Actress Michaela Russell talks portraying Wanda for Marvel’s Wandavision
Updated: May 25
Photo courtesy of Michaela Russell.
Michaela’s first memory of a Marvel film was the one she had worked on, Ant Man and The Wasp. She had been familiar with Marvel movies and knew many people who were fans, but she didn’t watch them previously because her brother was so little and there was fight scenes.
She recalls watching it for the first time in theaters and being confused with the end credits scene where Hank, Janet, and Hope were blipped and the audience gasped. After watching Infinity War, she was familiar with the storyline.
“From that point I have been addicted to Marvel movies and my brother and I are huge Spider-Man fans,” she said.
Since Russell was new to the TV and film world, she joined a casting company to do background work. She and her family wanted to learn what a set was like. After a camera test, Russell was chosen to be a photo double for Abby Ryder Fortson. She also did stand-in work for all the kids in the movie.
“It was the best training,” she said. “I was fortunate to learn things that you just can’t learn from a class, such as how the show works, all of the people it takes to make it happen.”
One of the most valuable lessons she learned was to work your way up. Being Abby, Young Ava, and Young Evangeline Lily’s stand-in made her very appreciative. She noted that there are a lot of crew members that are working just as hard as the main actors and directors.
“As I later earned my own roles, I always remembered that there are people on set that are there before you, after you, and are working everyday,” she said.
When she auditioned for Wandavision, Michaela had no idea she was auditioning to play Young Wanda Maximoff. She recalls the process to be challenging as she started with seven pages of dummy sides. Sides are scripts similar to the scene but include things/names changed for confidentiality reasons.
Her name in the script was Sonia, and the only thing she and her family knew was that she was auditioning for an ‘unnamed’ Marvel TV show. Not to mention, the script was in English, but they had to translate it to Russian.
“I can not speak Russian at all, but I still wanted to attempt the audition. I had very helpful people who could speak Russian and could coach me,” she said.
At the time, she was in the middle of filming another movie so the challenge was translating and filming another audition. Two months later, she received the call that she booked the role of Young Wanda in Wandavision.
Michaela describes preparing for her role as complex because the script had lines in Sokovian. To help, she had dialect coach Courtney Young, who works for Marvel. Young and her friend created the Sokovian accent and language. She guided Michaela through her scenes.
“I also knew that the scene was very heavy. It was the scene where Wanda lost her parents. To prepare, I would lay on the floor in front of my mirror, close my eyes and imagine that an explosion just happened. Then I would wake up and try to experience how it would feel,” she said.
Russell feels fortunate to have met Elizabeth Olsen while they were filming. She mentioned that Elizabeth was a very special person and sweet as well.
When asked how she feels portraying such an iconic role, Russell admits it feels like a fairytale. Her favorite qualities of Wanda Maximoff are that she is a heartfelt person who cares and is brave.
“Elizabeth Olsen does an astounding job at this and I am so glad to have her as an example of this character,” she said. “It’s still unbelievable to me that I had the opportunity to do this.”
On Wandavision, Michaela enjoyed practicing the stunts. Although they were very small stunts, it was fun and new. They wrapped a small harness around her, attached a rope and yanked her and Pietro forward. It made Michaela feel like she was flying.
The most difficult part of filming was experiencing the explosion and the loss of Wanda’s parents. It was hard because she knew that there were real kids that had to feel that and it was heavy to know.
Russell only received the script for her scene. The day of filming, she got a print out of the scene and had to return it at the end of the day.
Working with Wandavision’s director Matt Shakman was a highlight for Michaela and she hopes to work with him again in the future.
“It is always a pleasure being able to work with a director that has been an actor, let alone an actor as a kid. He was so clear, positive, and direct,” she said.
In 2019, Russell played Mildred, a co-star role in the TV series, Amazing Stories, executive produced by Steven Spielberg. She also worked with Dylan O’Brien while on set.
“He was very sweet and so nice. During rehearsals for the dance scene, he was so careful to make sure he didn’t drop me. Amazing Stories was my first TV show to film,” she said.
Michaela on set with of Amazing Stories with Dylan O'Brien. Photo courtesy of Michaela Russell.
Russell portrayed Mikayla in Hallmark’s Christmas movie Two Turtle Doves and another lead role in a Hallmark movie as well. She filmed in Canada and learned she booked the part two days before her flight.
Michaela Russell and her brother while she filmed in Winnipeg. /Photo courtesy of Michaela Russell.
While traveling was hectic, once she arrived in Canada her favorite activity off set was getting juice from a place called Green Carrot. Her set dad Michael Rady introduced her to it and she stopped there almost daily. She also recalls the restaurant, Across the Table where guests could play board games.
Her favorite on set memory was having dance parties in the hair and makeup trailer with actress Nikki Deloach while filming for Hallmark.
Her advice for other actors is to stay humble, appreciate all of the others on set working with you, and to just be comfortable in your own skin. She mentioned: "You are there for a reason, and what’s meant to happen will happen. Just relax, stay focused, and be you, because they like you for you. Also, know that there is a lot of hard work involved."
Starting out, Michaela didn’t have a particular acting inspiration. She loved to dance and performing was in her life from the time she was little. While most of her friends knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, she had no idea. When she discovered kids could act, she figured if she did acting she could build enough financial support and knowledge so that once she decided what she wanted to be, she would be ready.
“Unexpectedly, the first time I walked on set I fell in love, and right then I knew what I wanted to be for the rest of my life,” she said.
Michaela Russell with actress Nikki DeLoach behind the scenes of Two Turtle Doves for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. / Photo courtesy of Michaela Russell.