Marvel’s Daredevil, available at Netflix on April 10th, is the dark, gritty tale of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a man blinded as a young boy but also imbued with extraordinary senses, who fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and then protects the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York by night as the superhero Daredevil. It simultaneously delves into the backstory of the character’s evolution while also starting down the path of an eventual teaming up with Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage for The Defenders.
At the show’s press day, co-stars Elden Henson (“Foggy Nelson”) and Deborah Ann Woll (“Karen Page”) talked about how it’s both daunting and a huge benefit to have decades of stories about their characters to refer back to, bringing a naturalness to the roles, enjoying the chemistry between their characters, adjusting to saying all of the legal jargon, how cool it is to be a part of the Marvel universe, and which other Marvel property they’d love to see Foggy show up in. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Is it daunting or is a huge benefit to have decades of stories about your characters?
DEBORAH ANN WOLL: I think it’s a benefit. It’s inspiration, the material.
ELDEN HENSON: I found it a little bit daunting because there’s such a love for these characters. I really was scared because I didn’t know that much about the characters and I really wanted to get it right, so there was some fear on my part of just not being able to do that.
WOLL: You want to do right by the fans, but I also was like, “I really want to do right by Jeph Loeb. I want Joe Quesada to think I’m good.” These are people who have been writing these characters for decades, and I’m like, “I’ve been Karen for 10 minutes, and I have an idea. Is that okay?” You hope, but they were open and welcoming to any ideas that we had.
HENSON: Yeah, they were awesome.
Elden, was there something that you contributed to your character, that was your idea?
HENSON: For me, I think this character has less of me than any other character I’ve ever played because of the history and not knowing so much about the character, and really relying heavily on Jeph and the people around me to make sure I was going in the right direction with Foggy. So, I would say there’s probably less of me, in this character, but there is some of me in Foggy. I really relate to his love for his friends. I still have the same five friends that I’ve had since I can remember, so I really relate to that.
What kind of line do you have to walk with Foggy? How do you keep him funny, but not have him go too far?
HENSON: I don’t know. I just try to bring a naturalness to the character. There’s a danger of Foggy sometimes becoming this guy who pops in for a one-liner, here and there. But the cool thing about Foggy is that he really does have his own trials and tribulations, throughout the show, and his own goals and dreams and aspirations. Like Matt and Karen, he really believes in what’s right and doing the right thing. I think Steven DeKnight did a great job of bringing a real humanity to all the characters. Honestly, I really went off of what was written for me. I didn’t really have to do a lot of thinking, which is good. You never want me in a position to have to think. That’s bad.
Deborah, what’s it been like for you to go from playing someone with superpowers to playing a normal person who’s using her brain, more than anything, to get herself out of trouble?
WOLL: I think it’s cool. When you’re the one with superpowers and you’re immortal, you don’t have to worry about dying. It makes you a little bit fearless. With Karen, it’s almost scarier because she’s in such mortal danger, all the time, but it makes her braver when she still takes those steps. That was cool to be like, “Oh, right, this is actually a really dangerous situation that I’m putting myself into, but I’m going to do it anyways.”
Is it rewarding for you to get to play such a courageous character, with such real integrity?
WOLL: Hugely! Absolutely! It’s very rewarding, and it’s a big reason why I wanted to do the role. You worry that there can be a bit of a double standard sometimes. When men go off to do something courageous, that’s brave. But when women go down a dark alley, that’s stupid. There was a part of me that was a little bit afraid that people would see what she was doing as foolish, but it just meant I wanted to commit so much to her integrity. This was about seeing people being hurt and not being able to stand for that. People should not be able to get away with harming others. If that means that she’s gonna get beat up, than she’ll take it. She’s like Matt, in that way. It’s a nice parallel, I think.
How does Karen feel about Foggy?
WOLL: Foggy is a great guy, and he stands up for the little guy. That’s a very sexy attribute, for sure.
There’s such a great chemistry between your characters, and you even get to share an intimate, personal moment in Episode 5, before it’s totally blown up. How have you enjoyed playing those moments?
HENSON: In those moments, I’m always like, “Did I wash my hands, if I’m putting them on her face? Does my breath smell bad?” I just try to get through the take and remember my lines. Seriously. No. I don’t know. That aspect of the show, I really liked, a lot. I liked the dynamic between all three of us, a lot.
WOLL: Particularly that scene, I had a blast doing that. Something about the way that was written felt real natural and fun. And I remember we shot it with dual cameras, so that we could overlap and have a more natural rhythm. I liked that.
HENSON: That was a good day. And then, we got to watch our stunt doubles get blown up. That was pretty cool.
There is some exposition with the legal details, but the scenes always seem to work on multiple levels.
WOLL: With all good writing, that’s what you’re doing. Even with bad writing, that’s what you try to add to it. In this scenario, most of the scenes where we’re going through the legal stuff, we are also right at the tip of our own insecurities and our own fears about this world. That’s what makes it still interesting, even in legalese.
How difficult is the legalese?
HENSON: I went from playing a character for nine months that didn’t talk at all, to someone that doesn’t shut up. Honestly, I would just be like, “Am I pronouncing this word right? Is that how you say this?” Luckily, there are people around, making sure that you’re doing it right.
Is the legal jargon more challenging than the superhero stuff?
HENSON: Yeah, I would say so.
Deborah, when we first meet you in the show, you’ve been through a hellish experience. How challenging is it for you to get to that place?
WOLL: That’s what we’re trained to do. That’s what we’ve spent out lives focusing on. I’ve been asked, “Do you get lost there? How do you come back?” I’ll say this, I made a commitment to myself, when I was early on in my training, that I was never going to hold back. Even in my real life, if I felt choked up, or like I needed to laugh or cry, I was not going to stop myself because that was just teaching myself to hold back. If I really wanted to go deep, dark places in my work, I had to get comfortable with being deep, dark place. So, it makes me a little bit of a weirdo, in my real life, but what it means is that, in those moments, it takes work, but I know I can get there. I know that, if I really go, “Oh, my god, this is the situation I’m in!,” those feelings will start to bubble.
How cool is it to join the Marvel universe, and to become part of that universe of fans that comes along with it?
HENSON: It’s insane! My life has completely changed. It really has, between The Hunger Games and this. At first, it was scary, but now, there’s something really incredible about being able to reach that many people. I loved movies, growing up. They brought me so much joy. If you meet someone on the street that likes something that you did, or likes the way you brought this character to life, that’s really rewarding. That’s really cool. That’s the coolest part about it, I think.
WOLL: Specifically with Marvel, this idea that 20 different properties, whether they be film, TV, comic book or whatever, are all somehow in the same world is mind-boggling and great. I love the idea that our gritty taxi driver show can exist in the same world as The Avengers. We’re the dirt under the gloss. It’s cool. There’s a rationalization for why we need people to deal with the stuff on the streets and we need people to deal with the Gods and aliens. They’re all linked, but in the same way, Thor can’t bother himself with a gangster, and Daredevil can’t take on an alien. But, maybe he could.
HENSON: And Thor might get attacked, wearing that little dress in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a rough neighborhood.
Is there any other Marvel property out there that you’re hoping you get to show up in?
HENSON: I’ve always wanted to meet Robert Downey Jr. because I think he’s awesome. I also loved Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s not a chance in hell that Foggy would show up in that, but I liked that movie. Selfishly, Elden Henson would like to hang out [in that world].
WOLL: I want to see Foggy defend Rocket Raccoon. Forget Karen Page. That’s what I want to see.
Daredevil is available at Netflix on April 10th