NYCC: Marvel Television and Netflix’s Daredevil Panel

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Day 3 of New York Comic Con 2014 culminated with the second panel for Marvel Television, the Netflix exclusive series “Daredevil,” which is currently shooting in and around New York City. As you probably know, it’s the first of four planned series for Netflix leading up to a fifth “Defenders” show.

Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb once again reiterated that New York is considered Marvel’s home and that New York was the only place they could make the show. Everyone at Marvel was excited to bring the cast and show the first footage from the Netflix show at New York Comic Con. This time Loeb was wearing a cool Daredevil T-shirt under his outer shirt and after giving thanks to some of the Marvel creators, he gave a shout-out to the show’s producers and Marvel Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada.

Loeb went right into showing the very first clip from the show, setting it up by saying that it takes place in Karen Page’s apartment when an unexpected visitor stops by. He said that it took more than a little inspiration from Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear,” the first mention of the influence of that mini-series.

After the Netflix and Marvel logos, we see Karen Page (as played by Deborah Ann Woll from “True Blood”) enter her apartment, which is pitch black. It’s storming rain outside and she’s wet but she walks through the darkened apartment and climbs on a stool to get an item out of a vent – we don’t really see clearly what it is, but it’s obviously something important. She gets down and walks away but there’s someone behind her who hits her a few times against the wall sending her to the floor. As she lays slumped there, the man picks up the unknown item she dropped and puts it in his pocket, then he pulls out a switchblade and approaches her. From behind him, we can see a shadowy figure in the doorway, clearly Matt Murdock in the very early stages of his vigilante crimefighting career, using a bandana to cover the top portion of his face and dressed all in black like a ninja. The two of them start fighting as Karen cowers in the corner, both of them using martial arts but a little grittier and street-level, more violent, rather than the type of beauty that we sometimes see in martial arts movies. After they tussle for a bit, one of them ends up throwing the other through a window and they both fall to the ground below as the scene ends with a close-up of Matt lying in the rain. The scene was naturally fairly dark and shadowy but seemed well-executed in terms of our first look at Daredevil in action.

Loeb then brought out the cast from Daredevil including a few new names that hadn’t been previously announced. Toby Leonard Moore will play Wesley, Wilson Fisk’s right hand man, while Ayelet Zurer is Wilson Fisk’s love Vanessa. Bob Gunton plays Leland Owlsley aka The Owl, up there with the Kingpin as one of Daredevil’s greatest villains, while they went in a different direction by casting veteran Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich, the Daily Bugle reporter who discovers Daredevil’s identity and becomes his confidante. They all came out as introduced, as did Elden Henson, who plays Matt Murdock’s best friend and law partner Foggy Nelson. They were joined by Woll, Vincent D’Onofrio who was already announced to play The Kingpin, Charlie Cox who plays Matt Murdock and Daredevil and the showrunner Stephen S. DeKnight.

Rosario Dawson wasn’t able to make the panel, because she was working in Los Angeles, but Charlie Cox called her the “heartbeat of the show” and Loeb announced she would be playing Claire Temple, best known in the comics as Night Nurse, who has played a big role in many Daredevil story arcs.

That seemed like a good lead-in for the second clip shown, one between Cox and Dawson that probably takes place soon after the clip we saw earlier. Matt’s lying on a couch, obviously the worse for wear and Dawson’s Night Nurse appears by his side saying, “You’re going to listen me to this time?” When he asks where he is, she tells him he’s in her apartment and that she’s the lucky girl who pulled him out of the garbage. He asks if she’d seen his face, she says she has and that his outfit kind of sucks. “It’s a work in progress,” he responds. She proceeds to tell him the injuries he’s suffering from after the fight include a knife wound, a concussion and three broken ribs. She notes that his eyes aren’t reacting to light which means he’s either blind or in worse shape than she thought. She wants to know how “a blind man in a mask” ends up beaten up in a dumpster. “The less you know about me the better,” he tells her, but he doesn’t want to be taken to a hospital. She says its her night off and doesn’t want some guy to die in her house. He notes that most people who find a bleeding masked man in the garbage would call the police. “The less you know about me the better,” she says when he keeps pushing for her info, but she tells him her name is “Claire” and she decides to call him Mike after a guy she used to date who was “very good at keeping secrets.” He thanks her and the scene ends.

Back to the panel, Loeb and DeKnight gave a shout-out to their crew, some of who were in the audience, before Loeb went to the cast to talk about their characters, starting with the Australian Toby Moore, who described the work in that everyday he “gets to play dress-up and make-believe with Vincent D’Onofrio, which is not a bad gig. Some of the stuff he’s been doing has been insane.” According to DeKnight, Toby was hired “five minutes before shooting” since they had trouble filling that role.

