Updated - Oct 28th, 2023
Working with top feline talent on a Marvel Studios Super Hero movie sounds like every cat lover’s dream job! For expert cat trainer Jo Vaughan, this describes a typical day on set filming the upcoming movie The Marvels, coming to theaters November 10.
Jo worked closely with two cat actors named Tango and Nemo who share the role of Goose the Flerken. As a quick refresher, a Flerken is a tentacle-wielding alien disguised as a domestic cat. In The Marvels, Goose the Flerken is not only a powerful ally, but a beloved friend to Carol Danvers, a.k.a Captain Marvel.
We sat down with Jo to learn more about her work and understand what a typical day on set with two epic cat co-stars looks like!
It takes a team to prep the cats and sets for filming
Just like human actors, Tango and Nemo had to practice for the role well in advance. Jo explains that Tango and Nemo had a “3-month training period with my team before we started shooting where we trained them for all the actions in the script.” That’s an impressive amount of work for any cat to fit in, especially given their 12+ hour sleeping schedules!
Before the cats put a paw on set, the team had to prep it for their comfort. Pens were set up with cat litter and plenty of water, as well as comfy beds placed close by so Tango and Nemo could rest when not working. Jo describes how her team actively prepared for each day by “discussing all safety measures for any concerning shots beforehand and putting in place whatever is needed before shooting.”
In addition to Jo and her team, a representative from the American Humane Society was present on set during all cat filming. “Their role is to advise on any concerns about production and they are there purely for the cats’ welfare,” Jo explains. “They document everything that happens and how it was achieved.”
Practice makes purrfect For tango and Nemo’s scenes
Jo tells us that rehearsing with feline stars is very similar to working with human actors. “The rehearsing process works much the same. We discuss with our director what’s required that day, and then rehearse until we feel confident the cats know what to do. Then, we shoot!” As for a typical on-set routine, Jo tells us that it varies greatly. “The start time depends on how many scenes or shots the cats are in that day, so no two days are the same – sometimes it’s up early and finishes at lunch, other times it’s an afternoon call time.”
As part of the role, Tango and Nemo pulled off several remarkable feats, from leaps and jumps to operating a coffee maker in one particular scene. Even though they were primed for their role well in advance, Tango and Nemo still had to go through on-set warm-ups just like any actor would. Jo details how her team “acclimatizes the cats and we run them through the actions before we roll so they are comfortable and know exactly what they’re doing.”
Hair, wardrobe, and treats fit for a flerken
As far as a hair and make-up routine goes, Tango and Nemo are low-maintenance stars. They’re both short-haired so their grooming needs before and during filming are minimal. Jo does mention that her team makes sure each cat’s eyes are clean for the camera. Cat parents know how gunk can build up in our cat’s eyes, and sometimes they need a little extra help with the cleaning.
The bulk of Tango and Nemo’s transformation into a Flerken happens after filming ends, so they don’t have to wear a costume of any kind. The cats do get to sport a cute collar in their scenes, helping to sell the ruse that Goose is just a regular domestic cat.
We pictured cat toys and kitty paraphernalia covering the areas behind the scenes, but Jo tells us that toys are not used as regularly as they would be with dog actors. Tango and Nemo are much more treat-motivated! “They loved to get a treat for a reward,” Jo said, “So we used a range of treats from fresh meats to specified cat treats and even licky treats as well.”
Success on set comes down to a strong bond
Our most important takeaway from Jo is that a successful day on set is achieved thanks to the wonderful relationship between the cat actors and their trainer. Jo shared with us “Our relationship with the cats is key, they have to trust us and be comfortable with us. People often think of dogs as being loyal and having a bond with their owner or trainer, but cats do too. We even have specific cat and trainer partnerships who do multiple projects together because their relationship is strongest.”
Filming with Tango and Nemo must have been an absolute blast, and Jo recalled how the team had a memorable experience together. “Tango and Nemo were a big hit with everyone and behaved themselves amazingly” Jo shared. “The funniest moments came from working with the group of kittens we trained, and they were so cute and full of energy and had such unique little personalities.” Rambunctious kittens running around having fun? Sign us up to help out next time!
That’s a wrap – and we have a special surprise for you! Get a free Pumpkin Pet Insurance quote before 11/24 and you’ll have a chance to win 2 Fandango Movie Tickets* on us! You won’t want to miss out on seeing Tango and Nemo as Goose the Flerken in Marvel Studios’ The Marvels, coming to theaters November 10.