Unleashing [Nick] Fury: 1on1 with Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Feige & Cobie Smulders (SECRET INVASION)

It’s time for us to see a different side of Nick Fury.

“This is my second appearance post-Snap,” Jackson begins, “and he’s been kinda gone for a while. He’s a little tired, a little vulnerable, but coming back to Earth because he’s been summoned. And we’ll see what happens. Got a bad knee now. Not so happy.”

Now available on Disney+, Marvel’s new series, Secret Invasion reintroduces the world to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he uncovers a terrifying reality. As part of their terrifying plot to take over the world, the shapeshifting Skrulls have been settling on Earth for decades. Now, Fury must work with his friends Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) in order to stop the threat of their imminent invasion and save humanity.

After having played the character in over a dozen Marvel projects, Secret Invasion finally peels back some of the psychological layers of Fury. Given that his character has most often been used in a limited role, Jackson believes that this sort of character exploration can only endear him more to the audience.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

“The more you find out about him, then the more you’re gonna like him,” Jackson explains. “The more I like him. It’s just peeling the onion and having a good time. You meet people that I know, and I never had an in-depth scene with Don [Cheadle] So that was like manna. We’ve been waiting to do this for years and years and years, you know? So, it was wonderful to do and to have that little abrasive thing happen there. It’s kinda great and kinda nice to know that we have that kind of relationship, or I assumed it was that. And that’s some new information. We get other new information [as well].”

Having said this, this incarnation of Secret Invasion is portrayed differently than we’ve seen before. Moving from a global superhero extravaganza, Disney+’s story leans into the roots of a gritty crime thriller. This sort of tonal change was intriguing to uber-producer Kevin Feige, who believed that it would give him the opportunity to delve more deeply into Jackson’s performance.

“That was always the idea,” Feige remembers. “We knew we weren’t going to have every character in the Marvel Universe [be] the way [that] it is in the comics, and it really was to focus on Sam Jackson and really to focus on [an] ensemble, [with a] political thriller aspect to it. And we had an amazing group of writers and our amazing director, who helped us.”

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

“I don’t think it’s just a Nick Fury story,” Jackson adds. “because we got all these other interesting people that are flowing around through it, you know? It’s a Gravik story. It’s Emilia’s story, It’s Olivia’s story. It’s all these people that they’re being introduced to that make you want to say ‘I want to go home with them too and see what’s happening.’ And it’s a great ensemble of people, you know? And Rhody being who he is in this particular series, as a political animal that we haven’t seen before, and his relationship with Nick, that there’s some undercover stuff happening there that was really interesting. Nick Fury happens to be the generator of a lot of that, but he leads you to all these other people that are really, really, really, really interesting.”

One returnee to the franchise though is Cobie Smulders’ Agent Maria Hill. While playing in the Marvel universe is always fun, the most appealing aspect was simply working once again with her beloved co-star.

“Working with Sam is my favorite thing,” says Smulders. “He laughs, but it’s true.” 

“We were actually talking last night about the fact that I remember meeting Cobie for the first time at the screen test,” Jackson recalls. “I screen tested with all the people that were trying to be Maria Hill. She killed it. You know, and I told her that I knew she had this. Because, I mean, the audition was straight-up technobabble. And she had it down. She was, like, one of the few people that knew all of it.”

“And I have not gotten it right since,” Smulders laughs. “But that day, yes.” 

Having established herself as Fury’s right hand, Secret Invasion reveals the strain that the effects of the Blip have taken on her character, and her relationship with Fury.

“It was really exciting to come back, but… I think the relationship [between Maria and Fury] is quite strained because she’s been calling, and he hasn’t been answering,” Smulders suggests. “I think Maria Hill came back and someone else was sitting in her desk, and immediately kicked them out and got to work. I think there was just a mountain of cases to get to, which is part of her resentment towards Fury because he was not around.”

(L-R): Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

“Well, yeah, it definitely has a mental health effect on you,” Jackson continues. “And it causes a different kind of rift between you and the people that you’ve been around or people that you’re supposed to be close to. And, I mean, I haven’t been returning her calls.”

Of course, it’s no secret now that the Marvel universe likes to ensure that everything’s connected. Asked what his goals were for Secret Invasion, Feige responds that part of the appeal was its style and that there would be connections to what’s next as well.

“Well, there are story points that people will see over the course of the series, obviously,” says Feige. “But [executive producer] Jonathan [Schwartz] came into my office a number of years ago, when we were thinking about what kinds of shows to do on Disney+. And he came in with this idea of translating the great Secret Invasion storyline from the comics in a darker, grittier spy show, which we hadn’t done. And we love to do different genres for everything, and this was an attempt to really dive back into things we touched upon in The Winter Soldier but hadn’t in a while, and really delving into the tone of a spy show. And seeing a very different dynamic between Fury and Talos than we had seen in sort of our ’90s buddy action movie, Captain Marvel… The repercussions [of Invasion] will be felt in coming projects.” 

Given its darker tone, one might wonder if the experience of working on this series was different for Jackson and his friends. However, Jackson simply laughs at that and argues that every day on set is his playground.

“No. I mean, I know my responsibilities most days when I show up,” muses Jackson. “You know, I show up, I know my lines, I hit my marks. And I try and give the other actors something that they can work with. And I come to work to have a good time. You know, making movies for me is like my playground. It’s like, you know, when I get up in the morning, I eat breakfast, I go out and look for my friends. What are we playing today, you know? And we start playing it and we have a good time.”

After 15 years in the MCU, Jackson is revelling in his time in the spotlight. Now, as series lead in Secret Invasion, he believes that the series gives the audience something special that earns its secrets.

“Well, it ranks as number one in terms of things that I’ve done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Jackson says emphatically. “I really loved Winter Soldier, so that tone flows into this in a very real kind of way. And it’s a story about people doing people stuff without all those supers coming in to save you and help you and doing all that other stuff. The ‘L word’ doesn’t come in to making movies very much or what happens in them, but, logically, this thing makes sense.”

Secret Invasion is currently airing new episodes weekly on Disney+.

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