15 years ago, the first-ever MCU movie, Iron Man, ended with a surprise appearance from Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Fury would go on to become an important part of the ever-growing MCU and whether it was another cameo or a prominent role in the story, would prove just how busy and knowledgeable he was through the likes of Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home – and even make two appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Still, even through all that screen time through so many years, what Nick Fury never got to be was the actual center of a story. That changes with Secret Invasion, the new six-episode Disney+ series debuting this week, in which Jackson is very much the star, as Fury learns about a long term plan by a group of alien shapeshifting Skrulls to infiltrate the Earth from within.
With Nick as the lead, Secret Invasion digs into the character in a way no MCU project has before, revealing much more about his history and personal life than we’ve gotten beyond a few small moments. Jackson joked to Fandom that prior to making the series “Nobody ever even suggested that he went home and [then] came to work. I just thought I lived there!”
However, while Nick Fury’s accomplishments speak for themselves, the question is quickly raised in the series as to whether he is still the man for this type of job.
PAST HIS PRIME?
We know Nick Fury to be tremendously capable and resourceful. But in Secret Invasion, there’s a clear concern from allies like Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) – and a sense of triumph from enemies like the Skrull Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) – that Fury is seemingly not at his best these days.
Jackson noted that the Nick Fury in Spider-Man: Far From Home “didn’t see through the bad guy’s motives or anything else. He seemed to be kind of not all there. And then you find out in the post-scene, well, it’s not him.” In that film, it was actually Fury’s Skrull friend, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), posing as Nick, but Jackson said there’s still doubt as to whether the actual Fury would have brought his A game either and been able to see through Mysterio’s ruse, given his current state of mind.
“He’s up on S.A.B.E.R., licking his wounds from being blipped,” Jackson remarked. “How has that affected him and what’s all that mean? So when he comes back, he is not on his game, he does have some vulnerabilities that he wasn’t aware that he had.”
Jackson added that thanks to what he’s gone through, Fury is now more fearful, explaining, “He has, I guess you could call it, a healthy fear of something that’s happened. He always thought he was invulnerable, and was impenetrable and all-seeing. Now he’s not and people are telling him ‘We see that also.’ And he has to accept it, digest it, and figure out how he’s going to bounce back from it.
Secret Invasion director Ali Selim noted that as the show begins, “This is really not Nick, the badass warrior, but [rather] Nick, the human who’s lost his step. Maybe he’s a little older, probably disoriented from the Blip, and maybe trying to figure out what, and how to get his mojo back if he can. And to do that, you have to go into Nick’s personal life, which is very interesting to me. You have to go into Nick’s inner life and explore his demons and his doubts in his fears. And I just felt like that was a much more expansive Nick Fury and interesting for Sam, who’s a very good actor, to explore.”
DRAMATIC INVASION, JOYFUL MARVELS
The MCU has juggled films and series with different tones before, but while Secret Invasion is not humor-free, it still stands out as one of the more serious and dramatic projects we’ve seen in this world before, and includes some fairly brutal moments.
Selim said this was the intent from the start, noting, “I think that was the decision from Marvel long before they wrote a script or called me. And I was just able to pick up from the scripts the brilliant, interesting themes of trust and suspicion and paranoia. And that’s what made it a darker series.”
Jackson has two different MCU projects this year but they couldn’t feel more different, as he’ll return after Secret Invasion in November’s The Marvels, whose trailer promises a very lightheaded team-up adventure for Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. Jackson said that not only did he enjoy getting to bounce around in these wildly different projects as an actor, but he felt Nick Fury was a character whose skills allowed him to comfortably fit into them all.
As Jackson put it, “I always thought Nick is the kind of guy that has a level of seriousness that has an acidic tone sometimes, and sometimes his tone is lighter. He kind of reads the room and works his way through it, the way he sees fit.”
GETTING REAL WITH RHODEY
Secret Invasion uses its plot, about shapeshifting aliens among us, to fuel a story about suspicion and paranoia, as Nick is caught in a true “trust no one” scenario. In the midst of all that, as we dive further into Nick’s inner life, we get to see him discuss real life issues he never has. In one such case, Nick has an intense conversation with James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) that involves them discussing their status as two black men in rarified positions, amongst other important topics relating to the show’s themes.
Said Jackson, of including this in the series, “I like getting to have that conversation. That conversation in the context of what this story is is a necessary conversation. It goes along with the seriousness of not just the invasion idea, but the idea of borders being crossed and who the people are that are crossing those borders. How do you feel about those people? And where we are in terms of a society of people that deal with people who are in charge, the kind of people that are in charge, and how people respect those people because of who they are.”
Said Selim, of that scene, “I think it all comes from story and the story of these guys is evolving and going deeper and more personal. And I think it’s really fun for them to explore and it was really fun for me to be able to explore from the perspective of story.” He added, of Jackson and Cheadle, “They want to go all the way and we want to keep them in the story, and I think those are two really great collaborative actors to go there.”
Secret Invasion debuts June 21 on Disney+.