Loeb mentioned that actor Bob Gunton, a character actor who has been in so many great movies, also gets to work with Mr. Fisk as Leland Owlsley, and he was asked about his own experiences. “I definitely jumped into the party five minutes after it had begun, but this is like jumping back into my fevered teenage dreams where light and dark and secrets and broken people try to find their way through life. As a teenager I felt like there was something was broken in me and for all these people, it’s not the external things they’re fighting as much as what’s inside them. My character, one of his armaments is a sardonic wit, which I really responded to when they sent me the script. The writing is so snappy and tight and in the case of Leland, very amusing. I hope to be able to put a little more spin on that ball.”

DeKnight said how he and Jeph had loved Daredevil for years and years, and when they were on “Buffy” together, he had a wall full of Marvel action figures including Daredevil, and they said that one day they would do that show. “And I laughed at him,” Loeb joked. “And we’re going to try to do it right,” DeKnight added. His main influences (as ended up being the case of most of the panel) was Frank Miller’s run and then later on, the Bendis run, both which will be reflected in the show.

Loeb asked Vondie Curtis-Hall how much fun he’s having as Ben Urich, a character who is well-known to Daredevil fans, and the actor said that when he looked at the comics he asked himself, “How am I going to play this guy? I don’t wear glasses.” That was an “inside joke” since in the comics Urich is a nerdy white guy, while Curtis-Hall is neither. “It was Ben’s drive that really drew me to this character. His obsession for the truth and his passion for the city and Hell’s Kitchen and uncovering. He has the same passion Daredevil has of really wanting a better New York and a better Hell’s Kitchen. His passion is trying to find the story and uncovering the truth and the grit.

When Ayelet was asked about about working with Vincent D’Onofrio, she mentioned being told some story about painting which got her interested. “I think she’s a person that if there’s a locked door and somebody says ‘Don’t go in there,’ she would,” she said about Fisk’s great love Vanessa. “Working with Mr. D’Onofrio is fabulous, because he’s a phenomenal actor and he’s very honest in his performance, so it gets you into that place and becomes very realistic for me.”

Instead of explaining the painting she referred to, Loeb showed a third clip of Vanessa first meeting Wilson Fisk for the first time in an art gallery. As she walks in, D’Onofrio, dressed in that famous white suit, is standing with his back to her starting at what appears to be a blank canvas. She walks up to him and stands there studying the painting and then makes a joke about holding up a white piece of paper and asking what it is. “A rabbit in a snowstorm.” He’s not responding at all so she asks him if he’s interested or just looking. He replies with the word, “Interested.” One close-up shows that Fisk’s hand is kind of twitchy, and she keeps pressing him by saying, “All that matters is how it makes you feel,” to which Fisk replies (as the camera pans to show his face), “It makes me feel alone.”

D’Onofrio definitely seems to be playing a younger and leaner Wilson Fisk than what we’ve seen in the comics and the actor said a few things about the character. “He’s a child and he’s a monster,” he began. “Every move that he makes and everything that he does in our story comes from his foundation of morality inside himself,” adding that meeting Vanessa brings him out of the shadows.

“You have a feeling of the origin of Wilson and how he becomes this iconic character that everyone seems to dig,” he continued. “We’re playing it real, we’re playing it emotional and moment to moment and I’m digging it.”

Loeb said that while reading the script and watching the performances, sometimes he’ll be rooting for Matt and other times for Fisk. “I always approach it that there are no heroes or villains, it’s just people making different choices,” DeKnight explained. “What I love about this show is the moral grey area that’s inherent in Daredevil – he’s a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Those two things don’t mesh and it’s a constant struggle for Matt Murdock. Often times he crosses the line, and one of the things we ask in this show is, ‘How far will he go?’ He’s one bad day away from becoming Frank Castle.” (Referring to Marvel’s popular vigilante killer, The Punisher, which got a knowing laugh.) “With Wilson Fisk on the flip side, when you hear the explanation of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, I think you’re going to say, ‘You know what? That’s not a bad idea, that’s pretty good.’ So there will be times on the show where you won’t know who to root for, which is really what I loved about the Daredevil stories.” DeKnight added that he loved the morally ambiguous aspect of the comics as well and says they really explore it on the show.

Elden Henson who plays Pollux in the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay was in the middle of shooting that two-part movie when he found out they were looking for Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, so he shot his audition on his phone. They also came down to the wire in getting Woll from her last days of shooting “True Blood” to her first days of shooting “Daredevil.” The 29-year-old actress explained how she thought the most interesting characters are the ones who are flawed. When one of the producers said that Karen keeps getting into trouble, she responded, “No. Karen is trouble. She’s determined and when she decides she’s going to do something, there is nothing that will stop her.”

Loeb talked about the level of professionalism and charm and humor that Charlie Cox (previously on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”) brings to the show and the tone on set, while also saying that he was Joe Quesada’s dream casting for the role of Murdock and Daredevil. “It’s been a real challenge,” Cox said about taking on the role, “Because there are so many aspects to Matt and we’re making a show about inner emotion and turmoil. It’s grounded in reality but there’s a superhero element so I think you’ll be pleased with it.

