Anyone else still marveling (excuse the pun) over Daredevil Season 1?
The ambitious series, based on the comics of the same name, landed on Netflix earlier this month ... and immediately was lauded as one of the best Marvel shows to date, as it created a world that existed in the Marvel universe yet felt very, very different.
Daredevil was created by Drew Goddard (who had to leave the show due to another commitment), Steven S. DeKnight stepped in as showrunner for the first season, steering the ship for the first 13 episodes.
However, while Daredevil was renewed earlier this week for a second season, it was also announced the DeKnight will not return (Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez will be taking his place).
Timing was on my side, therefore, to talk to DeKnight about not only shaping the show but also how hard it will be for him to not be a part of the team for season 2. He also opened up about the perfect casting of Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio as villain Wilson Fisk...
TV Fanatic: One thing that surprised me when I started watching the show is the groundedness of it. Were you surprised that that was the take that Marvel wanted to go with or if it was what you wanted as well?
Steven DeKnight: I was surprised and delighted when I came in, took over for Drew Goddard. They sent me the first two scripts and I read them and loved the take that went in and heard the broad stroke pitch for the rest of the season and the thing they kept saying was gritty and grounded, which definitely spoke to what I love and what I love about the Daredevil comics specifically. The Frank Miller run and the Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev run, so I thought it was a fantastic take, a fantastic idea to set this apart from the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe.
TVF: Since I’m the kind of viewer that loves character, I loved all the rich back-story in the series but I’m wondering if there was ever concern that that might slow things down too much, as far as the action in the show?
SD: Thankfully, we always thought about The Wire as our gold standard, that it’s a crime drama first and the action comes second. We also always referenced the great New York movies of the 70s, The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, The Conversation…so that was the feel and the tone we were going for, and that naturally lent itself to not worry about the pace. that we could—this is obviously a lot slower than a normal television “superhero” show, and I did three years on Smallville, so I’m very much aware of a different pace, and I loved those shows, and I enjoy those shows and the pace of those shows. This was a different animal.
This was approaching it first and foremost as a crime drama, emphasis on the drama. Now if you gave it the latitude of we had spent an episode with Wilson Fisk on a date, we can spend an entire episode that really revolves around flashing back to what happened to Wilson Fisk as a child.
Never really felt the pressure that it has to go, go, go, go, go and just get to the next action scene, and a big difference between this and Spartacus [the Starz series that DeKnight created] besides, of course, the sex and the violence, the level of sex and violence on Spartacus was a slightly different animal, because after a lot of trial and error we decided that the perfect number of action scenes per episode were three. Three is the magic number.
With Daredevil we never really felt that. You can see in episodes like 108 Shadows in the Glass and episode 110 Nelson v. Murdoch that there’s almost no action and that was completely by design. We felt like in a show like this we could have episodes where there was almost no action, and just really concentrate on the drama, and it was completely liberating, and honestly a huge roll of the dice. I mean nobody really knew if the audience would just say, “The show is too boring, let’s turn it off.”
TVF: As far as villains go, across the board not just in the Marvel universe, I thought Fisk is going to stand out as one of the more memorable villains because he’s so human and there is no super power or anything.
SD: It was a great setup by, again, the amazing Drew Goddard, who I love and we go way back. We had written a script together on Angel, we’ve always been very much on the same wavelength. Originally in the first episode that Drew had written, that scene that’s now at the end of episode three where Fisk is looking at the painting, that was originally at the end of episode one, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the show.
I read that scene and I thought I get everything I need to know. I understand where we’re going with this guy, with Fisk, and one of the first things I suggested when I came on was listen, instead of having it at the end of episode one, let’s build up that there’s this guy out there, nobody wants to say his name. A cold-hearted assassin kills himself rather than go up against Fisk and then when we reveal Fisk, he’s a guy looking at a painting who’s obviously very troubled.
Then, Drew had planned some great stuff. It was really like my touchstone, like the concept that when we first really get to know Fisk, it’s not him planning some evil plot, it’s he goes on a date, and it’s the end of that date you get a glimpse of the guy that’s a little more villainous or at least emotional. The other thing that I really love is the idea that this wasn’t about the Kingpin…[Fisk] is not the character that you know as Kingpin yet. Same way as Matt Murdock isn’t Daredevil yet, through most of the season, and that actually led to some very interesting conversations, and some concerns on all sides about Fisk is making mistakes that the Kingpin wouldn’t make, and we all had to keep reminding ourselves he’s not the Kingpin.
And I can’t talk about Wilson Fisk, of course, without talking about the incredible Vincent D'Onofrio. So lucky to get him.
TVF: I agree. He was so good.
SD: I’ve always said there’s not another actor on the planet that could’ve played that role that would’ve been so perfect. Not only his physical appearance that really, really harkens especially to the Bendis/Maleev run in the comics but also just the amazing depth of his skill. So many people have tweeted me saying, “I know I’m supposed to hate Fisk, but I’m kind of feeling for him. I think I might be on his side.”
SD: Which is the greatest compliment you can get and I especially love the way that I could get to the point in the story where have the audience realize ‘oh, wait a minute, Matt and Fisk are trying to do exactly the same thing, they’re just going about it differently. They both want to save the city.’
TVF: Speaking of perfect actors for these roles, I didn’t know of Charlie Cox before the show but tell me what surprised you the most about him once you guys got him and started seeing what he could do with the range he has.
SD: Oh, what’s not surprised me about Charlie? He really, really wanted the role…he was fantastic, just mesmerizing, and the other important thing is when you're casting a lead you have to cast a leader, your number one on the call sheet just sets the tone for the entire production, and Charlie, besides all of his skill, all of his charm, all of his physicality, because he had to pack on like 15, 20 pounds of muscle very quickly, is just the nicest guy you will ever meet. Just wonderful to work with, and all those things combined just made him the perfect Matt Murdock. Not to mention the fact that he has such a natural charm that you really like him, and he was able to play the deeper pain and the anger, too, without losing that feeling that you’re on his side. It was really vital.
TVF: Because we know you’re not going to be in season two of Daredevil because of other commitments, is it hard for you to step away from it, just because you put so much of yourself into season one? How is it going to be to not be a part of season two?
SD: It’s very difficult, because I love the cast, I love the crew, I love the people that I work with and I’m so proud of the show and what we were able to accomplish, and I love the material. On the flip side, I went into this show with this commitment. I actually had to put my bigger commitment on the back burner to come in and do the show, so I put off a project that is very near and dear to my heart to come in and do this. On the flip side I’m thankful that that project still seems to be moving forward. It’s not green lit yet but my possible schedule wouldn’t allow me to do both.
Yeah, it’s very difficult. I love the show, but have the utmost faith that next seasons will be great. Will Goddard, in a recent panel we were on, talked about how, when people ask us are we taking this storyline from the comics, or that storyline from the comics, he had a great response that was, “No. You don’t want somebody to take just a run and redo it. “Like in the comics if Brian Michael Bendis had just taken Frank Miller’s stuff and redone it his way, it wouldn’t feel right, and it’s the same way with the show, and he said everybody should think about the show as this is our run. This is our run of issues in the comic, our take on the character.
So next season it will be Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez’s run on the character, which I find very exciting. To me, the most important thing is always it comes back to its veritable. It’s just like different interpretations in the comic and I’m sure it’ll have a lot of the same things, but it’ll have a lot of new things, which to me as a fan, is very exciting.
Daredevil Season 1 is available for streaming on Netflix.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.