Welcome to Enchanting Emilia Clarke, a fansite decided to the actress best known as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones since 2011. She acted on stage in Breakfast at Tiffany's on Broadway, plus many movies, including Terminator Genisys, Me Before You, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Last Christmas has some great upcoming projects. She'll be joining the MCU next year for Secret Invasions. Emilia has represented Dolce & Gabbana's and Clinque. That's not to mention being beloved by fans and celebrities internationally for her funny, quirky, humble, kind, and genuine personality. She's truly Enchanting.
April 08 2023

VANITY FAIR Who are you, really? That question is at the core of the new Marvel series Secret Invasion, which follows Samuel L. Jackson’s spymaster, Nick Fury, as he uncovers a conspiracy to quietly install double agents into positions of power around the world. In a traditional espionage story, these might be operatives from hostile rival nations, but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the infiltration has an otherworldly origin: shape-shifting green-skinned extraterrestrials known as Skrulls, who can perfectly simulate any human being at will. Figuring out who is who becomes especially daunting.

“We don’t know who’s a friend, who’s the enemy,” Jackson tells Vanity Fair for this exclusive deep dive into the upcoming series. “There’s a political aspect that kind of fits into where we are right now: Who’s okay? Who’s not? What happens when people get afraid and don’t understand other people? You can’t tell who’s innocent and who’s guilty in this particular instance.”

Nick Fury first became an ally of the Skrulls in the 1990s-set Captain Marvel, when he and Ben Mendelsohn’s alien leader, Talos, fought side by side. In that story, the Skrulls were not a threat, just the innocent victims of a galactic war who needed help. But decades have passed since then. “He told the Skrulls they were trying to find them a place to live,” Jackson says. “He promised them they were going to find them a planet or somewhere they could be. And that’s not going so well.”

Now a group of Skrull extremists has arisen—and they’re tired of asking and tired of waiting. The clandestine takeover in Secret Invasion is their solution, and Gravik (played by One Night in Miami’s Kingsley Ben-Adir) is the resistance leader who has radicalized them. He breaks from the Talos-led faction to seize the resources they need—first quietly, while in disguise, then by force, if needed. The storyline mirrors countless true stories from actual history when displaced groups have first fractured, then lashed out after patience and diplomacy are exhausted.

“I think any time that you get cultures that have significant tensions between groups of people, then you can find a corollary,” says Mendelsohn. “The Cold War stuff is the big one that jumps out, but there is plenty of strife between groups of people that this addresses.”

The conflict is not just geopolitical, it’s personal. One Skrull radical, Emilia Clarke’s G’iah (pronounced “Guy-ah”), has issues with Talos that go far deeper than most. While this is the Game of Thrones actor’s first appearance in a Marvel Studios project, her character has actually appeared before.

(Fair warning—the showrunners don’t consider the following a spoiler, but some fans might.)

When asked about Clarke’s character, Jackson points out a scene from 2019’s Captain Marvel in which Fury witnesses a reunion between Mendelsohn’s Talos and his long-lost Skrull family aboard a space station orbiting Earth. “Remember when Ben was there with his wife and daughter?” Jackson says. “She’s the little Skrull girl grown up. She’s his daughter.”

Growing up amidst constant war makes it hard to ever stop fighting. Living in the shadow of a powerful parent makes the situation even more dire—especially when they’re a leader who is seen as having failed. In G’iah’s case, resistance was virtually inevitable. “It’s hardened her, for sure. There’s a kind of punk feeling that you get from this girl,” Clarke says. “She’s a refugee kid who’s had Talos for a dad, you know what I mean? Maybe the fact that we didn’t know he had a kid up until this point tells you everything you need to know about their relationship.”

G’iah is also pretty much over her dad’s friend Fury and his fellow human beings. “These people promised a lot of stuff a long time ago, and not a lot has happened. So understandably, a certain amount of resentment has been built,” Clarke says. “There’s a lot of emotions that live within her, and there’s a lot of confrontational aspects to her character that have come from circumstance. You understand why she has the feelings that she does.”

Secret Invasion draws its inspiration from a 2008 Marvel Comics story line written by Brian Michael Bendis, which crossed over into other superhero story lines. In that run of tales, even established heroes were sometimes revealed to be covert extraterrestrial replacements, pursuing a plan of Skrull conquest.

The Disney+ series’ executive producer Jonathan Schwartz says the show also takes cues from the Cold War espionage thrillers of John le Carré, as well as from some contemporary TV shows that explored the clash between loyalty and identity. “We were really inspired by shows like Homeland and The Americans,” he says. “What you find is there are people that you trust or you think you can trust—or you can only trust to a certain point.”

In his quest to unravel the Skrull extremist plot, Fury crosses paths with a number of figures who—like him—have held positions of off-the-books influence around the globe, often as part of national intelligence services. Also like him, they tend to be comfortable operating outside the strictures of law and order. Among them is Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross, the CIA agent who has previously appeared in Captain America: Civil War and the Black Panther movies. He has a long career of working with advanced, secretive societies that have trust issues.

