As I said when I posted my interview with showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and Krysten Ritter the other day, if you were nervous Jessica Jones might be a watered down version of the character, or that Marvel and Netflix would shy away from the adult elements of the Alias comic by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos, you can relax. I’ve seen the first two episodes of the upcoming Netflix show and was extremely impressed by the adult themes the series was willing to deal with and show in the Marvel universe.
Since many of you might not have read the comics, or don’t know much about the character, here’s a little bit of a primer: Jessica Jones is a former superhero that now works as a private investigator in New York City. She’s an alcoholic. She’s dealing with PTSD. And the person that derailed her life (Zebediah Killgrave) and made her do things she couldn’t prevent might still be alive. And while this might sound like a total downer of a series, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) have managed to create a fantastic blend of seriousness with levity and character moments that sold me on Jessica and her universe. As the second episode ended, I immediately wanted to watch the third, which is a sign you’ve done your job.
With the series premiere date fast approaching (November 20th), I got to participate in a group interview with Carrie-Anne Moss (Jeryn Hogarth) and Mike Colter (Luke Cage) at New York Comic-Con this weekend. Since we were shown the first two episodes prior to the interview, we were actually able to discuss some specifics of the show like the adult themes, how much they used from the comics, memorable moments from filming, if Luke Cage will also be an adult series, how Colter might be playing Cage for a long stretch of time, and much more. Read what they had to say below.
Question: I’ll start by saying one the things I was really surprised by in the first two episodes is how dark it is, it’s a lot more adult than I expected.
MIKE COLTER: Even more than Daredevil?
MIKE COLTER: Ok.
Talk a little bit about how the show is. It’s pretty dark, it’s pretty adult. Was that one of the things that drew you to the project?
COLTER: Yeah, yeah. I’d say so, for sure. I’m not saying I wasn’t a Marvel fan but I didn’t watch the movies because the movies seemed like a big hodgepodge of a lot of characters that I couldn’t get to know really. And I know like Captain America and Iron Man and I’ve seen some of those films and they’re good for the purpose they’re serving but I’m always like, “What’s the character exploration? How do we get to know Captain America in a two and a half hour span when he’s got to share the screen with like ten other characters and fight an ultimate supervillain and get it all wrapped up, sweetened, packaged by two and a half hours?” What we can do in this series is really just have a slow burn and really just explore the characters and pick apart pieces and characters. That was really appealing to me, that was like, “Ok, this is grounded, this is great, this is different. I’m not wearing a costume” God, that was like the best thing!
CARRIE-ANNE MOSS: Did you think you might be?
COLTER: You know, when you saw the comic book you saw this thing with the gold and I was like, “Is that his outfit?” I was like, “Oh my God! No, no, no” So yeah that’s what drew me, grounded, gritty. Because I’ve seen a lot of stuff on Netflix and I was really happy to be a part of what they were doing, because I liked a lot of the stuff. I wasn’t even thinking about actors you’re gonna work with, you take the job that’s in front of you, what’s written, and it’s worked out perfectly.
Did both of you pick up the comic books and read it or did they give them to you?
MOSS: They gave us the whole thing, yeah. I did, I looked through it. I didn’t go deep in it, I looked through it. Because I kind of looked at it more like what we were being given, the scripts we were being given, digging into that instead.
Because I know they said they took like certain scenes.
COLTER: Yeah really wrapping the pages really. Even shots, visual shots, were like right from the comics.
You obviously have experience with geek expectations, certainly form the Matrix series. You’re inheriting a character that is really beloved, who I grew up reading. Do you feel the weight of that, is it hard to navigate?
MOSS: How exciting! Because I didn’t read it.
