Earlier this year, Netflix invited a group of journalists to the Brooklyn set of Marvel’s Daredevil. The streaming network was deep into production on season 3, so we got a great sense of a story that seems to be a return to basics of sorts for the superhero series after the mystical, Hand-based madness of season 2 and The Defenders. In addition to getting a glimpse of Matt Murdock’s new church basement hideout and Wilson Fisk’s fresh-out-of-jail penthouse apartment, we got a chance to talk to stars Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, and Joanne Whalley—who plays a new character, Sister Maggie—who all seemed genuinely jazzed about the grittier street-level direction new showrunner Erik Oleson is taking the series.
Below, Whalley discusses joing the series in season 3 as Sister Maggie Grace, her character’s relationship and dynamic with Matt Murdock, her first experience with a showrunner, a massive scene she shot with nuns and cops, and more.
Question: What can you tell us about your character?
WHALLEY: I play Sister Maggie Grace. I can’t tell you too much without spoiling it for you. She’s a really interesting character. She’s got a lot of strings to her bow. A few unexpected dark corners that we get to shine a light in. Her relationship with Matt is…eventful.
We hear her name called out at the end of Defenders, I assume they’re calling for her help to caretake for him. Is that what she’s been doing?
WHALLEY: She is a nun, and the place that he is taken to when he needs help is the old orphanage. That’s what she does. She takes care of people and children, and they take him in.
Is there anything about the character that was not in the script that was your suggestion or that you brought to the role?
WHALLEY: That’s a tough question because really, as an actor, your job is to fulfill the script that you’re given. Then why they choose one person over another, I never understand that because we could all play the same roles but we would all bring something different that you’re not always aware of. So I’m sure there are things that I maybe brought unknowingly just because it’s me playing it. The scripts, one thing that struck me is, I haven’t really done this genre before. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve really enjoyed working on this because the scripts are so good. There’s a lot of action and all of that and those extra elements but it’s so character-driven. Everyone has stuff and baggage. Everyone has all of these things they’re wrestling with. Everyone has demons. That’s what drives all of the episodes. There’s a lot to play with in all the characters, not just mine. Everyone has these multifaceted storylines.
[Showrunner Erik Oleson] told us everyone is driven by their fears this season. Is that true for you as well?
WHALLEY: Yeah, it probably is. People generally are, just in life. It’s our fears, the unknown, the things we regret. Fear of failure.
Given her role in the church, how does Sister Maggie feel about tending to a vigilante? Or does she even know about that side of his life?
WHALLEY: She learns more about him as we progress.
Erik mentioned that Maggie helped raise Matt in the orphanage and now she’s doing so again. Does Maggie know this is the same boy she raised, and how different is their relationship?
WHALLEY: In the very first instance, no. In fact, she’s really annoyed that Father Lantom has brought this mess into her finely tuned and finely running establishment. It’s the wrong place. There’s hospitals and there’s police forces, we’re not that kind of service. But then she finds out who it is and it’s a different story.
Who is Sister Maggie for you personally? How do you conceptualize her as a person?
WHALLEY: For me, everything is the script. What’s great about working on this is the quality of the writing. The writing is everything. That’s all you have at the end of the day. That’s all you can play with. It doesn’t matter how good an actor you are or how bad an actor, if you’ve got good writing that’s everything. So she is a creation by these amazing writers and my job is to fill it out.
But personality-wise, what’s she like?
WHALLEY: She’s had a life. She’s wise. She’s tough. She’s seen a few things. She’s not afraid. She has the strength of her faith. She runs an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen so she ain’t no sissy. But she’s hugely compassionate. She’s brave. She is decent, which is a funny, old-fashioned word. But she strives to do the best and the right thing, and the main pillar of that is her faith. So she’s a fighter but she’s also vulnerable. She’s human, too.
Sounds like she’s a lot like Matt Murdock. Are they going to juxtapose?
WHALLEY: Yes, but we all question…we all have doubts and fears.
Can you tell us who you interact with the most other than Matt Murdock?
WHALLEY: There’s Father Lantom, of course, As we progress through the episodes I have a little more to do in Matt’s world, so beyond my own immediate concerns.
Do you have any action scenes?
WHALLEY: I actually have special powers! No, I don’t. Give me some action scenes, I want to fight the Kingpin. But no, I don’t get to fight the Kingpin.
Religion rarely plays a role in superhero stories and Matt Murdock is specifically coded as Catholic. How deeply did you dig into spirituality or faith for Sister Maggie?
WHALLEY: Well as it happens, I went to a convent school. So I’m no stranger to nuns. I’m quite comfortable around nuns. I went to a convent school from the age of about twelve to 18. Our headmistress was a nun—not the entire staff, but most of them were—and the school itself was in the old convent building. It was lovely. They were great. They were fantastic. I see them now that I’m older and obviously you always think back about your school with such different eyes. Sister Mary Francis, she terrified us all. She kept us all completely in line. And she was probably my height, which is 5’2”, which is not very tall, and she never said anything or did anything. I don’t remember her being any particular way. But she just had that authority that kept us all under the thumb. So I knew about that, but I actually wasn’t born a Catholic. I ended up at that school for school reasons. I think the Catholicism and religion aspect is highlighted in this, but in a broader sense, it’s any kind of faith. It’s the essence of something bigger than us.