Loeb then set-up the fourth clip, which showed the day-to-day at the offices of Nelson and Murdock’s law firm. Foggy and Matt are sitting at a card table in a fairly minimalist, practically empty office as Karen brings out some kind of casserole, a special thank-you dinner. Karen says that it isn’t much but her mother gave her the recipe but to only serve it to her future husband. Foggy says that she really should be thanking the “nut in the mask” that saved her. She wanted to thank them because if it wasn’t for them she’d still be in “that cell” – no, we’re not sure what she’s referring to but maybe it has something to do with that object she took out of the vent. “Job’s easy when your client’s innocent. All you did was tell the truth,” Matt says humbly and Foggy adds that they’re still going to bill her once they figure out how to generate bills. Karen notes that they could use some help around the office, because it needs to be cleaned. The blind Matt jokes, “Is this place messy?” While she might not have any prior experience, she offers to work for free, so they hire her.

It’s a short scene but one thing that’s obvious is that Cox works more as Matt Murdock when you see him as a civilian wearing the dark sunglasses of a blind man.

Unlike some of the other panels, they actually had time to go to questions from the audience, including the first one asking the cast which comics they went back to learn more about their characters.

D’Onofrio said that after reading the first script and having conversations about “our Daredevil,” he realized that the Daredevil comics he read as a kid didn’t relate to it as much, so he went down to Forbidden Planet to pick up a stack of comics and that the artwork influenced him a lot.

Debra Woll was asked about transitioning from “True Blood” to “Daredevil” and Cox was asked a similar question about going from HBO to Netflix. “This is such a different character, so I had to change gears very quickly. I was a little sad about leaving that other family and I think coming here and being welcomed so generously into this new family really helped me through missing that character and that show.”

Cox mentioned that one thing that was interesting to him while reading the scripts was that because there isn’t a week in between shows, you don’t have to spend a lot of time reminding audiences of what happened before. He also mentioned that it’s pointless to end an episode with a cliffhanger since people can just click ahead to the next episode. “Which is great, because it means we get to spend more time telling the real story. I think more than anything else, it’s going to feel like a 13-hour movie,” he said, which the audience applauded. While Miller’s “Man Without Fear” had already been mentioned as a big influence on the show, Cox also liked the Bendis/Maleev series of comics, and on Netflix, they can make it a little darker to appease the slightly older fans of that run. He mentioned that he enjoyed some of the courtroom scenes in their books, and said we’ll see similar courtroom scenes done on the show.

Earlier in the panel, Loeb debunked the rumors that anyone has been cast for the roles of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, in case you’ve heard some names floating out there in the internet ether. When Loeb was asked whether ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” would have any continuity with the Netflix shows, he responded, “That’s a Level 7 question. I think you know it’s all connected.”

Before ending the panel, Loeb mentioned that the first clip he showed was not the full sequence so he decided to show it again extending it a few minutes after what we saw to show what an epic fight Matt gets into in order to save Karen. So they showed the first clip once again, but this time, after Murdock and Karen’s attacker end up outside in the rain, it flashes back to Matt as a child when his father comes home and he’s reading a book (In braille–he’s already blind at that point). Matt says he’s tired but his father says he doesn’t want to mess up like his old man. “I never studied. Look what it got me.” He’s clearly pretty battered and bruised with blood dripping from his face. He takes Matt’s hand and puts it against his face for him to feel. Remembering this moment pushes Matt to get up, but the creep with the knife has also gotten his second wind and the fight resumes outside in the rain with a little slow motion thrown in for good measure. Matt is eventually on the ground with the other guy on top of him, choking him but he knocks him back with what may have been his billy club (but it was hard to tell in the rain). The guy picks up his knife and starts lunging at Matt, switching hands and plunging the knife into Matt, who hears a chain clanking against a fence, so he pushes his adversary up against the fence, wraps him in the chains and starts punching into unconsciousness.

We then see that Karen has come outside in the rain to watch the fight and after the assailant is finally down, Matt takes the mysterious object out of his pocket and tells her “I’ll get this into the right hands,” to which she responds, “You can’t take it to the police. You can’t trust anyone.”

Unfortunately we didn’t see any scenes of Owlsley and only the one scene of Kingpin with nothing between D’Onofrio and Cox, but that mysterious object obviously plays a big part in the story.

It was a fairly rich, hour-long panel giving those in attendance a lot of information about the show and it’s tone. The show doesn’t look like it will be anything even remotely comparable to the pretty awful 2003 movie where it will be a lot more grounded and less dependent on wirework and CG FX to tell the story, and the action will probably be more practical with martial arts and physical stunts. It seems very dark and gritty, again inspired very much by the art from the comic books

“Daredevil” will be released exclusively on Netflix in 2015.