COLTER: Not really, I mean, I didn’t read it either and I’m always awed by the people that did read it. The guy who was driving me the other day –Because we’re on location right now, we have a lot of people, so we needed extra drivers and one of the drivers that picked me up the other day, I’d never met him before, and literally as I got in the car he was like, “Man, I’m glad they chose you” and I was like, “Ok” and he started talking to me about that he has the first comics that he read until the last edition, he’s a big fan of Luke Cage. So it’s just interesting, and it’s warming, it’s a warming feeling to feel that kind of like, “We’ve been waiting a long time for this and didn’t know it was gonna happen, and now it’s gonna happen and we’re just so happy it’s happening.” And it’s nice to be a part of that. But the weight of it I don’t feel because, like Carrie-Anne said, I live in a bubble, but not a bubble like I don’t see anything, but what I mean is I don’t do social media, so I don’t interact with people outside of people I see every day. So the stuff that people say, the expectation, it doesn’t really get to me because I’m not really into that. I go to work and I do the stuff and that’s it, and that’s the way I like to keep it because, for me, I got so much stuff that I’m missing out on in my life, I don’t have time to really try to be all things to all people. I really love the character and I’ll do the best that I can with it but I don’t feel the weight of it because ultimately, let’s be honest, the character will live past me. It’s before me, it’ll be after me and I’m happy I have this thing where I get to create and be the original person. But it’s like a lot of things, I don’t know that I’ll be the only Luke Cage, who knows? I’m just happy to be here now, I’m really excited about what I’m doing right now and I don’t take on the weight of the world of like, “I must create Luke Cage and it must be…” you know, that’s not what I feel, I feel a real excitement and joy for the opportunity.
I definitely have to ask while you’re here because you are filming Luke Cage, is it gonna be as adult as Jessica Jones or is it a different kind of feel?
COLTER: No, it’s definitely gonna be adult, it’s definitely gonna be adult. I’m not gonna say how many episodes we’ve filmed so far, but if you think Jessica is adult then we’re still keeping up with that pace. It’s adult and we’ll continue along those lines of PG-16+ that kind of stuff. That’s what they call it, PG-16?
I’m definitely also curious for both of you in terms of the way you were presented the story, how it changed possibly along the way. Is it one of those shows that has a lot of green pages, pink pages, purple pages, was it constantly being tweaked?
COLTER: Oh yeah.
MOSS: I mean, all TV is like that pretty much.
COLTER: I got lucky, I think my pages stayed the same. For the Jessica I think my pages stayed the same…
MOSS: The pages change even if the dialogue –I don’t know if my dialogue changed. Well, my scenes would change but they just change because all the location they got they can’t use. So now they’re changing the location, they have to change all of the pages because you have to walk in the back door not the front door, you know what I mean? I mean it’s like, save a tree for God’s sake, save a tree [Laughs].
COLTER: I don’t read all the pages. I read the script once, the first drafts and then I leave it alone until we’re closer to shooting because I know there’ll be a pink, a green, a yellow. I read it, but if you start looking at a line trying to figure out how the scene is gonna play you start locking stuff in and then they change it.
MOSS: That’s how it is for me anyway because I memorize it too much and then they change it.
COLTER: You’re muscle memory, and then you can’t get that thing out of your head.
One of the things I loved is Jessica’s relationships specifically with every character. You’re kind of more of a mother to her, in some ways I feel you’re looking out for her even though sometimes she’s trying to hold her back and she really feels like she connects. Was it fun to really nurture those relationships as an actor but also as a character throughout those scenes?
MOSS: Yeah. I mean, I think I love that too about the show. There’s so many relationships she has with different people and she’s so good. I don’t know, I just am a huge fan of hers. I think she’s incredible, what she’s doing with this is –That’s not easy, to do that that great. I’m blown away by her in the show, but then as a person she’s amazing. So yeah every moment of working with her is just a pleasure, she’s so fun, she’s professional, she has a very strong point of view, she could direct this show in a minute. I mean, I hope to see her direct if the show continues, she’s that smart and that clear and has an understanding for –I don’t have that. I could write something but I couldn’t tell you like shooting. They used to tell me whatever, “Camera left” and I’m like, “What did you say?” I’ve only been doing this 24 years but I’m like, “Uhm, left…” I’m not that person. But yeah I love that too, I love the relationships and there’s more to come, there’s more characters that she has relationships with.
Also one of the things I loved about the show is that not only is it dark, it’s very diverse in a lot of ways. You have cast diversity, relationships, you have a character dealing with PTSD. I mean it’s so deep and so much more diverse than I feel like a lot of network TV shows.
