This year’s Marvel panel at NYCC 2015 was an odd beast. As everyone on stage excitedly talked about their Netflix original shows delving into darker and grittier territories than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they also talked about how much they all loved each other, and, indeed, it often felt like a Thanksgiving family reunion. If your weird cousin who you only see once a year was The Punisher. Jeph Loeb moderated two panels, one for the Daredevil cast and crew, and one for Jessica Jones. He also showed us an all-too-brief clip from Daredevil Season 2….and the first episode of Jessica Jones. Since he explicitly asked us not to spoil anything, and since I fear Marvel’s wrath like I fear nothing else, I will say only two things, below the cut.
Those two things are HOLY. SHIT.
Fine, I’ll say a third thing. IT MIGHT BE BETTER THAN DAREDEVIL. And I loooooove Daredevil. I am so excited to see more, and angry that I can’t be seeing more right this second, that I may have to invent a new portmanteau. Exangry? Enthufuriated? Ragecited? OK, two more things, and I promise this is it: Kristen Ritter is truly amazing, and Kilgrave is already, one episode in, the most terrifying villain Marvel has ever produced. He makes Wilson Fisk look like a roly-poly goddamned puppy, and Fisk murdered somebody with a car door.
The Daredevil crew were the first…hang on, that not quite right. For a brief shining moment, Jeph Loeb brought Luke Cage, Charlie Cox, and Jessica Jones onstage, and said, “there’s your first look at The Defenders.” Then he gave us the Daredevil clip with its teeny-tiny look at Elektra and the Punisher, which was enough to send the crowd into paroxysms of joy.
The Daredevil panel was hilarious, because not only were the cast the sweetest humans ever, but the audience kept chanting Foggy’s name, and Deborah Ann Woll used all of her question-answering time to gush about how Charlie Cox is the greatest scene partner in human history. Joe Quesada, on the far end of the panel, mostly let the actors do the talking, but did chime in to say “Daredevil is the character that brought me back to Marvel, and these scripts? These performances? I couldn’t have drawn it any better.” The new showrunners enthused about the opportunity to go deeper into the world, with Marco Ramirez saying, “We asked ourselves, is there a place for dark, gritty, sophisticated content in this oversaturated superhero world? And we got an answer (indicating the audience, who is, um, slightly enthusiastic as I mentioned). So now, if you wanted grounded? You wanted dark? Here’s Elektra. Here’s Punisher.” Doug Petrie continued, “I hesitate to use the word ‘blessing’, but it is such a blessing. We love two things: one is Matt Murdoch, and the other is the world Matt Murdoch navigates. Steven and Drew did a great job of introducing that world, and now we can take it darker and more emotional.”
Elodie Yung called playing Elektra “intense” and “exciting” and said that she was excited to use her black belt in karate and muy thai training for the part. Apparently, her audition was memorable: when Jeph Loeb asked Yung if she was a martial artist, she replied that she could kick his ass, which I’m assuming went some way toward landing her the role.
Loeb laughed. “Speaking of kicking ass…” and everyone started screaming for Punisher, just in time for Loeb to say “Now, Elden….” Once the laughter died down, it was John Bernthal’s turn to talk about his character, and, well,
I know how important it is to you guys. How important he is to people in law enforcement and in the military. I look at it as a huge honor, and a huge responsibility. I give you my absolute word: I’m gonna give everything that I have.”
So after I got my hearing back, I realized that Loeb had asked Elden Henson a question “There’s much love for the Fog. Is your life different now that you’re Foggy?” Elden’s reply was sweet, but a little frightening, “People stop me on the street and say, ‘why were you mad at your friend? He’s a superhero!’”
And naturally, Charlie Cox (whom Loeb and the actors often referred to as “their leader”) had a thoughtful reply to what is was like to become Daredevil:
I spoke a little about it last season, the apprehension of playing someone who is known as the Man Without Fear. Not being able to feel fear robs you of the opportunity for courage. But then, as I got deeper into it, playing this extraordinary character has demanded courage of me, not just to be a superhero, but to be a good person.
The audience questions were similarly thoughtful:
The first was for Cox: “What was it like playing a character who is visually disabled, and interacting with fans who are visually disabled?”
