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This article includes spoilers for the fourth episode of “Secret Invasion.”

At one point while on set for the latest Marvel TV show “Secret Invasion,” Ben Mendelsohn and Samuel L. Jackson broke into song.

They had both taken a break from filming to listen to some tunes, and when “Poison Ivy” by the Coasters came on they began belting out the lyrics.

“I’ll get the occasional word wrong, but Sam’s all over it,” Ben Mendelsohn, 54, said in an interview last week.

It’s Mendelsohn’s interactions with Jackson onscreen — their two characters squabble like decades-long lovers as they attempt to stave off World War III — that energize this latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jackson’s character, the grizzled superspy Nick Fury, has been around since before Tony Stark was Iron Man. In “Secret Invasion,” he’s back to his old pastime of saving planet Earth — this time from an invasion of shape-shifting aliens called Skrulls — but after a hiatus in space, he seems slightly off kilter, slower and less formidable.

And so it is Mendelsohn’s character Talos, a Skrull general, who steps in to help — just as he’s been doing for decades, as he reminds Fury: “Your life got a hell of a lot more charmed once I came into it.” It thus feels fitting, though no less upsetting for fans, that Episode 4 ends with Talos sacrificing his life to help Fury complete one more mission.

This is Mendelsohn’s third appearance in a Marvel production, after his character’s introduction in “Captain Marvel” and a brief cameo in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Now, the Australian actor is relishing the chance to be part of a show full of what he calls “old-fashioned Cold War thriller stuff.”

Mendelsohn gained recognition in the United States for his role in the Australian crime drama film “Animal Kingdom,” and he later starred in the Netflix show “Bloodline,” which premiered in 2015. Born in Melbourne, he first got into acting by starring in school plays and memorizing every line from the movie, “Taxi Driver.”

“Once I got bitten by that bug, I didn’t look back,” he said.

Not long after the premiere of last week’s pivotal episode, Mendelsohn spoke about his role, his character’s relationship with Nick Fury and whether Talos is truly dead. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

So far Marvel’s TV series have taken different forms and explored a variety of issues. What are some of the key themes of this one?

I think there is a lot to do with trust and secrecy. I think there’s a certain theme of mutability. You could take that on the obvious level with the whole Skrull-y thing, but I also think it’s about the mutability of where someone is in their life. When I think about the show I think about it through the Nick Fury lens. I’ve always looked at it very much as Sam’s piece. One of the real delights for me is that this relationship morphed between these two characters, which was not there from Day Zero. What I really love is how different Fury is, how different the world is post Infinity Gauntlet and what that does to loyalty. Because loyalty without stress or duress doesn’t mean anything.

How has the relationship between Talos and Fury evolved, starting from “Captain Marvel”? At one point, Talos was impersonating Fury, right?

Yeah that was such a genius flip from Marvel to have Fury [in “Spider-Man: Far From Home”] be Talos the entire time. Ostensibly the two characters start out as enemies. And what we come to learn is how incredibly loyal Talos is to Fury. What we learn is that Fury owes his entire je ne sais quoi to these creatures. And if you want to think about how deeply Marvel can flip stuff on its head, they’ve taken what were the surf Nazi punks of the Marvel world and turned them into the incredibly effective ally of the humans.

Do you think Talos is too optimistic about the humans and the Skrull coexisting?

If you keep boiling the argument down, Talos’s argument is really the only one that stands. Because if you take the Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) kind of perspective and you go for domination, there is one thing that Talos correctly surmises: You will not beat them. It’s their spot, and they have already shown that they can be incredibly effective at wiping out enormous numbers of beings. And so while you can look at what G’iah (Emilia Clarke) is going through and understand Gravik’s frustration, it’s similar to the frustrations that we’ve seen play out locally elsewhere. And you might well say, “OK, yeah that’s right. Go for it and go for it now.” But it’s reckless, destructive. And it’s immature both ideologically and in a realpolitik sense. So as idealistic as Talos may appear to be, he is really the only one with the genuine experience and genuine ability to call it. This is not a zero-sum game for humans and Skrull.

Given how this episode started, with the big reveal about G’iah’s still being alive, is Talos really dead? Should we expect some kind of regeneration later on?

Well to answer that would be to be an enemy of what I do. My greatest loyalty is always to the audience, and I try not to undermine that in any way, shape, or form. But I can definitely tell you Talos’s death is a turning point.

What has it been like to interact with Jackson both on-set and off?

The best things that were brought to this relationship onscreen were brought by Sam. Sam’s the reason for the Skrull kiss at the very first time we see them together. It’s Sam who really brings the template in the train scene that allows me to react off and against them. Sam and I have been able to work together because we don’t take it too seriously. But we also try not to half-step. And the reason I look through the lens of Sam a.k.a. Nick Fury is because I come at it as a guy who watched “Jungle Fever” and just went crazy.

I think a lot of fans are wondering: What’s the significance of the Skrull in the overarching narrative arc of the MCU?

Ever since they’ve been introduced and utilized well, they do present an ever-present threat. Because how do you know? That’s one of the great things about “Secret Invasion.” “Civil War” also has that flavor. It’s just like, Who is who here?

The great strength of the studio is that they play what-if for real; they don’t play what-if as an entertaining byline. They play it for real and keep integrating it. Once they have an event for “Secret Invasion,” you can’t un-have it.

While I was watching the show there was a point where I wondered if Fury was going to change into a Skrull halfway through?

Well, keep watching. Fury is more connected to the Skrull than any other human is.



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