On the Netflix series Marvel’s Iron Fist, billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones) has returned to New York City after having been missing for years, and his desire to reconnect with his past and his family legacy puts everything his father’s former business partner, Harold Meachum (David Wenham), has built at Rand Enterprises at risk. Now that Meachum’s children, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup), are in charge of the company, Danny must find common ground with them, while also using the kung fu skills he learned while he was gone to fight against the criminal element that’s corrupting the city.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Tom Pelphrey talked about why he was excited about joining Iron Fist, the draw in being a part of the Netflix/Marvel partnership, how he views Ward Meachum, what Ward fears most, what he enjoys about the father-son dynamic, and the challenge of being involved with a project that’s so secretive. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: First off, I have to say that I was a huge fan of Banshee and thought you were so terrific on that show! It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, and Job will go down as one of the best characters invented for television, but Bunker was another character that was right up there because he was so compelling and interesting to watch.
TOM PELPHREY: Thanks so much! We had a blast on Banshee. I love that show! It was a great format to do those kinds of characters. Banshee was almost like a graphic novel world, where you could create these larger than life characters. It’s so funny that you said that about Job because I was just talking to Hoon Lee this morning.
Coming off of Banshee and playing such a memorable character as Bunker, did you want to jump right back into another TV show, or would you have preferred to have taken some time off, if this hadn’t come along?
PELPHREY: I was really excited to jump into Iron Fist. Playing Ward is so different from playing Bunker, even physically. I started working out completely different. My body changed, and he dresses different. It’s a whole different character, and that, to me, is exciting. I felt like there was a lot of explore with Ward, in terms of interesting dynamics and being a character that’s pulled in a lot of different directions that, on a deeper level, aren’t dissimilar from the dynamics that were going on with Bunker.
Was it weird to get used to seeing yourself with all of the tattoos that Bunker had, and then get used to seeing yourself without all of the tattoos again?
PELPHREY: Yeah. I’ve gotta tell you, seeing yourself covered in tattoos, especially the tattoos that I had in Banshee because there were swastikas and a tattoos of Hitler, you don’t really ever get used to that. It’s actually pretty jarring sometimes, when you look at yourself in the mirror and remember. At one point, we were filming in North Carolina and there was an ice cream store, down at the corner. I walked down there to get an ice cream, not even thinking. I was standing there, in my cop uniform, and I started getting looks from people, but I didn’t understand what was going on. But then, in about 30 seconds, it dawned on me that I had the tattoos on. It’s pretty awful, actually, having to see people take in tattoos like that because they’re disgusting. It was a bad mistake, on my part, and I never made that one again.
That must have given you a new appreciation for the character!
PELPHREY: It really did! You know it’s just make-up, so that’s that. But for somebody who doesn’t know, you understand how much power symbols can have, in terms of making people feel afraid. There’s so much hatred behind some of that imagery. It’s just so ugly, and you can see the reaction. It does give you a deeper appreciation for the kind of human being that would put that stuff on their skin, permanently.
What was the appeal of Iron Fist for you? Did you have a secret desire to be a part of the Marvel universe, was it specifically this script and character, or was it something else entirely?
PELPHREY: There were a few draws. Obviously, in the last few years, Netflix is doing amazing show after amazing show. Of course, they’ve got a great partnership with Marvel, which is something I wasn’t as fully aware of, before I took the job, as I was, after the fact. Two great companies like that, anybody would be happy to work for, but the main thing that excited me was getting to read the first two scripts, before I fully auditioned. I got to read what Scott Buck was doing, and I got to have a little talk with Jeph Loeb, who explained the idea of the world to me and told me about some of the things they were looking to explore. Without getting into too much detail, he helped me understand where my character might fit into that. It was really exciting! Jeph Loeb is a fantastic storyteller. Sit down with that guy and have him pitch you an idea, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s magical and wonderful, how much he loves what he does, and how good he is at communicating it. It’s a gift. When you have a boss like that, who’s running the ship, you’re in really good hands. Clearly, he’s someone who loves what he does, and who’s very passionate about all of the characters and shows that he’s a producer of. Those are the kind of people you want to work with ‘cause so much of it is ultimately out of your control.
This is a very interesting character because he’s an antagonist to Danny Rand, but he’s not really an outright villain. He also isn’t in a position to be the hero of his own story because his father is making him do his bidding. How do you view Ward Meachum?