In Season 3 of Marvel’s Daredevil (streaming at Netflix), Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is back from the brink of death and not only has to deal with his archenemy Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his unexpected release from prison, but he’ll also have to contend with the rise of Bullseye (Wilson Bethel), who proves to be a formidable enemy, in his own right. And all of this will force Daredevil to choose between hiding from the world or embracing his destiny as a hero.
One of the characters that plays a critical role in Matt Murdock’s personal journey this season is that of Sister Maggie (played by Joanne Whalley), who’s not only instrumental in helping to nurse him back to full strength, but also in helping the pieces of his past merge with his present to inform the decisions that he makes in the future. During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Joanne Whalley talked about knowing exactly who her character was and her connection to Matt Murdock from the beginning, getting to learn about how it would unfold as they shot the season, what she enjoyed about collaborating with showrunner Erik Oleson and actor Charlie Cox, what she’d like to see happen with the Sister Maggie/Matt Murdock relationship in the future, and the one scene that she’d love to make happen.
Collider: Since everything Marvel is always so secretive, what did they tell you about who this character would be, in the very beginning, and at what point did you actually learn the details about who she would really be?
JOANNE WHALLEY: Well, I knew, from the beginning. Because it was such an interesting story arc, I had to know the big picture. I didn’t know exactly how it would unfold, but I did know who she was. I didn’t know why or how. We had to wait for the scripts to unfold for that, but I did know who she was.
When you found out how all of that would unfold, what was your reaction?
WHALLEY: I just loved it. I thought it was very understandable. She’s a very rich, full character, and I completely felt for her. I understood what she went through. It’s quite interesting that, within a Marvel show, you can mention postpartum. That’s extraordinary. There’s the whole question of faith, which is a general theme throughout the show, with people battling with good and evil. This is someone whose life is filtered through her faith. That’s everything. And what an awful dilemma she faced. I felt a lot for her.
There seems to be a misconception that a comic book story, superhero story, or action story doesn’t or can’t also have deep character development. This show really proves that it can.
WHALLEY: And it’s all the better for it. I thought that was great. I’m not very up to speed with that whole world of comics, so that was all new to me. The thing that really stood out was what great scripts we had. I would definitely be a fan now because it has it all, along with amazing action. The stunt guys were phenomenal. It has every element that you could wish for, and it’s all grounded in real characters.
When this opportunity came your way, were you hesitant about it, at all? Since you are new to the world of comics, did you wonder what your place in it all could be?
WHALLEY: I thought, “I wonder what that role could be about?” And then, when I read the script, I just thought that she was so interesting. It was a no-brainer because it was so good. All you ever want is a good script. It’s the only thing you ever wish for. You want a good script to work on, and you’re happy.
This is a character that’s really lived a life, and she is so many things at once. She’s a nun who runs an orphanage, but she is also tough, wise, brave, compassionate, and is grounded in her faith, all of which make her very human. Were all of those things there in the script, or did some of that come from conversations that you had with showrunner Erik Oleson?
WHALLEY: I had some great conversations with Erik. Erik is really brilliant. The storylines and his grasp of character were just incredible, and his desire to have all these multi-faceted people in the story. He wouldn’t settle for 2D. We had constant inspiration. At the end of the day, if it’s not in the script, you haven’t got anything. You can only do what you’ve got in the script. You can bring things to it and you can suggest things, but if they don’t shoot it, they aren’t aware of it, or it’s not on the page, they aren’t going to get it. If you’ve got a good script, then that is everything. As a unit, everyone was very excited by the material that we were shooting, including craft service. It’s great when you get the next script and can say, “Oh, my god, have you read the next one? Did you see what happens?” Every character had meaty stuff to come to grips with, and it has a sense of humor. It’s a pretty dark one, but it does have a sense of humor. And that’s all Erik. He was amazing!
Did you also have conversations with Charlie Cox about the progression of the relationship between your characters, or was that something that was easy for you guys to find with each other?
WHALLEY: Yeah. That rolled itself out, as we progressed and worked through the material. We worked on the episodes in sequence. Not always in sequence within each episode, but at least we did work on an episode at a time, and were always moving forward, so that process naturally happened, as we went through the episodes. He’s amazing. He is so all over it. And for me, it was a little bit odd because they kept me locked in that crypt, for ages and ages. I would go to work and it would just be me and Charlie. It was pretty intense, but I like that. He’s a joy to work with, and we were just both up for it. We were both like, “We’ve got some great stuff to play with.” That’s all you ever want, as an actor. It’s just such a gift to get a great script.
This is a woman who gave her son up, but never fully gave her faith up. If anything, losing her son seems to have made her even more devoted to her faith. How do you think she feels about dealing with all of it now, at this moment in her life?
WHALLEY: She’s never forgiven herself. It’s an unsolvable dilemma, really. It’s a cross that she carries. It never goes away. She’s tried to make up for it, but it’s never really gone away.
Do you think there’s almost a sense of relief that it’s finally out there and she doesn’t have to hide her past anymore?
WHALLEY: I don’t think it’s lets her off the hook. It’s something that she’s marked by. There is no getting off that hook. I don’t think it’s resolvable. She will always carry that burden.
Knowing who Matt Murdock is, and seeing the cost and the consequences of that, what does she think about what her son does?
WHALLEY: She totally doesn’t understand. She’s tried to understand and accept it, but she sees the toll it’s taking on him and the mistakes that he’s making. She feels all of his pain. There is nothing that she can do. She has to get to know him because she doesn’t really know him, at all. They’re learning about each other, but she can see that he’s suffering.
By the end of the season, she really does seem to be looking for any connection with him that he’s willing to give her, and he opens that door for her. Even if it’s not open all the way, there is some hope there between them. If we get to see more of Sister Maggie and her relationship with Matt Murdock, what would you like to see happen with them?
WHALLEY: I would like to see them figure it out. This is really only the beginning of their relationship. They were relating to each other on false terms and on wrong footing. There are still a lot of things to be worked out between them, but I really feel that it’s the beginning of their real relationship. Can they find a way forward? Can she forgive herself? Can he forgive her? Will he even allow her in? It really is the beginning.