Samuel L Jackson on why Secret Invasion is more James Bond than caped superhero story

The actor's Marvel character Nick Fury finally gets to lead his own series in the long-awaited Disney+ show

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With 14 past or upcoming appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to his name, Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury is the most frequently seen character in the franchise by some distance.

It seems incredible then that it’s taken 15 years, since making his debut in 2008’s Iron Mans post-credits scenes, for the Shield chief to finally step out of the supporting cast and land the lead in Secret Invasion.

This could also explain why Jackson says the new show “ranks as number one in terms of things I've done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

But if fans are anticipating an all-guns-blazing feast of superhero action from the man who first brought Marvel’s superteam together in 2012’s The Avengers however, they may be disappointed.

The Fury we meet in Secret Invasion is more akin to the retired, embittered, out-of-shape James Bond of No Time to Die than the optimistic, gung-ho Fury of The Avengers, Jackson tells The National.

“This is his second appearance post-snap, and he's been gone for a while,” he says. “It definitely has a mental health effect. He's a little tired, a little vulnerable. He’s got a bad knee now, and he’s not so happy.”

The Bond comparisons don’t end there. In Secret Invasion, the superpowers and caped Avengers are noticeably absent, with audiences treated instead to an espionage thriller in the classic style.

Director Ali Selim isn’t afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve.

“I liked the espionage, political thriller element, and we went back to look at The Third Man and The Conversation, and things that are very grounded and really human,” he says. “I hope we brought enough of that to create the tone.”

The show’s tone is indeed markedly darker than many other entries in the franchise, with shadowy terrorist groups and infighting spy agencies leading the story against the bleak backdrop of Moscow and former Soviet military facilities.

It’s a mood that takes Jackson back to another of his favourite episodes in the franchise.

“I really loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier and that tone flows into this in a very real kind of way,” he says. “It's a story about people doing stuff without all those supers coming in to save you.”

It’s also very much a story about Fury, and Jackson seems to have enjoyed the opportunity to bring more depth to a character who, despite his pivotal role in the vast Marvel story, has often blended into the background.

“The more you find out about him, the more you're gonna like him,” he says.

“Like I never had an in-depth scene with Don [Cheadle, aka Rhodey/War Machine], so it was wonderful to have that happen there, and we get other new information.

“We go to Nick Fury's house. You’ve got to watch to find out if I live in a condo or a real house. See if I have a yard. What kind of furniture does Nick Fury have? Does he have an island in his kitchen? Can he cook, you know?”

Although fans will doubtless be pleased with the opportunity to focus on the finer details of Fury’s kitchen, the show’s lead is also at pains to point out that Secret Invasion isn't just a Nick Fury show.

“We have all these other interesting people that are around through it,” Jackson says. “It's a Gravik [Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Skrull leader] story, it's Emilia’s [Clarke, Gravik's fellow Skrull G’iah] story, it's Olivia’s [Colman, MI6 agent Sonya] story. It's all these people that make you want to say ‘I want to go home with them, too, see what's happening,’” he says.

For American director Selim, however, the Fury arc is clearly what he held as the most crucial driver of his story.

“There is, spoiler alert, a point in the story where Nick Fury realises this is his own battle, and he becomes a classic American Western hero,” he reveals. “The tone sort of shifted in the later episodes to Nick Fury as John Wayne.”

Selim, who directed all six episodes of Secret Invasion, explains that he didn't treat the series like a TV show.

“I approached it as a film where you're involved in casting and you're sitting here today after a thousand days of shooting, still alive. That's very different from episodic TV,” he says. “I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I'm very proud of what we've done.”

Secret Invasion begins streaming on Disney+ on Wednesday

Updated: June 26, 2023, 11:11 AM