After a long pause in Marvel Studios’ television initiative, Secret Invasion premieres this week on Disney+. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, it sees the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director back on Earth as years of blowback from a failed promise he made decades ago comes back to haunt him.
Unlike the full-tilt superhero comic book brawl that inspired it, the series goes for something more grounded and character-focused. It is no surprise, then, that Jackson and some of the cast had a lot to say about the series during a recent press conference. Rotten Tomatoes was there to add their comments to our Secret Invasion dossier, and here are the key takeaways to know before watching the show.
“We’re finding Talos in a difficult time,” actor Ben Mendelsohn, who returns as the sympathetic Skrull Talos (from Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home), said of where his character begins in the program.
Indeed, as the previews and clips made available online have revealed, Secret Invasion is in a much darker place than many of the previous Disney+ shows, like the out-and-out comedy of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and the stakes have worldwide implications.
And the security of the world means a fair amount of espionage operative will be involved, like Olivia Colman’s Sonya Falsworth. She Is an MI6 agent with a curious interrogation manner. “She likes wearing red,” Colman teased. “She’s quite funny. And she’s potentially a little bit not that nice sometimes.”
The actor also said Falsworth and Fury have “history” if not a friendship. “They trust each other, which is … Maybe they don’t?” she said.
Jackson added, “As much as one spy can trust another spy, yeah.”
The emphasis on spies came from executive producer Jonathan Schwartz, who pitched Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on what the studio chief called a “darker, grittier spy show” based around the bombastic Secret Invasion comic book storyline. The key commonality? Skrulls have invaded every echelon of human society with plans to weaken planetary defense as a prelude to an open invasion.
“We love to do different genres for everything,” Feige continued. “And this was an attempt to really dive back into things we touched upon in The Winter Soldier, Captain America 2, but hadn’t in a while, and really delving into the tone of a spy show.”
According to Schwartz, the program is keeping forward momentum on the timeline. “[It’s] post-She-Hulk, post-Blip right at this exact, present day in the MCU,” he said.
There is still some imprecision there. As fans may recall, Endgame initiated a five-year time jump from 2019 to 2023, with every subsequent film and television series (except Black Widow) taking place afterward. But with shows like WandaVision taking place weeks after Endgame and Hawkeye seemingly taking the timeline into 2025 — to say nothing of She-Hulk spanning all of that time — the when of Secret Invasion may leave fans stumped.
“It’s present day MCU,” Schwartz reaffirmed and, at least for the moment, that means the show’s events are the most current. Everything prior to it has occurred and that could lead to just about anything in terms of cameos, as long as they stay on the ground, of course.
Series director Ali Selim felt the story is also very human. “It’s the Nick Fury story. He’s a human. He does have his own version of superpowers, but they’re not like superhero superpowers,” he said. “It’s a story about him putting his feet back on the ground once again after some time.” But is he the same man?
Jackson is now the longest serving actor in the MCU with 14 appearances across its 15 years of existence.
“I was in there a year and didn’t do anything?” the actor quipped in regard to missing a year’s worth of film and TV shows.
But that absence underscores one of the program’s key questions: Where has Nick Fury been since the Blip? At least part of it will be answered almost immediately, but the underlying puzzle will remain.
“This is my second appearance post-Snap,” Jackson noted. Fury is glimpsed during Tony Stark’s funeral in Endgame, and he is seen, at least briefly, in Far From Home assembling something out in space while Talos subbed in for him during most of the film.
“I did the whole of Spider-Man,” Mendelsohn quipped. “That was a really tough job.” In actuality, Jackson played Talos as Fury for most of that film.
But as Fury returns to Earth in Secret Invasion, he is a changed man.
“He’s a little tired, a little vulnerable, but coming back to Earth because he’s been summoned,” Jackson explained. “[He’s] got a bad knee now. Not so happy.”
The physical impairments also underscore an emotional change in the character which will be explored alongside the overarching Skrull plot. For one thing, he’s still dealing with being Blipped.
