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, Cox discusses Daredevil’s new black outfit, the season’s more grounded tone, Matt Murdock’s crisis of faith and dangerous new mission, and more. When we spoke with the actor, he had just finished filming an incredibly intense scene alongside Woll in which Matt Murdock, as always, viciously blaming his issues on his friends. It might even contain Daredevil‘s first “fuck.”
CHARLIE COX: We don’t always do that…when you feel like you have to get into an angry state, the fast track is to just swear at each other. We don’t do that every day, I promise.
Question: You really were modulating your level between takes, weren’t you?
COX: We’re at that stage of the season where we’re catching up on scenes we dropped. So we’re having a little less time than we would usually like to prepare. So in this instance, Deborah and I hadn’t spoken about this scene prior, nor had either of us spoken to [director Jet Wilkinson]. It’s both of our first days with Jet. We know that we’re still just tweaking some scenes that are coming up with Karen and Matt. And I guess we just came in and we both felt like this scene could play in completely different ways, and luckily Jet, who I’ve heard is fantastic, because she did an episode of Jessica Jones, I kind of said, “If we can, just for the sake of it, let’s just play both versions.”
The other thing is, there’s a really important scene that happens right before this scene, and we haven’t filmed it yet. So we’ll film that tomorrow night. That might dictate a lot of it. So it was nice to have a couple of versions of that tonight. We don’t always have that luxury, but tonight it was important.
You’re back in the season one costume—or a version of the season one costume—what does that mean for you as an actor to slip back into those duds again?
COX: First of all, it’s so much more comfortable. So I’m very grateful for that. The thing with the costume has always been, for me, it sounds silly, but I really need to feel like, from a story point of view, it makes sense and it’s in keeping with the genre and the tone of the show. So the way we transitioned into the red costume at the end of season one, the thing that really sold it for me was the conversation Matt had with Father Lantom, where he says, “Sometimes it’s important for there to be a symbol to be feared by people.” It keeps them in check, it allows them to remember why they behave in a moral way. That was the impetus for Matt to go and embrace this symbol, this iconic red suit. Earlier on in this season, there’s an equally compelling reason, I hope, for him to not be in the red suit anymore. It’s not explicit, but my understanding of it is clear. Matt, for various reasons, no longer feels like he is deserving of it. It’s almost like he’s lost that privilege. And also that he is, in some ways, outgrown what it stood for. There’s also another reason why he cannot, literally can not wear the suit.
We started today talking to Erik and he told us that one of the big themes of this season is fighting your own inner fear. Can you talk a little bit about how that is affecting Matt this season?
COX: I kind of feel like that, in some ways, is consistent with Matt from full stop. One of the things that makes this character enjoyable to play and hopefully compelling to watch is, he’s a walking contradiction in everything he does. You can equally look at him and see someone who is beneficial, moral, upstanding member of society and in the same breath, you can see him as an absolute menace. Someone who is detrimental to law enforcement and society running smoothly. When we meet Matt at the beginning of this season, he’s basically dead. It’s amazing that he’s not dead. Early on in the season, there’s a point where he’s convinced that he will not be able to continue to operate as he has done. As a result, he cannot be Daredevil. He can’t function that way anymore. Of course, the first thing that takes a massive hit with that kind of information is his faith.
I’ve never been a lead in a TV show and done three seasons of it, so one of the challenges now, of course, is how do we maintain the integrity of the show, how do we tell an interesting story, and be consistent with who these characters are and who these people are and what this world is? But also not rehash the same stuff over and over again. And it is tricky with all TV shows. Only the very, very best, the Breaking Bads and all that, manage to avoid that. One of the things that me and Erik talked a lot about in the beginning is Matt’s attitude since the end of The Defenders, and also since the end of Daredevil 2. How has Matt’s attitude changed going into season 3? We kind of landed on two elements that I’ve taken and run with. One of them is Matt’s relationship towards God. I think now, he still believes in God, but he believes in a punishing God. He sees God as, at times, quite cynical. And almost vindictive. Hopefully, he’ll come back from that, but early on, at least, he’s that angry. He feels that let down. If you’re someone who believes he was given this gift in order to help, and then that is taken away but you’re still alive, it throws everything into question.