Season One showrunner Steven S. DeKnight came late to the “Daredevil” party, replacing original writer/producer Drew Goddard after the initial two episodes were filmed. And while he’s reluctantly exiting as the Netflix series are just taking off, he says he’s glad he was there at all.
Appearing at a panel of Netflix original series showrunners at the Television Critics Association press tour, DeKnight talked about passing the baton of Marvel Television‘s enthusiastically received streaming series focusing on street-level superheroics of Matt Murdock, a move, prompted by a standing cinematic commitment, that was made easier by the trust he has in his successors.
“The new showrunners, Doug Petrie and Marco RamirezÂ — Doug Petrie was my right hand man on the first season, and Marco was one of our fantastic writers. Unfortunately, I had to leave because of a previous commitment to write and direct a feature,’ said DeKnight from the stage. “They were there from the inception — actually, Marco was there before even I came onto the project after Drew Goddard had to leave, so it’s in fantastic hands.
“I’ve told them ‘Anything I can do, anything you need from me, if you ever need to call, I’m always there,'” DeKnight added. “But also, I think it’s very important, for me, exiting, to leave the show to them. And everything I’ve heard about it, everything from on set, from them, sounds like everything is going wonderfully, and I personally can’t wait to watch SeasonÂ Two with the rest of you.”
While praising the creative freedom he enjoyed from both Netflix and Marvel, the showrunner also noted an intriguing instance in which he was asked to move in a different direction. “Really the only time that we got a ‘no’ is, originally, Rosario Dawson’s character had a different name,” he revealed. “She was going to be an actual Night Nurse from the comics, and the feature side, [of Marvel] had plans for her down the road. That’s the only time that I actually ran afoul of a — we couldn’t do something. And we just used another name, so — it’s the same character.”
Immediately after the showrunners panel, Comic Book Resources and a handful of other media outlets gathered with DeKnight offstage to chat at greater length on a variety of topics, including more details on his “Daredevil” experience, his possible future with Marvel and his reaction to watching all 13 episodes of his series dropping at once.
What was the best part of the “Daredevil” experience for you, creatively?
Steven S. DeKnight: Ah, there were so many great parts! I grew up reading “Daredevil,” you know, from back when I was a little kid, so I’ve read ’em all my life. And there was a moment when I was on set directing the finale, when it was the first time that Charlie appears onscreen in his outfit, and it was a great moment, because everybody on set was like a little kid. You know, grizzled grips had big smiles on their faces about being around for this moment that they’d dreamed about for so many years. But the whole thing was a phenomenal experience.
Can you talk about your upcoming project, the commitment that kept you from returning for the second season of “Daredevil?”
I wish I could. I am sworn to secrecy. It’s under lock and key. All I can say is that we’re in the process of casting right now.
Do you hope that you can get back to Marvel and do another show?
I would love to work with Marvel again. When I left, I was joking about, “Ah, maybe I’ll be back for ‘The Defenders,’ and do some stuff on there.” But it really all depends on schedule.
Is a return to “Daredevil” out of the question for you?
I never say anything’s out of the question, but my hope is that Doug and Marco stay with the show and continue it on. I mean, I would never step back and push them out, because they are just giving it their all. But who knows what might happen in the future. I mean, thankfully Marvel has a very deep pool of projects, so I could pop up anywhere down the road.
If they decide to spin The Punisher off into his own standalone series, is that something that you’d be like, “Jeph, I need to come back and do this.”
Oh, I’d love to if my schedule was open, yeah. Yeah. Because I thought when they cast Johnny [Bernthal] as Frank Castle, I thought it was brilliant casting, and I would love to work with him. But I’m very — I’m so glad it’s in such good hands, and I can’t wait to see what they do.
Is this the chance to do The Punisher “right,” and that it hadn’t quite been done “right” before over the course of three feature films?
Yeah, you know the thing about “The Punisher,” and I think there are great things about each of those versions. But none of them was completely the Marvel version. And none of those movies were under the Marvel Studios banner, until they recently got The Punisher back. So this is really the first time that we’re seeing the Marvel Studios from the “Iron Man” days, when they could control their own product to actually do this character.
Punisher was one of my favorite characters. I’ve talked to Jeph Loeb ever since I first met him back on “Buffy” about doing “The Punisher.” So it was a heartbreak for me to have to leave. But I knew it was in good hands, and I loved everything we had started talking about, about Frank Castle being in that story.
It can’t possibly be more violent than “War Zone,” can it?
Doubtful. That was pretty violent. The first season of “Daredevil” was violent, but I always say it was more implied. It wasn’t nearly as violent as “The Walking Dead,” a show that I love. Because on those, if somebody were to crush somebody’s head in a car door, you would’ve seen the head crush onscreen. But we didn’t want to go quite that far. We wanted to keep it right around PG-16, and not all the way, all R. I have no idea if they’re planning to push it that far next season, but I would be surprised.
Can you talk a little bit more about what you said about Rosario Dawson’s character, how Marvel had plans for [original “Night Nurse”] Linda Carter in the movies, so you shifted over to Claire Temple? Is it that they have specific plans for that character down the line, or is there like a big pool of characters that they say you can’t use, just in case?
No. I’m not 100 percent sure. All I know is that the original Night Nurse that we were talking about, we had her name in the script, and it came back as possible they were going to use it. They weren’t sure at the time. I’m not sure if they ever moved forward with that on the feature side. So we just switched to another character that was very much, kind of the same realm as Night Nurse.
Jeph Loeb loves to say, “It’s all connected.” So do you imagine with “Daredevil” Season Two coming out in 2016, will we see the effects of something like “Civil War” in that project?
I have no idea. It really — I don’t know how they do that, quite frankly. I mean, it’s so complicated. With everything that’s going on with the movies. And I know they’ve been very successful jiving the movies with “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” With this, we were always talking, “Man, it’d be great to see Daredevil pop up in ‘Civil War.'” But literally when we started airing they were like too late, two weeks away from starting the shoot. So it was a little late to bring him in. But yeah, I mean, our hope is that these characters, and this TV show with Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage and Danny Rand, will eventually find their way into the movies, and everything will cross over.
What was the cool part of watching the audience binge on “Daredevil” and taking in the social media reaction for you. What was your takeaway?
It was the first time. With “Spartacus,” we shot all 13 the first season, and released them one week at a time. And it did not go well at first, famously. The first episode was not what I would call well-received. This was a completely different experience. Literally at like 12:01 Midnight, Thursday night, I tweeted, “It’s time to let the Devil out.” And then I was up for a few more hours, and I slept in late. And by the time I got up, there were people that had already watched all 13.
So the immediate buzz that — one of the great things about all 13 being released is, it’s a little more forgiving if your pilot doesn’t completely work. Which thankfully, this time, I think, our first pilot for “Daredevil” worked a lot better than our pilot for “Spartacus.” So it was a completely different experience. Literally within that first week, I think 80 percent of the audience had watched all 13, and it was great to have that kind of very fast response.
The genre has been a bit overlooked at the Emmys and other awards, but the omission of “Daredevil” in the stunt category this year seems difficult to believe.
Oh, yes. It’s the only one that really surprised me, and I was really upset about. The rest of the awards, it’s a very, very competitive — everybody that was nominated, I thought, “Well, yeah. I can completely see that.” But for “Daredevil” not to be nominated, it felt like an insane oversight. And that’s not to take away anything from the people that were nominated, but I don’t know another show where everyone was talking — especially about that fight scene at the end of Episode Two in the hallway, which just lit up the Internet. And then not to get nominated, for me, was just insane.
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