Executive produced by showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and Marvel’s Head of Television Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s Jessica Jones (available to stream at Netflix) is back for a third season, as Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) crosses paths with a highly intelligent and very deadly killer. At the same time, Jessica has cut the newly powered Trish (Rachael Taylor) out of her life, as she struggles to live up to her mother’s expectations for being a hero, but in order to survive the madman who wants to put an end to the superpowered, the two must find a way to repair their fractured friendship and work together.
At the Los Angeles press day for the show’s final season, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with Krysten Ritter about when they learned this would be the show’s last season, whether this feels like a satisfying conclusion, having Jessica Jones look toward her future, dealing with a human villain, what she learned from her experience of getting to direct an episode this season, exploring the character dynamics, and her collaborative relationship with Melissa Rosenberg.
Collider: You’ve spent two seasons digging into Jessica Jones’ past. What was it like to actually have her looking forward to the future, and trying to figure out what that means?
KRYSTEN RITTER: It’s exciting to have so much character growth in the writing. So often, in shows, the characters don’t get to have this much character growth. This felt like the next natural step for her and her heroism. But also, my favorite thing about our show and the writing is that it’s deeply personal for Jessica. In Season 1, she was dealing with her past and facing the traumatic things she went through at the hands of Kilgrave. In Season 2, she was dealing with the horrible loss of her family and that PTSD. And now, in Season 3, she’s dealing with her friendship. Keeping it really personal to Jessica was always the most exciting and important thing.
How different did it feel to deal with a villain that’s very creepy, but also very human?
RITTER: He’s a very creepy, very bad guy. Had Jessica had not been through what she had been through, in Season 1 and 2, she may have not inserted herself into that situation. But now, here she is, off the heals of her mother telling her that a hero is someone who gives a shit and does something about it, so she’s applying herself, in a new way, and sacrificing the personal for the greater good. I think that’s really cool.
At what point, along the way, did you learn that this would be the final season and the end of her story?
RITTER: Well, I thought this would be the final season, before we started Season 3, because (showrunner) Mel [Rosenberg] would be moving on, and the show was so me and Mel. We are of the same the brain. So, going in knowing that was a gift because you can really craft it. We got to really make sure that we were closing out her storyline and completing her journey, in a way that felt very Jessica. I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity and to be able to tell this story. It’s three seasons, but it’s so much story because of the writing. It’s a psychological character study. We’ve covered a lot of ground.
Obviously, you can’t control fan reactions, but does it feel like a satisfying conclusion to you?
RITTER: I think so. That was the most important thing. I’ve spent so much time rooting for her, and it’s really about threading that needle of making it feel like Jessica, keeping it ambiguous, and not wrapping things up in a bow, but leaving her in a place where there’s a little bit of hope and where you have an idea of where she’s gonna go the next day. Crafting that with Mel, over a couple of months, was really important to both of us.
You don’t get to play any character forever, so you always have to say goodbye to the characters that you play. When you’re as passionate as you are about Jessica Jones, is she someone that feels harder to say goodbye to?
RITTER: I’m a really hardcore person, and I’m really passionate about whatever I’m doing and my work. Of course, I love Jessica so much. I love the show. I love spending every minute trying to make it as cool as I possibly can. Part of that was the directing of this season, as well. But I’m an actress and artist, too. We have a vagabond lifestyle. I love variety. So, it’s a little bit of both. I love Jessica so much, but I also like to do other things, as well. I feel like I have been so blessed.
And it seems like a really great episode that you got to direct because it does have a shift in its focus. Did you have any idea that you’d be directing that specific episode, or was that the plan?
RITTER: It’s hard, when you’re in every scene. I kept asking to direct, and it was about finding that right place where it would make sense, given that I’m in all of the scenes. So, this worked out. Also, creatively, I feel like that’s the episode to get because it is a bit of a departure. I was able to make stylistics choices that were new, as opposed to sticking to the established style, and create new languages with the camera, specifically for the Trish character and her origin story of how she gets her powers. It’s her superhero origin story. So, I feel like I hit the jackpot on the creative on that and what I was able to do, in terms of creating a new style and really putting my stamp on it.
What were you most nervous about, when it came to directing, and what did you realize were your strengths?
RITTER: I always find that, with anything in life, the more prepared you are, the more confident you’re going to be. Even in school, if you study your ass off for a test, you’re probably not gonna break out in hives and flunk. So, my style has always been to prepare like crazy, and then I can show up and be confident and know what I’m talking about. I got my script early, and I started working on it like crazy. I must have gone through it a million times. My script, and I still have it, is covered. There is no white left on the pages with my notes. I have post-its on top of post-its of things to remind myself of, for the day. It was really just about prep work. Then, I had my cast and my crew, who I have known for almost five years, behind me, supporting me.
Was there anything that surprised you, or anything that you feel like you learned, that you definitely you can take to the next thing that you might direct?