Another is Don Cheadle’s James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the military weapons liaison from the Iron Man films who has frequently fought on the front lines as the armored War Machine. “This is a different kind of Rhodey—a political animal and not, you know, a guy who has a special suit,” Jackson says. “He’s the president’s right-hand man in this. So he’s the guy that makes a lot of decisions—some good, some bad.”

A more antagonistic presence in Secret Invasion is an MI6 agent played by Oscar winner Olivia Colman, who’s ostensibly motivated to protect England’s national security interests during the crisis. The question, as with everybody in this story, is whether her stated goals are the truth. “It’s somebody that you’ve never seen her play before,” Jackson says. “She’s cold-blooded and just relishes being that person.”

The one individual Fury is certain he can rely on is his longtime S.H.I.E.L.D. partner, Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders. Hill has never had a mechanical suit, biologically enhanced strength, or mystical powers, but she has always been the stalwart of the Avengers team, a grounding presence. Secret Invasion allows her to step into a more pivotal role in which her basic humanity is the asset.

“Listen, I would’ve loved superpowers at some point, but it’s also intriguing playing a human in this world, because you’ve made the choice to really put your life in jeopardy,” Smulders says. “This is a Marvel story where the humans can shine. Even though there are aliens, and there’s going to be extraordinary fight sequences, this is about people on the ground talking to each other, and interviewing people, and really doing hands-on work to get the information needed.”

At the time of Secret Invasion, Hill has been fulfilling her human-watchdog role mostly by herself for several years. Marvel faithful will remember that Nick Fury has been said to be “off-world” ever since the events of Avengers: Endgame, when the universe finally recovered from the extinction-level snap of Thanos.

In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the figure who appeared to be Fury was actually Talos in disguise, filling in for his old friend while he has been on a deep space mission to help his Skrull friends find that new homeworld he promised. “I haven’t been back on Earth in a minute. And as Cobie will say, she’s been trying to reach me and contact me, but I’ve been ignoring her messages,” Jackson says.

“I think Maria Hill has really run out of patience,” Smulders adds. “She’s always had this really close relationship with Nick Fury, [but] he’s been gone for so long, and she’s just been running around putting out fires.”

As Secret Invasion begins, he finally responds when Hill realizes that their Skrull friends may not be so friendly anymore.

Nick Fury has been overdue for his own story. His introduction came in the very first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, when Jackson turned up in a post-credits sequence to tell Iron Man, “You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

Over the next 15 years of movies, only scarce details about Fury’s past have emerged. We know he joined the Army straight out of high school, that he became a vital government operative who rose to the highest level of S.H.I.E.L.D. before its collapse, and that he began the Avengers Initiative because he recognized that threats to the world were growing so big that the planet needed to upgrade its superhero protection policy.

But Secret Invasion finds him worn out. “Even Nick Fury can be shaken, you know?” Jackson says. One reason his character has been off in space, ignoring calls for help, is he doesn’t believe he can fix things anymore. “He’s up there trying to process what the fuck happened, you know? And what his place in the world is,” Jackson says. “The death of Iron Man, the death of Black Widow—with that stuff going on, he just kind of checked out.”

Fury used to see more clearly—even if he did lose an eye in Captain Marvel when he was scratched by an alien creature posing as a house cat. That’s a plot point in Secret Invasion too.

Fans have noted that in this show he no longer wears his signature eyepatch, but Jackson reveals that’s a character choice for this series. Fury hasn’t been miraculously healed. “He just doesn’t wear the patch. The patch is part of who the strong Nick Fury was,” Jackson says. “It’s part of his vulnerability now. You can look at it and see he’s not this perfectly indestructible person. He doesn’t feel like that guy.”

“There’s nobody here who’s glossy and ready for action in a spandex one-piece,” Smulders adds. “I mean, my wardrobe alone has changed so much since the original film. I was in platform knee-high boots and a skintight leotard in the Avengers movie. And I’m in a straight-up jeans and tee in this one.”

Some of Fury’s vulnerabilities are internal. “Sins from his past start to haunt him once again,” Schwartz says. “We often see Nick Fury doing the right thing. We don’t always see him doing it in a perfectly morally correct way. All of those things have ramifications. Without getting too specific, the things that Nick Fury’s had to do to protect the Earth have costs.”

Jackson hints at some of them: “Nick had a whole Skrull spy network because they could shape-shift and go places that people couldn’t go,” he says. “They kept their word. They worked for him, but he hasn’t done what he said he was going to do. They want a home. They want to live. They want to live like they are. They want to live in their skin. They don’t want to live in ours.”

The human world also begins to harbor doubts about Fury. “What he’s not doing is calling in his super friends. So that’s part of the whole dilemma,” Jackson says. “I mean, people want them and he’s not bringing them.”

Why…? “You’ll find that out,” he says. “There’s a very good reason he’s holding back.”

In his long career as an actor, Jackson says he’s found that characters who lurk on the dark side are the most fun to play—and Nick Fury appeals to him because he’s not fully one thing or the other.

“I enjoy bad guys,” Jackson says. “A lot of times, having no conscience and going by ‘any means necessary’ is better than being the good guy who has to question the morality of what he’s about to do, And Nick walks that line. He makes the hard choices all the time. And that comes from him being in the shadow world where survival is what counts.”

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