For some actors, stardom didn’t take a break when a pandemic hit. And for Teyonah Parris that meant a breakout part in Marvel Studios‘ “WandaVision,” a leading role in the delayed (and highly anticipated) new incarnation of “Candyman” and an unexpected starring role in what is effectively the “Captain Marvel” sequel, “The Marvels.” Almost a decade after getting the industry’s attention in “Mad Men,” Parris is toplining a major studio blockbuster and on the cusp of her first Emmy nomination.
A project she clearly cannot discuss is “The Marvels.” The 2022 release will find Parris reprising her “WandaVision” role as the recently super-powered government agent Monica Rambeau alongside “Captain Marvel’s” Brie Larson and future Disney+ star Iman Vellani who plays the teenage hero, “Ms. Marvel.” The film will be helmed by Nia DaCosta who also directed the aforementioned “Candyman.” Their reunion is a coincidence, but Parris is enthusiastic over DaCosta’s hire.
“I’m really excited. Nia is just so special and just such an amazing and talented creative and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with her again,” Parris says. “Also, hoping people will finally get to see our first collaboration together and ‘Candyman.’ Yeah, working with her again is going to be fun and now I have the opportunity to work with Brie and Iman [Vellani] so I think it’s going to be some good stuff.”
In “WandaVision,” Rambeau returned from Thanos’ five-year snap to find her mother lost to cancer and her employer, the interplanetary intelligence agency S.W.O.R.D., much different than she left it. Before she can investigate, she’s pulled into an emergency situation. Noted Avenger Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is at the center of a bizarre cosmic event in the wilds of New Jersey where people’s lives are at risk. Like many Marvel Studios projects, however, most of these details were kept secret from Parris during the audition process. In fact, she had no idea she was even auditioning to play Rambeau, a character fans had championed her to play years before.
“As far as the audition, I put it on tape. They gave me some sides, what I now know to be a version of when Monica wakes up and finds out that she herself was [snapped] and that her mom passed away during that time,” Parris recalls. “And then the other scene was the ‘Geraldine’ Monica in the ’70s with the store. Those are very different themes and I was really confused because Marvel, none of it made sense to me so I was just like, ‘O.K., I’m going to give it my best shot.’ And that’s pretty much what happened.”
Once Parris was cast, however, she immediately started doing more research.
“I actually had heard of the character because fans were fan casting me as her five, six years prior on Twitter, back when I was still on Twitter,” Parris recalls. “So I had heard of her and briefly looked her up, but other than that, no. But once I got the part, then I started doing research and reading some of the comics and just trying to get a sense of who she is and what of her comic legacy and her personality I could use in this moment with this project”
And while Parris was told during the production of the Marvel limited series that Rambeau would be a part of another upcoming title, it was only during the pandemic that she learned she’d star in what was originally known as “Captain Marvel 2.” An appropriate project as not only did a young version of Rambeau (Akira and Azari Akbar) appear in the original film and has “history” with Carol Danvers, but the character originally took the moniker when she first appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” Annual #16 in October 1982. In the four decades since, her powers (and costume) have fluctuated with times and she’s gone by the code names Photon, Pulsar, and, most recently, Spectrum.
Parris notes, “When I got the role, I knew that Monica Rambeau carried many titles throughout her comic book legacy and so we don’t know which way she’ll go in the MCU or what the cards may hold for her in this universe, but there are lots of possibilities based on her comic book history. So yeah, I’m excited that fans are excited to know and learn more about who she is and where she’s going to go.”
For “WandaVision,” Parris was one of the few characters trying to help Wanda fight off the mysterious manipulation that put the entire town of Westview under her control. When Parris was trapped for a time in Wanda’s “hex” she became “Geraldine,” a local resident cast in whatever TV sitcom decade Wanda’s subconsciousness had chosen. From a performance perspective, Parris is quite impressive in the fourth episode of the series when Monica snaps in and out of her character while still in the hex.
“It was really fun to be an actor and to come into work and get to play in these different decades and just the amount of detail that they paid to each decade in each sit-com homage was really fun,” Parris says. “I mean, yes, sometimes it felt like I was in three, four different worlds all in one week, but that was also what made it exciting and just the project so unique and special.”
Parris, who recently finished shooting the Netflix feature “They Cloned Tyrone” alongside John Boyega and Jamie Foxx looks back at the COVID-affected production of “WandaVision” with immense pride.
“For it to have been done so beautifully and executed so well and with such amazing people, that’s really special and I’m really proud to have been a part of it in general,” Parris says. “And if we talk about one moment that I thought was really cool would definitely be when Monica was pushing her way back into the hex and she phases through all of her decade looks and emotions. When I got to see that in person, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in a superhero show!’”
Hey, stardom comes at you fast.
“WandaVision” is available on Disney+ worldwide.