UPDATE: Watch the Panel in full, below!
Following the success of their shared cinematic universe as well as a potentially risky (but ultimately very successful) comic book adaptation like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios continues to push boundaries in the superhero genre. Following the debut of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel pulled a surprise, not to mention ambitious, move in partnering with online streaming service Netflix to bring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist to the TV (or computer) screen.
Production on Daredevil, which will be the first chapter in this newly formed Defenders shared universe, began over the summer - but details remain relatively scarce. We know that Charlie Cox will portray Matt Murdock/Daredevil, with Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page; still, little was known about the overarching storyline or how Cox will look in the iconic red suit. That is until the cast, along with Marvel's Head of Television, Jeph Loeb and Daredevil showrunner, Steve S. DeKnight, showed up at New York Comic-Con to discuss the series and preview early footage.
- Jeph Loeb says Marvel has a special relationship with New York City – since so many of the stories take place in the Big Apple. New York has been instrumental in making Daredevil possible. Marvel has been shooting on the streets, in apartments, and on the rooftops.
- He reiterates that Daredevil is the first of five series from Netflix with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders team-up to follow. Loeb states that despite what people might have heard on the Internet, neither Jessica Jones or Luke Cage have been cast yet.
- Over two years ago, Joe Quesada said he found Matt Murdock – and he was talking about Charlie Cox but Daredevil was still at 20th Century Fox. Nevertheless, in spite of all the odds, after the rights reverted to Marvel, Charlie Cox was cast.
- Rosario Dawson is confirmed to play Claire Temple - a nurse who works at night (likely a nod to Linda Carter's classic Marvel character Night Nurse).
- Charlie Cox says Rosario Dawson is an incredible actor and we’ll love what she’s done with the role.
- DeKnight compliments the crew – especially emmmy-nominated cinematographer Mattew Lloyd (Fargo).
- Toby Moore will play Wesley (The Kingpin's right hand man) and was hired just before shooting.
- Bob Gunton is Leland Owlsley and says he was hired after everything had already started. He says the show is like being in his teenage fever dreams – these are broken people trying to find their way through life. Not so much outward challenges but dealing with internal struggles. Gunton believes Leland is a great character - both sardonic and amusing.
- DeKnight has loved Daredevil for decades – and spoke with Loeb years back (during Buffy) about doing Daredevil. He says the Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis runs were his favorites – and are reflected in the gritty tone of the show.
- Vondie Curtis-Hall says he loves playing Ben Urich. When he looked at the comics he said "I don’t wear glasses." It’s Ben’s drive and obsession for the truth and passion for the city and Hell’s Kitchen that drove Curtis-Hall to the part. Ben has the same passion as Daredevil. He wants a better Hell’s Kitchen and New York. He wants to uncover the truth and make the city better. The actor says they wanted a realistic show: it’s not about jumping off buildings, it’s about the heart of the characters. Furthermore Ben's connection to the city and his wife drew him to the part.
- Ayelet Zurer plays Vanessa (The Kingpin's lover) - and said that when she met DeKnight and Loeb the first time, they told her the story of a painting (described in clip 3 further down) and that was her entrance into the character. If there’s a locked door, Vanessa is the type of person who will want to go in. The actress says working with D'Onofrio is fabulous – he’s a phenomenal actor and very honest. It’s in the moment and that’s all that you can ask for.
- D'Onofrio describes his Fisk as a child and a monster. Every move that he makes, everything he does in the story comes from a foundation of mortality inside of himself. Meeting Vanessa, the one thing she does for him so far is bring him out of the shadows. Like they’ve done with Charlie’s story, viewers will get a feeling of the origin of Wilson - and how he becomes this iconic character that people seem to dig. They’re playing it emotional and real and moment to moment. He's digging it.
- DeKnight believes there are no heroes or villains in the story. There are just people making different choices. As a lawyer by day and vigilante by night, how far will Murdock go? He’s one bad day from being Frank Castle (The Punisher) not Matt Murdock. DeKnight claims that when you hear Fisk’s side of things, you might think he is actually doing that right thing - viewers might not always be quite sure who to root for.
- Elden Henson sent his audition for Foggy Nelson into Marvel on his phone - because he was working on the Hunger Games at the time. He jokes that working on Daredevil is really scary but then states it's actually really great. He didn’t have much time to prepare but leaned on Charlie and Deborah to make sure he was going in the right direction with the beloved character. He reiterated that it’s great to be excited about being around the people you are working with.
- Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page and DeKnight claims they were only going to include the character if Woll was available to play her. She left True Blood at 4am and showed up on set the same day to shoot her first Daredevil scene. The actress believes that the most interesting characters are the flawed ones and that Karen doesn’t get into trouble, she is trouble. She’s determined and then there’s nothing that will stop her.
