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[This story contains spoilers from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode four.]
One of Rhys Coiro’s earliest memories is standing at a Brooklyn newsstand in the late ’80s, picking out a Marvel comic.
“I remember the smell of the newsprint,” the She-Hulk: Attorney at Law actor tells The Outne Reporter. “That Marvel time period of the West Coast Avengers … is the era that I recall the clearest. It’s the golden era [of Marvel] for me.”
So when his wife, Kat Coiro, got the job to direct Marvel sitcom She-Hulk, it felt natural to pack up their lives and head for Atlanta — where Marvel films many of its projects. Since then, the couple and their three kids have settled into life in the Peach State, where they watched every MCU film in chronological order in preparation for Kat’s work.
Rhys Coiro appears in She-Hulk’s fourth episode as Donny Blaze, a stage magician with a history in the mystic arts. Donny was a former student of the Kamar-Taj until he dropped out after failing to adhere to the temple’s strict teachings. Before he left, the magician stole a sling ring — like the ones that Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) use to channel their powers — to aid in his magic shows.
Coiro, who audiences may know from his time on Entourage, did a fair amount of preparation in order to perform all of those tricks on-camera.
“There was a lot of practical sleight-of-hand magic that took place, and I really wanted there to be as much as possible,” Coiro says. “I think that the juxtaposition of the actual Kamar-Taj mystic arts with the sleight-of-hand magic is great.”
From his Georgia home, Coiro also spoke to The Outne Reporter about working with Marvel’s stunt team and collaborating with his 103-year-old She-Hulk co-star Leon Lamar.
How did your involvement in the show come about? Was it always in the cards for you to make a cameo?
No, it was very organic in the sense that they needed to fill the part. And so, I auditioned for it. In fact, I made a tape with my oldest daughter. She was reading off-camera for me. I was a local hire.
Were your kids excited that you and Kat would both be working on a Marvel project?
Yeah, I mean, it was a huge, life-changing thing for everybody because it was the middle of the pandemic, and we uprooted everybody. [The pandemic] was a continual uprooting, but this was a big uprooting, and they had to go along for the ride. It was like a big family journey. They all got to come to the premiere, and it was just so wonderful for them. They loved it.
Part of Kat’s preparation [to direct the show] was to watch all of Marvel in chronological story order. It was very interesting to watch them in that way. We all did that together, and it’s really amazing how cohesive the whole thing is.
Your character in the show, Donny Blaze, is a stage magician and a bit of a rebel. What sort of preparation went into the role?
I was cast somewhat in advance of shooting, so I had a fantastic amount of preparation time, which is really key in a lot of aspects. For me, this show feels like a film, more than a show. Part of that, I believe, is the amount of preparation that went into it. This was not a role that you can sort of just show up on set and do [without preparation]. We had a technical adviser, a great magician on-set that I worked with, talking about tricks — and we wanted to do as many tricks as possible in the show.
There’s so many moments that we found on-set, too, like Wong revealing the ball from out of his mouth. He added in that scene, which was genius. And my partner [Cornelius P. Willows], played by Leon Lamar, who is [103 years old]. Leon is so special. I had such a fantastic time working with him, and I think it really comes across. It’s hard to imagine, he’s born in 1919. I was in a constant state of interviewing him. And he’s so lively. So many of his lines were not scripted, and Kat was, like, shouting them out to him in the middle of a take, and he was just in the moment. He’s so committed to the joy of the moment. It was so fantastic.
And is that you performing all those magic tricks onstage, or was there a special effects element to it?
Yeah, there was a lot of practical sleight-of-hand magic that took place. I really wanted there to be as much as possible. I think that the juxtaposition of the actual Kamar-Taj mystic arts with the sleight-of-hand magic is great. In the script, it says, “He does a magic show,” you know? So, we had time with the amazing, world-class Marvel stunt team who have their own building, like their own little laboratory, where they’re crafting these moments. We got to get in there with them and work on all these things, and sort of craft the magical acts. We put together that floating sequence. And the studying of magic was really fun for me. It’s so interesting how it’s a subdiscipline of performing. There’s magic and clowning and stunt performing, and it’s fun to explore these other areas of performing and how they all interrelate.
There’s a lot of secret-keeping and spoiler-protecting in the MCU. In uprooting your life and moving to Georgia, was it hard to keep the project under wraps?
No, because we’re living out in the middle of nowhere, and we have a bunch of chickens. It’s just a very rare, almost off-the-grid way out here. It’s been great, actually.
And what was it like working with your wife Kat Coiro, who directs the show? Do you collaborate together often?
I mean, our life is a collaboration, really, but I would say this was close to our first time collaborating [on a project], which was really fun and exciting. Her preparation is so meticulous, and it really allows for spontaneity because so much of the world is in place there. Her team is so fantastic, her DP [Florian Ballhaus] — the show looks amazing. And the sets! Elena Albanese, who did the sets, the Mystic Castle set and the office set. It’s not something that is immediately apparent, but the detail of it really elevates the show in a way that is subtle and incredibly powerful.
Now that you’ve officially joined the MCU, do you have any hopes for the future of Donny Blaze?
I mean, I’ve been thinking about this. I think my very first memory as a person is buying a Marvel comic book in a newsstand in the lobby of what was the St. George Hotel on Henry Street in Brooklyn. I remember the smell of newsprint. It’s, like, my first memory. That Marvel time period in the ’80s — the “West Coast Avengers,” which I think She-Hulk was involved with — is the era that I recall the clearest. It’s the golden era for me.
I think that’s the part that is so exciting about the Marvel Universe is that it’s so vast and so there’s so many avenues to go. And the West Coast, the Los Angeles faction of the Avengers — I just have a strong connection to it, for that reason. Like I said, it’s my first memory. So, I’m thrilled to be whatever small part of that. To be a part of it is just immensely fulfilling and satisfying.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law streams Thursdays on Disney+.
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