MOSS: And modern, and real. When they pitched it to me it was like, “We’re gonna make a really raw and real show” and I like things that feel really raw, you know what I mean? Like I loved doing The Matrix and it was a highlight but as an actress that was hard for me, it’s hard for me to be so still all the time, I wanna go like, “But uhm…ok” I couldn’t do anything, it was so hard to be still and just be. So I like that this show has this gritty edge, real people characters in it.
I wanna ask because you’ve had a breath of career that you’ve been able to do those genres. You come to an event like this where there’s literally about a hundred and fifty thousand fans coming over the four days. There aren’t so many Chocolat conventions conventions probably…
MOSS: There should!
COLTER: One of my favorite films by the way, I love Chocolat.
What about this type genre with The Matrix and sci-fi, that as an actress gives you freedom that you don’t necessarily have in any other? Because there used to be a day that it was considered B matter…
MOSS: To be what, what was considered B matter?
Comics and sci-fi things like that. Genre pictures.
COLTER: I think they were doing B level though, that’s what I think was the problem. I think they weren’t doing it justice, I think that’s what happened. I’m not gonna kick things that were not, you know… There were things that were released that just weren’t up to par for the fans, that’s all.
MOSS: I don’t really think like that so I don’t know. I mean, there was a day when doing TV was like oh my God, the end of your career. Now it’s just like, we all want to do TV, we all want to do great TV. So I think you have to continually be open-minded, let go of your ego, and just go for the great parts and just go for the great parts and go for work that really interests you and no matter what happens you’re gonna love your life or not, depending on whether or not you love your life anyway, and you’re gonna have an experience and either people will like it or they won’t but the experience that I have is mine. And I’ve always felt like that and I try not to do anything from the perspective of like, “Oh, it’s gonna be huge” I don’t –Matrix, every day I just couldn’t believe I was in it, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that good or that big or that amazing, you know what I mean? I didn’t know. Just like Jessica Jones, I didn’t know it was gonna look like that and it’s a similar kind of feeling actually, where I was like, “Oh my God, this is so amazing to watch visually.
For each of you, this is a memorable moment question, is there like a day or two that you’ll always remember about filming Jessica Jones, something that really stands out?
COLTER: Yeah for sure. I mean, and you guys have seen the first two [episodes]. I think there are more than one moment for me, but since you’ve seen the first two, I think for me it’s like, we talk about realism and what we can do and less is more and stuff like that and being grounded. For me it was the table saw moment for Cage at the end of [episode] two, this moment where you’re like, you show your power but in a subtle way in a sense but it’s so effective and then it’s just a moment, it’s like this thing where you’re like –Because what’s great about what they’re doing is like we’re discovering, especially for Cage, he’s discovering this power as you see him, he doesn’t know what he can do. And so he has the power, he doesn’t know what he can do, so he knows some things, he doesn’t know everything. So you’ll find that out as it goes, that’s what’s cool, that moment of like, “I know I can do this and this is what I’m gonna show you right now that’ll let you know…” you know. But it’s a movie moment, it’s one of those things where you’re like, “I’m unbreakable.” This is that moment and then what does that mean? All that stuff. So that was that moment where we shot that, I remember we were rushing to get it shot but it turned out a cool moment.
MOSS: Yeah. I mean, I’m not real good at this game, this idea. But the thing that comes to mind is a moment I had with David Tennant. I watched David Tennant do a scene, it’s farther down, where I was just blown away by him as an actor. And I very rarely in the middle of it felt a shift in my character where I went like, “There she is.” Because it takes time, you do it, you get dressed up, you do the part, you’re doing it and it works and everything like that but it’s like all of a sudden I just went like, “Ahh! There she is!” and it was almost like a reflection in him, in the moment, where I was just like, “Oh yeah.” So that was kind of exciting because I always say as an actor it’s like feeling amazing, it doesn’t really happen much, it happens in acting class. And often when it feels amazing, it’s like your worst work, it’s like the worst acting you could ever do, you feel all this emotion and you see, “Oh my God, that was terrible!”
COLTER: It’s like that was great, but…
MOSS: Yeah. It’s like this is not just about you acting, there’s so many things, but that was a moment where I felt like I forgot I was acting, I like that.