One of the things I love about Daredevil is that he’s one of the few superheroes with a disability. It’s been a very cool experience. Acting blind is incredibly challenging, because you draw your emotions from the other person, and so much of that comes from eye contact. But acting blind, obviously I can’t make eye contact with them, but they also can’t make eye contact with me. So in the practical view it’s very difficult. I was invited to American Association for the Blind, and given an award! It was so rewarding, a blessing I never expected.
The next question asked John Bernthal how the announcement of his casting as The Punisher had affected him. “At least 15- 20 times a day, I get, “You better not mess this up, man!”
The next question was for the showrunners, asking if they would be employing flashbacks as often as Season One.
Petrie: That’s a really interesting question, cause I’m not allowed to answer it. (laughter) No, we just have to work out, how do you really, fully explore these characters? Sometimes that development needs a flashback, but sometime you want to peel the onion back, and you just want two people in a room talking, especially when you’ve got a great group like this (indicates the actors) and I think we’ve balanced it well.
I would also like to mention before moving on: the audience clapped after the answer to each question, Elden Hansen thanked us all for watching the show, and Charlie Cox went on for a few minutes at the end, crediting fan enthusiasm for the success of the show. So what I’m saying it, Marvel’s just an absurd cycle of politeness and gratitude, like nothing else that exists in pop culture at the moment, except maybe for Hannibal.
The Jessica Jones panel was interesting, because as Jeph Loeb introduced each actor, he talked about how much we would come to love their characters, but since the panel came before the episode screening, I got a sense that they were trying not to spoil anything. As a result, there were many more mentions of “darkness” as well as a lot of jokes about Marvel’s security teams. The disappointment of David Tennant’s absence was somewhat mitigated by his introductory clip, and then completely erased by the mind-blowing show we got to watch. Also? Carrie-Anne Moss was totally wearing a floor-length black jacket that was basically Office Casual Matrix, and when Mike Colter came out people started chanting “Luuuuuuuuuuuke”.
Executive producer Melissa Rosenberg called the show “a great ride with an extraordinary payoff”. Eka Darville (who plays a character named Malcolm, the only true comic relief in the episode) said that “They’ve got Punisher out there to snipe me if I say anything…but when [the audience meets Malcolm] he’s in a dark space. It’s a joy. This tumultuous experience is such a reward cause this show kicks ass.”
Rosenberg talked about casting Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeryn Hogarth, “We didn’t really take [gender] into consideration, we just knew you were right for the part.” Moss praised the scripts, saying, “There was a point in every script when I said ‘Oh my god I can’t believe that just happened’! Our lead woman at the end there, she is amazing, and speaking as someone who has embodied that female warrior-type character? I’ve seen Kristen do it on a whole other level.”
Rachael Taylor who plays Jessica’s best friend Trish Walker, said, “One of reasons I wanted to do it is because of the richness of the female friendship. The friendship between Jessica and Trish is flawed and complicated, and there’s jealousy, and real-life girlfriend kinda stuff that we have with our sisters. And they have a deep emotional backstory, but they also make it super sassy.”
Jeph Loeb moved on to Mike Colter’s performance as Luke Cage: Mike, I’m gonna jump ahead a little. You got about 2 hours sleep , had a beautiful baby, and then we put you back to work.”
(At this point the audience was drowned in chants of “Luuuuuuuuuke” until someone yelled “Sweet Christmas!”, and Colter was able to answer the question as the laughter died down.)
Making a show with Marvel is like signing onto a new best friend. Marvel is all-encompassing. I was trying to figure out the character, and I’m getting these answers like Marvel would, where they’re just like, “Just sign the papers.” Y’know? “Everything will be fiiiine.” (laughter) But the scripts are so real, so grounded. I have a chance to build Luke’s char slowly, and the only bad part is that I didn’t get to work with a lot of the other actors on the panel. But I’m sure we will in the future.
Loeb ended by asking Krysten Ritter about her experience, and she focused on working with David Tennant, saying, “David Tennant is magic. I learned a lot from him. He’s a joy to be around. One of the best scene partners I could have asked for.”
Daredevil Season Two is coming sometimes in 2016 (they didn’t give us an exact date) and Jessica Jones will be taking over your minds and making you like on November 20th, when the whole season drops on Netflix. And hey, the whole panel’s up now, so check it out!