What Iron Man was to The Avengers, so will Daredevil be to Marvel’s upcoming TV team-up The Defenders. With their first Netflix original series, Marvel’s plan is to create four solo characters who can team up in a mega series after the initial four, just like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But first things first. Daredevil reintroduces the Man With No Fear, as Matt Murdock first starts fighting crime in his spare time. Created by Drew Goddard, who also wrote the pilot, Steven S. DeKnight ran Daredevil for the first season. DeKnight and Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb spoke to reporters in L.A. last week and Nerd Report was there to get the scoop on The Defenders, Phase One! Daredevil premieres with 13 episodes on Netflix, Friday April 10.
Q: What was the moment you found out this was going to happen as a TV series?
Jeph Loeb: There was a number of steps, the first of which was finding out that we were going to get the rights back from Fox. We had been watching the clock on the wall and seeing whether or not that was going to tick out. Then it was to find out whether or not it was something that could then be a television property because the movie division had first dibs. When we determined it was going to be a television property, it then became where was the best place for this to be? That was when I brought to the group this idea of doing the street level heroes and doing, for want of a better explanation, the Defenders story.
We went to Netflix and brought them this idea that we would do four 13 part stories that would be separate individual stories, but in their own way feel like they were of the same universe. Then those four characters would then join together and be in something called The Defenders. Daredevil would kick it off. It’s no secret, we look at the model that the movie division has which is different from the television division. There had to be an Iron Man and a Hulk and a Thor and a Captain America before you could make The Avengers. For us, it was Daredevil and then Jessica Jones and Luke Cage and Iron Fist before they could be a Defenders.
What was challenging and compelling and interesting to, at first Drew Goddard and then to our showrunner Steve, was how to make that world live and what was it going to look like and what was it going to feel like? Fortunately, we all came to the same conclusion, so that was the part where it was really exciting.
Nerd Report: Was the fight at the end of episode two the biggest and most difficult thing to stage?
Jeph Loeb: Oh, you haven’t seen the rest of the show. You’ve only seen five episodes.
Steven S. DeKnight: Well, the fight at the end of episode two which was a brilliant idea by Drew Goddard.
Steven S. DeKnight: It was scripted that way and then brilliantly realized by our director, Phil Abraham. Huge props to our stunt coordinator, Philip Silvera and our DP Matt Lloyd. That I think is probably the most complicated action scene because of the way we shot it in this one shot deal.Technically it was very difficult but there are bigger things coming down the pike.
Q: How will the darker, grittier aesthetic fit into the rest of the Marvel universe?
Jeph Loeb: The way that I like to look at it is, first of all, we didn’t do it to do it. We did it because that was the best thing for that story and it’s what the character warrants. In other words, you couldn’t have told a Spider-Man story like this. I suppose you could. It would just feel off. Or Captain America story. The Marvel catalog of 9000 characters that we all talk about in that paragraph that comes at the end of our things we send out into the universe.What makes it so rich is the fact that it isn’t just a bunch of guys that are running around with capes and cowls that have secret identities and fight across the street from each other. It really is a rich, diverse, different kind of characters in ethnicity, in gender, in religion that have different ways of going about the same thing. That is to be a hero, and to be challenged at being a hero.
If there is one thing that we do try to reach for is that our heroes are aspirational. At the end of the day, these are people who recognize that, starting all the way back with Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. There is no one who’s more conflicted in the Marvel Universe, at least in my opinion, than Matthew Murdock. Is he his father’s son or is he the son of his father? Is he someone who is going to solve the world’s problems in a courtroom or is he someone who’s going to solve the problems with a fist? I think one of the things that’s extraordinary, not only about what Steven’s story captures but which Charlie Cox captures is that dichotomy. To be that strong a personality, that charming wit that he has, and at the same time to be as vulnerable as he is. And I think that’s really the gift that Charlie brought us in playing that part.
Steven S. DeKnight: There were some conversations about the extent to how much we would see. Jeph and I were both on the same page. Coming over from Spartacus, I was very clear that I had no intentions of pushing it that far. Like Jeph said, with Spartacus, the story we were telling warranted that. Daredevil I would never make that violent because the story doesn’t warrant it. With Wilson Fisk and what he does with the car door, we were all on the same page from the start that we would never actually see it, the head and what was happening. We would suggest it .Of course, it is very suggestive.
There’s no doubt about it but I think a show that I absolutely love right now, I think it’s fantastic storytelling, is The Walking Dead. I think the level of violence that they show graphically on screen is right for that show. With us, I think it would take you out of what we’re trying to do and trying to say. So we’re always very cognizant. I don’t shy away from violence. God knows one of the writers from Commando doesn’t shy away from violence. We have no problem with that, but we never wanted to do a graphically violent thing just because we could. We always wanted it to be in service of the story and there are violent moments. That’s definitely one and there are little things.
But also, as Jeph stated, the Daredevil comics that I loved growing up, the Frank Miller run particularly and later the Bendis run, there’s some pretty violent stuff going on in there. Pretty dark, pretty gritty and we wanted to really make it feel as visceral and brutal as possible.
Q: How did you cast Charlie Cox?
Jeph Loeb: First of all, we have to give a huge shoutout to Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert who are our casting directors and won the Emmy for House of Cards. They brought us an extraordinary cast for us to look at and helped us see where we were. I will tell you a true story. It is about two years before Daredevil had come back from Fox. At 11 o’clock at night, my phone rings and it’s Joe Quesada. Joe’s in New York so it’s two o’clock in the morning. Joe Quesada calls and he goes, “I’ve found Matt Murdoch.” There’s no hello, there’s nothing, just a voice on the other end of the phone. I’m thinking to myself, “He’s found someone who looks like Matt Murdoch that he can draw? Joe, what are we doing? What are you talking about?” He says, “When we make the Daredevil television show, this guy Charlie Cox is going to play Matt Murdoch.”
I go, “Okay, Joe, let me try to explain something to you. First, we have to get the rights back from Fox. Then we have to get the motion picture division to say yes, the television division can have this character. Then, we have to find a network that’s willing to put us on with a story that we want to tell. If any of those things happen, sure, we’ll bring in your friend Charlie Cox. Hopefully he’s still an actor then.” I’ve now learned that when Joe goes, “I’ve found…” I go, “Just give me the name.” It’ll save me a hell of a lot of time and effort.
Joe called it early on. Charlie came in. Look, we saw a lot of people obviously to play these roles. The good news is the success of this series and the kind words that all of you have been saying does make us easier as we go along. I’m as thrilled by this cast. I’ve seen what Krysten Ritter and David Tennant and Mike Colter are doing, and Rachael Taylor and the list goes on, Carrie Ann Moss that are running around in Jessica Jones. I know where we’re headed for in Luke Cage. I think that’s been the hallmarks of Marvel in general is that we really do try our best in casting. That’s how you wind up with an Edward James Olmos doing S.H.I.E.L.D. and James D’Arcy coming on and doing an Agent Carter.
The acting community knows that Marvel is about story and that Marvel is about trying to find the best material in order to bring in the best performances out of people and try to find directors who can bring that out and take broad steps that maybe somebody else isn’t willing to do. Hopefully that’s what we’ve achieved.