RITTER: For sure, all of it. Because I got my feet wet in such a supportive environment, that helped with the jitters. Anytime you take on something new, you’re gonna be like, “Can I do it?” I think that experience gave me a lot confidence, so I can move forward and direct. It’s a really hard show to make. It’s a big budget show. They don’t give these things out easily. They only would even consider having a first-time director, one slot out of the year. I was fortunate that I convinced them by earning it. I had to prove myself. It wasn’t like they just gave me this gig. I was angling for a long time.
Have you thought about how soon you’d like to try it again?
RITTER: I have a project lined up right now (referring to her pregnancy) that is more important. As soon as I do that, I would love to focus a lot more energy into directing. I love it. I think that it’s a natural next step for me and my career.
How was it to explore the change in the dynamic between Jessica and Trish this season?
RITTER: Now Trish has powers, which is something that she’s wanted and envied and been jealous of, for their whole lives. Jessica feels very differently about her powers. She’s very reluctant. She always had contempt for them and what that means. Now, it’s a completely new dynamic in that friendship. They are on a bit of a roller coaster.
Jessica is kind of on an island of her own, partly because she can’t relate to others and express herself to others, like most people can.
RITTER: I also love the dynamic between her and Malcolm. That’s been something so great to watch, throughout the seasons, and there’s such an interesting shift this season. Was it weird to have that dynamic change so much, where he felt like more of an antagonist towards her? Yeah. And when we finally do come back around and the scenes would start to feel like old Jessica and Malcolm, I liked that much better. Eka [Darville] and I have that chemistry and warmth between us, so it’s much more fun to play that with him. It was interesting. I’m proud of him, and Jessica is proud of Malcolm for what he is accomplishing by standing on his own two feet. It’s a little like, “I made you, asshole!” It’s always fun to play new colors, any chance you can.
What was it like to explore the relationship between Jessica and Jeri Hogarth this season, with all of the tension between them?
RITTER: She’s such a colossal pain in the ass. It’s definitely more fun to play a scene with fire and antagonize someone than it is when things are all sunny. So, getting to do scenes opposite Carrie-Anne [Moss], who’s my bestie in real life, is so fun. It’s such a huge departure from her off screen that it’s just a fun acting experience. She is such a master. She is absolutely nothing like that character, in any way, and the fact that she can play that cool, calculating powerhouse is a testament to just how brilliant she is.
Does it feel like Jessica Jones knows what she wants, by the time we get to the end of the season, or is she more confused than ever?
RITTER: No, I think she learns more about herself, her potential, and her hero journey.
From what you thought it might be, on day one of the first episode of the first season, does this feel like what you hoped the show and the character would be?
RITTER: The show has exceeded any expectations I ever could have had, as far as what it would be and what I would get to do, and the work that I have had the opportunity to do. It’s the writing. The characters are so fantastic. It’s exceeded any expectations that I ever could have had.
What’s it been like to have gotten such positive fan feedback for this, and to see how people have responded to not just a great character, but the fact that you also explored so many important issues?
RITTER: It’s awesome. You always hope your work will be seen. It doesn’t happen, every day, that your work is seen and contributes to social conversations, in the way this show has resonated with women. It’s been such an amazing experience, that’s also a rare experience.
What have you taken from the collaboration you’ve had with show creator/showrunner Melissa Rosenberg?
RITTER: I’ve learned so much. We’ve pushed each other, in ways that have been really exciting and inspiring. I’ve learned so much about storytelling and writing from her, and her style. She’ll write something that will spark an idea with me, and I’ll pitch it back to her, which will spark an idea in her. That level of collaboration, two heads are really better than one. I will take that with me, forever.
As an actor, you don’t always have that kind of relationship with a creative team.
RITTER: I’ve been so fortunate, in my career. I’ve been so lucky. The show I did before this one, Don’t Trust the B, I had that relationship with Nahnatchka Khan, as well. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle. When you have the right chemistry with someone, it’s on fire.
How did you find the process of working with different directors, throughout the seasons?
RITTER: In Season 1, we had directors do blocks of two episodes at a time, and this was a cable one-hour, so one episode would take forever to shoot and you’d have a whole month with someone, which was awesome. I prefer having someone there longer. This season, we had a lot repeats and people coming back, which was awesome because you have a shorthand. There are directors now that I’ve worked with three times, and it’s like no time has passed. We’ve had such a great string of directors that I’ve learned so much from, like Minkie Spiro, Mairzee Almas, S.J. Clarkson and Rosemary Rodriquez, who are women that I now keep in touch with, and who are just so cool and so smart.
Had you shadowed any of them, before directing yourself?
RITTER: Well, being on set, all day, every day, I got to shadow everybody. What’s fun is observing what works and what doesn’t, and what gets the crew working for you and what doesn’t. When I finally convinced them to let me direct, I got on the phone with a lot of them – Rosemary Rodriquez, Stephen Surjik, Minkie Spiro and S.J. Clarkson – and everyone was so generous with me. I would just pick their brain. It was about hearing what everyone’s different styles were, how do you deal with Marvel, how do you deal with the politics, and all of that stuff. You get everyone’s different takes. I was fortunate that I had had those relationships, and got to then pick their brains and steal all of the information. I’m so fortunate.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 3 is available to stream at Netflix on June 14th.