Elizabeth Olsen on the MCU’s Awards Breakthrough and Recognizing Actors in Genre Stories

Elizabeth Olsen was desperate to ignore Emmy nomination day. “I was focusing on emptying my dishwasher,” Olsen said in a nominations’ day interview with IndieWire. “Really making sure those water spots were not water spots anymore.”

When told she was nominated for her emotionally resonant and empathetic performance in the Disney+ series “WandaVision,” Olsen said it was surprising because she’s never really sure what will be successful or not.

“[You] always set yourself up for potential failure,” she said.

Olsen said it took a bit for her to realize the impact the Marvel series was having, especially among audiences who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves fans of superhero content. Co-stars Kathryn Hahn and Paul Bettany — who also secured nominations on Tuesday — were in the States at the time the series was released and funneled reactions back to Olsen, who was in a small English town.

“It wasn’t until I got home, and stopped working,” Olsen said, that she was able to see the fruits of her labor — in this case, represented by a Tik Tok video.

“It was a ‘WandaVision’ drag brunch that made me realize the impact ‘WandaVision’ had on a cultural level,” she said.

For Olsen, the series’ ubiquity certainly benefited from the pandemic, but she thinks there’s more to the show’s success than that.

“Yes, we were in a pandemic and wanted comfort,” she said, but the fact that the series spans multiple decades also helped in terms of bringing together different generations, and she hopes “WandaVision” would have connected with audiences no matter when it came out. Still, Olsen noted that with the general deluge of content, the fact that people had to slow down and consume it weekly made the Disney+ limited series something to look forward to, again and again.

That release strategy also helped “WandaVision” snag 23 Emmy nominations, the most of any limited series and third-highest of any eligible program. The recognition marks a significant breakthrough for the Marvel Cinematic Universe; “Black Panther” scored a Best Picture nomination, along with wins for Costumes, Original Score, and Production Design, but Marvel films have been otherwise limited to craft nominations at the Oscars. The Emmys, however, saw fit to nominate virtually every facet of “WandaVision” — including its actors — in the MCU’s first eligible offering.

Historically, the TV Academy has been more open to embracing genre contenders like “The Mandalorian” and “Game of Thrones” than the Oscars, which tend to shy away from fantasy and superhero content. Olsen cites “The Lord of the Rings” as an example of how challenging it often is, from a performance level, to work within fantasy and how, while that series was recognized for Best Picture, the performances were overlooked.

“They’re technically very challenging,” Olsen said, especially considering so much of what the actors are working opposite is added during post-production. “There are certain things that don’t get recognized as a performance because they think it’s all about spectacle,” she said. “To be welcomed […] for a genre like this is something that I’m surprised by and I find very rewarding because it’s hard stuff to do!”

Olsen said, ultimately, she’s of two minds when it comes to her nomination. “You can’t really put your focus on [awards],” especially when you’re just starting a project. But for her it’s more about feeling recognized by her peers. “I haven’t been in that position and so I feel seen by my peers,” adding that she could only feel gratitude, especially considering she’s recognized alongside the likes of Kate Winslet, Cynthia Erivo, Michaela Coel, and Anya Taylor-Joy.

“There’s just so much incredible content and work being put out that’s led by so many women,” Olsen said.

“WandaVision” is streaming now on Disney+

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