It’s been 15 years since Samuel L. Jackson first appeared as Nick Fury, in Iron Man‘s post-credit sequence.
Five Marvel phases and 32 MCU films later, and Jackson’s S.H.I.E.L.D director has finally been given his own starring vehicle, a miniseries adaptation of the beloved Secret Invasion comics series. The source material was a major crossover event, documenting how the Skrulls had secretly replaced several Marvel heroes on Earth, but it’s been retooled here to become a more self-contained Fury story.
The last time we saw him, he was flying around the universe with the Skrulls – but, after being called back down to Earth, he soon discovers that many of them have broken away from Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) to start their own hostile takeover of the planet. Naturally, Fury is viewed with suspicion, but can we still trust this secretive figure?
Jackson argues yes, you can, saying: “The more you find out about him, the more I like him. I enjoy peeling the onion of his personality and having a good time with it.
“I’d never had an in-depth scene with Don (Cheadle) before, so that was wonderful to do. We’ve been waiting to have that confrontation for years, and seeing that our characters have that kind of abrasive relationship that I’d always assumed was nice to explore.
“And then you get other new information. You see his house for the first time – what kind of furniture does Fury have, is there an island in his kitchen, can he cook? These are all questions you’re finally going to get answered…”
Yes, in case you weren’t aware, Secret Invasion is – like all other Marvel projects – shrouded in absolute secrecy, making it difficult for the cast to speak freely about what audiences can expect. Jackson can tell us it’s his favourite thing he’s done within the MCU because of how stylistically similar it is to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but as for anything else? All he can do is tease.
For example, there’s the transformation of his relationship with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) with a rift growing between them since he set off to the galaxy and stopped returning people’s calls. Jackson says that it’s “definitely had a mental health impact” on her, with Maria now having a resentment towards her absent boss.
It’s a bold new dynamic to a partnership which began more than a decade ago, when Smulders made her first in-universe appearance in The Avengers.
Jackson reminisced: “We were actually talking last night about the fact that I remember meeting Cobie for the first time at the screen test. I screen tested with all the people that were trying to be Maria Hill, and she killed it.
“I knew she had it because the audition was straight-up reciting technobabble, and she had it down – she was one of the few people who knew all of it. There were actresses taping stuff to the monitors and trying to pretend they were reading the monitor, but they were just trying to make sense of the technobabble. They couldn’t do it, but she could.”
Another transformation that happens within the series is that of Cheadle’s James Rhodes, who we see in a more political role this time around. It’s a crucial stepping stone for the character ahead of the Armor Wars series, coming soon to Disney+, which Secret Invasion directly connects to.
Cheadle said: “We see him as more of a political animal than we have in the past. He’s been more of a military man, but now he’s a right hand of the president and his special envoy, in that regard.
“But I think what I’m most excited for going forward is further getting under the hood of who he is and seeing how his relationships with Nick Fury and the other cast members evolves.
“The central relationship between myself and Sam was very important to me and I was very glad to be brought on. I don’t think it was originally conceived that Rhodey was gonna be in this, but when it came to me, I was really excited about leaning into it.
“And also, being in a show like this is really a departure from what I have been in, as far as the genre goes, it’s really an opportunity to act and really, you know, lean into some human stuff, which was also a lot of fun. I was very happy to look into who Rhodey is and to probe that more and find out what really makes him tick.”
But was Cheadle nervous about being front and centre in a project with no other Avengers around?
“It was liberating not to have to carry that dead weight!”
Secret Invasion premieres Wednesday, 21st July on Disney+