The thing that’s interesting is that Daredevil came out with season 1, they weren’t sure they were gonna do a second season before Defenders, they announced Jessica Jones, you’re filming Luke Cage, there’s a possibility of a Jessica Jones season 2 before Defenders. I’m not sure if you’re gonna be on Jessica Jones season 2 but it’s possible you can be playing the character a lot…
Over the next year or two.
COLTER: It’s a legit possibility, concern, opportunity. Look I signed on the contract stuff, but I remember being in testing, I remember my lawyers on the phone. We were like two hours into testing and I hadn’t gotten in the room yet because they were talking about…
MOSS: Yeah that’s unusual. Because I don’t think they really know, who knows?
COLTER: Option, it’s options.
The other thing that they’re talking about is, and Feige has said, that eventually TV characters are gonna be…
COLTER: Into the world.
In movies, and movie characters are gonna be on TV. There’s always these possibilities. So for you this could be a game changer.
COLTER: Yeah. I didn’t wanna look past this, because I know people talk about, “Oh, you’re gonna be in the movies.” For me, this is a good as it gets. I mean, I’m not saying it couldn’t be better, because the movie thing is great, but like I said, in the movies you don’t get a chance to explore the character as much. I mean, sure, if Luke Cage has his own movie, phenomenal, but if he’s just popping in it’s not gonna be as detailed of a character study as you’re doing in this platform. So I’d be all too happy to do it but I’m not think about that because right now there’s only so much time in the day and they’re like back to back, Marvel’s doing two things at a time. They got two shows going at a time, they got another show out, there’s so much going on and I know there’s more to come.
MOSS: Aren’t they doing Daredevil too?
COLTER: Yeah. Daredevil’s already in…
MOSS: On my last day of work they had like craft service. Our lunch on the last day which was an amazing lunch and then and amazing spread on the other side and I was like, “Oh Daredevil” and I was like, “Can’t we all eat together? That’d be fun.”
But I also think that you have the benefit of being able to explore the character study through Netflix and through your show and Jessica Jones, and if you’re allowed to go in the movie and be in the movie you get to do probably an amazing action sequence and really be like, “This is fucking…”
COLTER: There were ideas that we were exploring but obviously for budgetary concerns, time concerns, it was like a movie sequence…
MOSS: Let’s hold on to that you being in a big movie, that’d be good.
COLTER: Yeah. Let’s pull on that. I’m happy to do what we’re doing, I really am, and I’m not concerned about the rest. You said it right, there’s things like ne after the other. It’s nice but let’s have a little time off you know.
I wanna quickly ask, that sex scene must have been incredibly awkward to shoot, I’m guessing.
COLTER: You know, yeah, I talked to Krys [Krysten Ritter] about it. Krys is much more squeamish than I am, I was just like, “Alright, let’s just do this and get it over with” Because I’m like I go in, I know what this is. They vary, every person you’re with in a sex scene it varies, the chemistry and what goes on, and the day when you shoot it did you know that person Have you shot anything prior to that? And I think up to that point it was still early on, I had met Krys and stuff, but it was still early on, and ultimately it was great because, S.J. [Clarkson] who directed those two episodes, has a really good understanding of sex scenes so she has a really good way of approaching that.
MOSS: She does, she’s like, “Ok, this is exactly what’s gonna happen.”
COLTER: Exactly. And it’s really about angles and what you’re doing and do this, do that. She would talk halfway through it, I’m like, “Just tell me what you want, direct me. Where do you want my hand, what do you want me to do, how fast how slow? How everything, just tell me.” Because we get it over with that way and it’s just less uncomfortable for everybody else because, you know. It is what it is.
You guys are gonna have to get going, but did you borrow anything from set, hypothetically, did you take anything home?
COLTER: Yeah! Are you kidding me?
MOSS: Like what?
COLTER: I can’t tell you now.
There’s no recorders going.
MOSS: See I’m not a thief. He is.
COLTER: No, I had things fall of the costume truck. Things fall off the truck, all the time. We have doubles.
MOSS: I’m too Canadian.