Exclusive: Cast Talks ‘The Defenders’ At NY Premiere

Marvel’s ‘The Defenders,’ the anticipated culmination of Netflix series ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Jessica Jones,’ ‘Luke Cage,’ and ‘Iron Fist,’ premiered Monday night at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

After four shows, five seasons, and two years, Marvel’s small screen heroes team up to form The Defenders, a supergroup stronger than the sum of its parts, in order to save New York City. We caught up with the cast and creators on the red carpet.

Eka Darville (Malcolm, Jessica Jones)

What can we expect from Malcolm in this season of the ‘Defenders’?

ED: We kind of pick up where we left off in the end of Jessica Jones season one, which is Malcolm rebuilding himself after Killgrave and drugs. He’s creating a life together with Jessica and everything that he has going on for himself.

Finn Jones (Danny Rand/Iron Fist, Iron Fist) interjects.

FJ: You want to do us both? It’s a beautiful ménage à trois.

What do you guys like about filming in New York?

FJ: To be honest, I love the diversity. I love the culture here. There are so many different communities all under one roof as New Yorkers. Just to live here and work here, I really feel that vibe, and I love it.

ED: One-hundred percent—I couldn’t agree more. You find that in the film industry we end up getting sent to these far-flung places of the earth like Atlanta, Hungary…

FJ: Vancouver.

ED: Vancouver, exactly. And to get to have an awesome job that’s in New York? It’s kind of like the dream.

Who on set is the most like their character?

FJ: Ooh, I’d say um…

ED: Mike Colter! [Luke Cage]

FJ: [Laughs] No! No, Mike is the opposite. I’d say Krysten [Jessica Jones] actually, probably Krysten, minus the booze. She doesn’t drink that much in real life. But she’s definitely that sarcastic…

ED: And that sassy and on point.

Jessica Henwick (Colleen, Iron Fist)

I heard you filmed ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Defenders’ around the same time.

JH: Yes, I basically flew back and fourth. I would film on set in New York, and then I’d fly to Belfast for one day to have a costume fitting, and then I’d fly back, and then I’d go next week for a hair and makeup test, and then I’d fly back for training, and it was just like the most mental thing ever.

Which Character does Colleen have the most interesting relationship with?

JH: I think Colleen and Danny have an interesting relationship purely because it’s so—they only know each other in a sort of mission mode. They have a relationship with each other, but they’ve never experienced normality, they’ve never gone on like dates and hung out and watched Netflix together.

What do you like about filming in New York?

JH: The food!

If you could be on any other Netflix original show, what would you pick?

JH: Stranger things. Or The Crown!

Marco Ramirez (Show-runner)

How do you bring all of the individual shows together for ‘The Defenders’?

MR: The answer is slowly. One of the things we didn’t want to do ever—the writers room, none of us—we didn’t want to just mash them all into the same room in five minutes and say, “Ok, now they’re all together, this is The Defenders, welcome to the show.” I really felt like they all had their own independent shows and their all independent looks and feels and sounds, so really just organically the trick was getting all of these characters to find each other. None of them were ever going to go home and find an envelope saying, “You need to go join The Defenders.” They’re all so independent; they needed to find their way there on their own. The best way, I think, to get them to join it, is to get them to realize that they need to.

Can you tell me about a challenge you faced?

MR: Honestly, melding the four very vastly different tones was a challenge. I think very smartly, Marvel and Netflix have made each of the shows really distinct, made them each their own thing. The challenge eventually becomes, “Ok, you made all these four things so different from each other, how the fuck are we going to wrap them into one thing?” So really that was the biggest challenge, because, in a good way, every one of the shows is so distinct, putting them all in the same room was hard. So at the very beginning it felt like, “How the hell are we ever going to get Jessica Jones to sit across from Danny Rand and Daredevil?”

All of the shows, as distinct as they are, they sort of have an undercurrent that ties them together, and that’s New York City, which in some respects acts more like a character than a backdrop. Can you tell me about how you incorporated setting?

MR: I lived in New York for eight years. It’s the last city I lived in before I moved out to LA. I’m a theater guy first, so I love this city. One of the fun things whenever we shoot these shows—all the actors have to move here, and a lot of the writers have all had to spend a lot of time here. So regardless or not if you even love New York, you’ve been here a shit ton of times working on these shows, so really it’s almost impossible to not incorporate it.

Also, so many shows shoot in other cities that pretend to be New York, but if you’re shooting in New York you feel like, “Fuck it, we’re going to lean into the fact that we’re here.” Not that the impulse was ever to shoot at the Statue of Liberty—that feels like a different kind of Marvel show. If we want a street to look like it’s in Harlem, we’re gonna shoot in Harlem. If we want a street that looks like the Lower East side, we’re gonna go there.

S. J. Clarkson (Director)

What drew you to the project?

SJC: Well I originally directed Jessica Jones for them—I did the pilot of Jessica. So having brought her to life, and whilst doing that brought Luke Cage to life as well (through Jessica, cause they’re both in it_—when they called me up and said would you come back and do Defenders my interest was piqued at the thought of bringing all of these four characters together in one platform, which I thought was going to be quite exciting and challenging.

Did you approach ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘The Defenders’ differently?

SJC: I suppose with Jessica Jones I knew what I wanted to do with it because it was about a damaged, flawed character, and that really excited me, to kind of investigate that world. And then with Defenders it was great cause I already had that in the bag really, and then it was like, “Well how can I mirror and manage all these four characters giving them the equal time and equal attention that I gave to Jessica.” My in was definitely Jessica Jones because I was so familiar with that, and then watching the other projects, and meeting the cast—I met a bunch of them before, worked with a bunch of them through Jessica, what with Luke and everything else. But yeah, it was quite an under taking.

All of the individual shows are tonally distinct; how do you collapse that into one?

SJC: Marco and I sat in a room for many hours collaborating, and my initial thing that I wanted to do was create a distinct look for each of the characters, and there was a color pallet for each of them—Jessica with her steely blue, Daredevil would be red, Iron Fist having this teal green color, and Luke Cage with those rich colors of the 70’s movies like Shaft and French Connection, so they each have their own voice, and the fun for me was when they enter each other’s worlds how those color palettes shift.

Netflix will stream ‘The Defenders’ on August 18th.

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