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Daredevil showrunner Steven S. DeKnight talks Season 1 choices

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Apr 15, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Hopefully, you've wisely spent the last few days binge-watching Marvel's Daredevil, which dropped its first season on Netflix April 10. Created by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Cabin in the Woods) and executive-produced by Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus), Daredevil has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from both critics and demanding comic-book fans, making it another feather in the cap of the Marvel machine.

In our exclusive interview with DeKnight, the showrunner clarified how he came to make the hasty jump onto the series when Goddard left to help shape the next phase of the Spider-Man cinematic universe.  A lifelong fan of the Daredevil character, DeKnight was able to join the creative team early enough to select the cast and help take advantage of using New York City as Matt Murdock's backdrop. We discuss these and other topics in our spoiler-free conversation (but seriously, catch up!).

Netflix, Marvel

You've worked with Drew Goddard several times in your career, so was your previous working relationship helpful in making for a smooth handoff when he left the series?

Yeah. I was dropped straight into the frying pan. I was wrapping up my deal with Starz and I got a call that Drew was leaving to do that little Sinister Six movie he was writing and directing. They asked me if I would be interested in coming in. I asked to read the first two scripts and thought they were fantastic. I sat down with him and Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television, and got the broad strokes for the season, and I thought that was fantastic. I said, "Hell, yeah. Let's do this!"

The series is dark, visually and tonally, infused with the noir influence of Frank Miller's run on the comics. Were there other visual inspirations?

Talking about the noir aspect, we really appreciated it like a 1970s crime drama feel, The French Connection or Dog Day Afternoon.  It's a high bar, and we figured we'd shoot for the moon and, at least aesthetically, let's see if we can have that feel. I was overjoyed when I signed on and the decision was already made to shoot in New York. I don't think this would have worked the way it does without that New York backdrop.

In keeping with that tone, the fight scenes and acts of violence are extremely visceral. What was your thought process on how to portray Matt's skills?

Especially regarding the action, we wanted to make it grounded and gritty and realistic. Matt's got heightened senses, but that doesn't help you jump on top of a shipping container, so we really wanted to approach it from if a guy pushed himself to the limit, what he could actually do. We were incredibly lucky  to get our stunt coordinator, Philip Silvera, who is fantastic. It was through him we were able to bring in our main stunt guy, Chris Brewster, who doubled Chris Evans in the Winter Soldier. We had to have a great cast, but we also had to have a great stunt guy, and Chris is a Swiss Army knife. All that stuff you see, he is actually doing!

The one at the end of episode two, "Cut Man," is obviously a loving homage to Asian fight cinema, right?

Yes! My influences for action for this show range from Old Boy for the sequence we did in episode two, and the action in The Raid and The Raid 2, which is very gritty, grounded and goes on longer than expected, which is what we wanted in episode two.

The first episodes are stacked with flashbacks, especially setting context for Matt and his father. Will we see more of that if the series continues?

There's always a chance to go back, but [the flashbacks] work great in the first couple of episodes. You learn just enough without having to overexplain or get too maudlin about it. Our Battling Jack Murdock and little Matt did such a great job. You really feel that relationship.

There are definite shades of the comic-book storyline Daredevil: Yellow in your narrative with the romantic stirrings regarding Matt, Karen and Foggy. Was there a temptation to push that more?

Someone asked me on Twitter if there would be a lot of soap in this show.  I thought about it and realized there's almost no soap in this show. Spartacus, I always said, was a soap opera with an emphasis on the opera. I embraced the soap, but on this one there's not a lot of "Will he kiss her, will they end up together?" It's not the focus of this show, and we want it to play out as naturally as possible. In the comic, especially in Yellow, Foggy is in love with Karen, but she ends up with Matt. Whether or not we go down that line, we'll certainly tip our hat to it.

Talk about the process of casting the right Foggy and Karen around Matt.

It was just a matter of matching [Charlie Cox] to other actors and actresses. We were very cognizant that the show needs Matt, Karen and Foggy to all work well together. You didn't want one person to be out there, so [after Charlie] we next concentrated on Foggy. Once we had Elden Henson as Foggy, we all really felt Karen Page was a linchpin. Deborah Ann Woll came in and auditioned and just blew us away. Her performance in Daredevil is just phenomenal.

As is Vincent D'Onofrio as Fisk. Was he created as a villain that would dominate just one season or grow with the series too?

As to whether Wilson FIsk continues on is something I won't spoil, but as for Vincent D'Onofrio, one of the first things I did when I came on was pester people with, "What about Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin?" I was sending pictures from the Internet with him and a shaved head and a chopper mustache saying, "Imagine him without the mustache!" The first reaction I got was "Do you know what he makes in TV? We can't afford him!" But I kept pestering, and our casting team floated it out to him and he was very enthusiastic and interested. There is not a more perfect actor on the planet to play Wilson Fisk, and he is a dream to work with.