How Florence Pugh and Screenwriter Eric Pearson Made Yelena the Unexpected Comedy Star of 'Black Widow'

Black Widow is not just a loving send-off to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). It’s also an introduction to Natasha’s younger Red Room sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh).  Since Yelena when through the same training as Natasha, it’s not surprising that she can kick ass. What may be surprising, however, is that she’s pretty darn funny.

Pugh’s portrayal of Yelena definitely contributes to the character’s comedic moments. Screenwriter Eric Pearson, however, wanted to make her funny as well. /Film talked to Pearson to learn his process for creating Yelena, including how she contrasts with her sister, Natasha.

To Be Cool or To Be Funny?

When developing the character of Yelena, Pearson started out wanting to make her connect with MCU fans. “For me, there’s a couple of ways to make new characters, to endear them to an audience. They can do something really cool, or they can make you laugh. It’s always been easier in my life to make people laugh than to be really cool,” he joked to /Film.

Natasha and Yelena: The Red Room’s Odd Couple

Pearson also thought Yelena’s sense of humor would be a good contrast to Natasha, who has been emotionally guarded and very reserved throughout her time in the MCU.

“What if, as opposed to Natasha — who has reset her life after leaving the Red Room and controls all the information that people know about her as a defense tactic — what if Yelena is just emotionally naked?” Pearson said. “She’s going to say everything and be openly annoyed at you for doing something that bugs you. And it just worked for [Yelena and Natasha’s] dynamic really well.”

Yelena’s openness also hits home when she runs into her two “parents,” David Harbour’s Alexi Shostakov (aka Red Guardian) and Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff. The scenes between them all are rife for comedy as well as tragedy, given the characters’ pasts.

Florence Pugh Brings Comedy to Yelena As Well

Even though Pearson wrote Yelena that way, he also acknowledged what Florence Pugh brought to the character. “Florence is very funny. I mean, there’s no denying it, she’s just a very funny person and has that kind of energy,” he said. “There’s a lot of intentional and unintentional comedy that can come out of her.”

You can check out Pugh’s comedic and action chops in Black Widow, which premieres in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on July 9, 2021.

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