“It definitely has a mental health effect on you, 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,” Jackson said. “The more you find out about him, then the more you’re gonna like him — the more I like him. It’s peeling the onion and having a good time.”
That deeper layer even includes an actual Fury home!
“You got to watch to find out if I live in a condo or a real house,” Jackson teased. “Does he have an island in his kitchen? Can he cook? Is he a CD or a turntable man?”
But will the onion be enough to explain his absence? As Mendelson noted, “By the way, [Fury], you know, up there [in space]? Like, coulda used him. Like, I’m just sayin’.”
While Fury, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Talos form a family unit of sorts — and Talos has his own family with wife Soren (Sharon Blynn) and daughter G’iah (Emilia Clarke) — those bonds are under a great strain even before Fury makes planetfall.
“I think the relationship is quite strained because she’s been calling, and he hasn’t been answering,” Smulders said of Hill’s regard for Fury as events begin. Although, she was quick to add that “working with Sam is my favorite thing.”
Mendelsohn, meanwhile, denied that that Fury and Talos’s friendship is under as much tension, instead calling it an “evolution.”
Jackson added, “He’s like my green brother.”
Feige also added that viewers will be seeing a “very different dynamic between Fury and Talos than we had seen in sort of our ’90s buddy action movie, Captain Marvel.”
One relationship that is definitely on the rocks is the one between Talos and G’iah. She’s joined the revolutionary cause — even if she still answers Talos’ phone calls from time to time. This was one of the relationships the group were less willing to comment on, but it is another major aspect of the show. It remains to be seen, though, if it will be one resolved within the show’s six episodes or carry on into other stories.
One of the Marvel threads the series is picking up is Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who trades in his Avenger War Machine armor to become advisor to the US president in the series. The change was teased ever so slightly in the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Solider, but becomes major text with Seceret Invasion.
“We see him as more a political animal than we have in the past,” Cheadle explained. “He’s been more of a military man, but now he’s, in some ways, a right hand of the president and this special envoy.”
And because everything in the MCU is connected, Rhodey’s White House tenure will “relate” to Armor Wars, the former series turned upcoming film set to star Cheadle in the next few years. Of course, both he and Feige were quite mute on the topic, other than to reiterate that the two projects will interconnect in some fashion.
In the interim, Secret Invasion is an opportunity to “get under the hood of who [Rhodey] is.” Cheadle also admitted that he is most excited to see “how this relationship, not only with Nick Fury — but the other cast members — evolves.”
“I never had an in-depth scene with Don [before this],” Jackson said. “So that was, like, you know, manna. We’ve been waiting to do this for, like, years and years and years, you know?” Some of that interaction can be seen in the early trailer, which featured Fury and Rhodey in the midst of a tense dinner table conversation. According to Jackson, that interaction will be informed by a lot of “presumed” dynamics and we can say the conversation is not one you will expect.
Of course, a proper spy story needs to identify a clear enemy to fight and Secret Invasion’s threat is a Skrull revolutionary named Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Describing him both as not “too fond of anyone” and a mix of “self-hatred,” the character organizes a sect of the Skrull refugees disgruntled after 30 years without Fury or Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) making good on their promise to find them a new homeworld.
Ben-Adir said he was really inspired by the tone of the script and sought to make Gravik as “unsentimental” as possible, even “in his hatred.”
“There’s something about how much he hated Nick and how much he hated G’iah that was like, ‘God, this feels really enticing,'” he said. Of course, how his regard for the latter informs her work within his band of Skrulls remains to be fully unveiled, but the pragmatism of having someone so close to the source of ire says something about the character, who has the potential to be as memorable a Marvel antagonist as Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), or the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
Jackson added that as much as Secret Invasion is a Nick Fury story, it is also the story of Gravik, Talos, G’iah, Rhodey, and Falsworth.
“It’s all these people that they’re being introduced to that make you want to say, well, sh*t, I want to go home with them too, see what’s happening,” he said.
Continuing the thought, he considered something that always been true for his character and, it seems, underscored in Secret Invasion. “He leads you to all these other people that are really, really, really, really interesting.”