- Charlie Cox says playing Daredevil and Matt Murdock has been a real challenge. There are so many aspects to Matt, the blindness, physicality, and action sequences but what he loves the most about Murdock is that he believes in the law and justice - while taking the law into his own hands at night for himself. The time in between is spent battling with that concept. He asserts that they also deal a lot with Matt’s father and who he wanted Matt to be – and that plays on Matt’s mind a lot. Cox tries to do as much of the action as he can but complimented the "incredible" stunt team - and says that while it might look like CGI, they’re really doing it. He also maintains that even though it’s a character focused show, he believes the superhero element will satisfy fans.
- D'Onofrio claims that he did go back and look at the comics, especially Frank Miller, as an influence but the older stuff that he read as a kid didn’t influence him quite as much.
- Woll said she was sad about leaving True Blood but was welcomed generously into Daredevil and it helped her move on. She believes the two characters (Karen Page and Jessica Hamby) are very different.
- Cox commented on the benefits of airing the series on Netflix as opposed to a normal network model - stating that because there isn’t a week in between, they have to spend less time reminding audiences what happened in the last episode. It makes cliffhangers fruitless - which allows them to focus more on story. He promises it’s going to feel like a 13 hour movie.
- After a fan asked, Loeb reiterated that Daredevil and The Defenders all take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the same one as Agents of SHIELD and the films). He says it's all connected - though he didn't elaborate on whether or not we'd ever see the characters cross-over.
- Cox reported that a number of Daredevil stories informed his take on the character but Miller’s "The Man Without Fear" was a major influence – and there are references to the comic that appear in the show. The Bendis and Alex Maleev books suit their show tonally very well. As a character, Daredevil suits a slightly older audience - without alienating anyone. The actor believes that comic fans will find a lot of what they love so much about the character in the show. Cox mentions a specific scene from the books (Murdock defending the White Tiger) and that he was thrilled by the courtroom scene - hinting that there are some story beats in the show that are closely related.
Before describing the footage in detail, it's clear that Netflix and Marvel are going with a very dark and grounded approach to both the characters and physical combat. The fight sequence that was shown was pretty brutal - though much of the violence was implied (hidden by rain and the darkness of night). Still, for viewers who were disappointed by the cartoonish approach of the Daredevil film, it's clear that the showrunners are aiming for something much dirtier and grittier. That said, the fight sequence, which occurs early in the series, didn't feature as much emphasis on Murdock's "superpowers" - so those that were hoping for stylized visual spectacle might be underwhelmed by what was, instead, a well-choreographed martial arts fight.
The rest of the footage description will contain mild spoilers for the first episode of Marvel's Daredevil - so if you want to go in fresh, stop reading now!
In the first clip, Karen Page (Woll) returns to her apartment to retrieve a USB key when an attacker shows up unexpectedly and knocks her out. Daredevil (Cox) turns up, dressed with a black mask over the top half of his face (think "The Man Without Fear" suit). The two fight in hand-to-hand combat - trading blows until Daredevil grabs the thug and fall out the window.
The second piece of footage (which was actually the fifth clip they showed) is actually a continuation of the first fight, after falling out the window, Daredevil is knocked unconscious and has a memory of his father encouraging him (back when he was a kid) to study and make a better life than he did. His father says “Get to work Matt” and Daredevil awakens, fighting in a brutal beatdown - until he hears the clanking of a nearby chain - using it to choke out his assailant and removing the stolen USB key. Karen reappears and tries stops him - telling Daredevil that he can’t trust anyone.
The third clip features an exchange between Claire (Rosario Dawson) and Matt (still in Daredevil attire but without his mask). She rescues him from after the previous fight (he must have collapsed from his injuries) and brings him back to her apartment – where he awakens and the two meet. As a nurse, she tends to his wounds and when he refuses to give her his name, she calls him Mike - because he reminds her of an ex-boyfriend that kept secrets.
In the fourth clip, we see the first meeting between Vanessa (Zurer) and William Fisk (D'Onofrio). She’s an art dealer and they bond over a completely white painting. He's enamored with it and she says it's not about what's on the painting, it’s about how it makes you feel. He says it makes him feel alone.
The last piece of footage shows Karen thanking Matt Murdock and Foggy (Henson) for getting her out of jail (presumably a result of her possession of the USB key) - with a homemade dinner. Foggy alludes to the fact that Daredevil also saved her (the fight we saw earlier). Karen says she owes them for believing she was innocent - and offers to work for the guys for free with help around the office.
Daredevil premieres on Netflix in May 2015.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Daredevil, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.