but is a political science major, not a science major. So that’s very funny for me to think about while I’m doing these lines. I’m guessing that Darcy has just been in school this whole time. For me, acting [out] these new things for her… it’s almost like I doubt she’s changed as a person very much because all that has changed is her learning a bunch of stuff. I’m trying to enjoy what makes Darcy fun, which is her Darcy-ness, but also balancing her very real expertise she now has in her field. So that’s been a really fun thing for me to play.
Photo:Kat Dennings for Who What Wear
What do you love about returning to a character like Darcy Lewis?
It’s partially a personal memory that makes it so fulfilling for me because Darcy on the page, initially for the first movie, was just at a desk and had a couple of scenes and was a fun side character. That is what I was prepared for and I was like, “I’m so lucky to be in this movie. I can’t believe I’m in this movie. I can’t believe they hired me!” And the role gradually got a bit bigger and a bit bigger, and it was like, “Do they realize what they are doing?” So personally, it was a special thing and I’m so proud of Darcy and where she has come from. I remember my last audition for [Darcy], they interviewed me in character. I have never told this story before. Everyone from Marvel was in the room and they were like, “Just come in the room in character and sit down in the chair.” That was my last audition and I was like, “All right. The character wasn’t a thing, so I’m just making this character up.” I sit down in the chair and they start interviewing me in character, and I’m talking about frozen burritos and just random stuff. The fact that it went from that to now this and that she is a professional and an astrophysicist and figuring out a mystery is just a pinch-me moment.
And there’s even a Darcy Lewis Twitter emoji now!
I know! Everybody was so supportive of me being the biggest nerd about that. There’s something about that that makes me so happy and excited. I just love it so much. When it’s an emoji, you know it’s real.
There are a lot of fan theories circulating as to what this WandaVision world really is and around the different easter eggs in the show. What are some favorite theories you’ve read?
You know, I’m old now, so I don’t know exactly how to find these. I don’t know what Reddit means. I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter, but it’s so much that I can’t really possibly go through it. What I like are the memes, and when people tag me in memes I just get so happy. So I don’t know what the theories are and also I’ve tried to consciously not know too much. There was a point in the filming of this where I was like, “You know what? There’s no way for me to keep track of this. I can’t. So I’m going to just not.” And at a certain point, I did something which is very bad acting, which is I just took out my stuff. But actually, it serves me very well because there is a point where you are just like, “I can’t read everything—I just have to read my stuff. Unless, of course, it has something to do with me,” but on the whole, I like to keep myself a bit in the dark along with my character. With something like this, it’s better. And it’s better that I don’t feel like I’m just lying to people asking me questions.
The writers of the MCU universe are always 10 or more steps ahead because of how interconnected the world is. Do you think Darcy will live on beyond WandaVision?
I hope so. You know, I don’t have any idea but the cool thing about the MCU is even if you die you are still there. They can do whatever they want. I would be honored to be in absolutely anything that Marvel wanted me to be in. I will always say yes to them no matter what it is. So who knows?
Photo:Kat Dennings for Who What Wear
The fashion in the show is exciting to watch because, at least in the Westview world, we get to see each character’s style evolve between the decades. Do you have a favorite decade in terms of fashion?
I love this question so much. In general, I love the ’50s. You know, I do a little bit of a retro thing myself. I’m a curvy-shaped person and I remember as a young teen it was very hard for me to feel cute and stuff because my body was just different from my friends’. When I discovered vintage clothes and the ‘50s stuff, I was like, “Oh my god, I’m in the wrong time.” So that kind of started my love for it and I still have it. I just thought the ’50s stuff was gorgeous. I mean, obviously, everybody looked amazing, but there is something so fun about that era in terms of clothes. That’s my personal favorite.
Speaking of style, are there any fashion trends you picked up during this time that you will carry through into post-quarantine life?
I mean, right now, I am wearing leggings and I’ve always worn leggings, but at this point, I’m like, “Why were jeans a thing?” They are hard. They are uncomfortable. Why? Like why do we do this? But that’s not really a new thing. I guess the element of comfort is not going to change for me. The heels thing is bizarre to think about. Last night, I found a gorgeous pair of shoes that I had never worn and I tried them on and was like, “Oh my god, what?! There’s no way I can walk in this.” I don’t know if I will ever get used to walking in a six-incher again.
WandaVision is now streaming on Disney+.