As someone who both greatly appreciates the passion that fans bring to genre properties that they love — she’s a devout Dungeons & Dragons gamer herself — and a recent star of a supernatural series with a particularly rabid fan base — she recently ended her run as “True Blood’s” romantically challenged “baby vamp” Jessica — Deborah Ann Woll was perfectly positioned to join the cast of Marvel’s “Daredevil.” In the studio’s first high-profile series with Netflix, she plays Karen Page, a woman whose legal predicament brings her into the lives of up-and-coming attorneys-at-law Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock.
CBR News spoke with Woll — whose Karen Page promises some intriguing spins for fans of both the Stan Lee- and Frank Miller-penned comic book versions — about bringing the longtime comic book character to fresh life, handing the consequences of emotionally charged roles and her own nerdy passions.
CBR News: I know from our past encounters that genre fandom is a world you particularly love. Did comic books and Daredevil fit into that?
Deborah Ann Woll: Well, not specifically. I had always been sort of aware of that world, and I knew of Daredevil and the general storylines there. But comic books were never my particular geeky niche, you know? [Laughs] It’s been kind of fun to sort of broaden my own experience, and I also like that I can come to it a little bit fresh. I didn’t have this sort of love for Karen or Matt from when I was 12, which a lot of people do have. But you also don’t want to see sort of the same story over and over again. So in a way, I could come to it, I could research it and try to combine this sort of elements that we want to retain with the new stuff that will maybe make it exciting.
Was the fun of discovering her in the show’s scripts, or doing your research with the comics?
Well, it was a little bit of both. I ended up reading some comic books before — I read two scripts before I read the comic books. But then I read a whole bunch of those before I got anything else. So it was sort of piecemeal, interestingly, and I think I liked it that way. It meant that I wasn’t just going to do just Stan Lee’s Karen Page or just Kevin Smith’s Karen Page. I could kind of say, “Well, let’s do Stan Lee’s, Kevin Smith’s and Doug Petrie’s and Steven DeKnight’s and Drew Goddard’s. How can we kind of bring all of these sort of interpretations of her and make one cohesive person?”
Did you find, in your research, a story you just couldn’t put down?
You know what’s interesting, and maybe for the wrong reasons, but the very first ones, because they’re so different than what we’re used to. Like when they’re just meeting each other, and everything’s kind of innocent. I don’t know — I found that interesting, maybe because the show that we were doing is so dark. I was really intrigued by the lightness and feeling, like, how can I bring that element into our show as well?
What was it about Karen that you fell in love with right away?
I like her courage. I think that was it. That Matt can throw a punch, and he sort of always has that on his side, but Karen puts herself into some dangerous situations in pursuit of truth and at the hope of being able to change Hell’s Kitchen for the better. And she can’t throw a punch like Matt can. I really love that even though she could suffer great harm, she will stop at nothing to really help those in need. I don’t think we see a lot of female characters that are that brave. We tend to think of them as being dumb, maybe, for putting themselves in harm’s way, and I like that she’s never that. She has a real reason for why she’s going to go into that drug dealer den and try and get information — even if it means she gets hurt in the process.
You have a real gift for playing characters caught in very high emotional situations. Is there a toll that going to those places takes on you?
Yes. But I’m also trained for it. I mean, that sounds weird, like it’s dangerous. “Don’t do this at home, kids!” But I do think that as actors we train ourselves to go to very dark places that no sane human being would choose, voluntarily, to exist. But it’s because we know that we’re capable of coming back that we practiced day in, day out, flirting with that edge of no return.
It comes with a point where I think, a lot of times, even in my own personal relationships, I’ll cry at the drop of a hat because it’s sort of that surface level of vulnerability. It looks more extreme than it is. I know I’m just crying at a stupid commercial about puppies, but it looks like it’s more to someone else who would go, well, I only cry when things are horrible. Well, as an actor, I cry all the time! [Laughs] I’m not scared of strong emotion, of dark places. Probably, as actors, we’re a little bit attracted to them, even. We enjoy the feeling of that kind of live adrenalin, a rush of true emotion. So yes, it’s hard, and it takes a toll. But we have learned how to sort of manage it.
There’s a hint that she’s had a pretty rough life, even prior to the incident that brings her to Matt and Foggy. Is it safe to say it’s on par with Karen that we know from the comics?
No. It’s not safe to say that. I think that we’re going to pace out that backstory very slowly. And it’s going to impact greatly her decisions and her moving forward. But it may be a while before we find out exactly what it is that she’s hiding.
What’s interesting is, early on, we have so many great scenes with Karen and Foggy, yet we don’t know where that’s going, exactly. Are they just going to be besties? Maybe something more? And we don’t see a lot of her and Matt together past the first episode.
I mean, the best way I can think to answer that is, when we meet Karen, she’s very much alone. We don’t hear her talk about family or friends. She doesn’t have a roommate. The place where she was working betrayed her, deeply. I think it was someplace that maybe she felt safe, and now she doesn’t feel safe anywhere. And here come these two guys, who she, at first — who knows? It takes her a long time to trust them, and I like that they took that time. She doesn’t immediately hand anything over to them.
But once she realizes that they are sort of kindred spirits, and they want the same things, and they’re not out to get something from her, I think it becomes a family. And certainly, there can be romance within that family, but I think that they need each other on a deeper level even than that. I mean, they don’t have anybody else. Matt’s an orphan. Foggy, we don’t know much of his story yet. They are all that they have, in a way.
The chemistry between you three is crucial to making these scenes work. What can you tell me about finding your groove together?
Actually, it is so important because I came on — I was shooting “True Blood,” and within 48 hours had to be on this other set shooting this. It was a very fast transition, and I hadn’t met anybody. It can be hard, because chemistry and connection is so important to telling a story. And when I walked on the set and first started hanging out with those boys, I just went, “Thank God!” They are so nice, they are so funny and easy to hang out with. It meant that repartee that had to be there between the characters was easy to slip into, that we liked each other so much right away, that no acting is required for being friendly with them.
Did landing this job ease the pain of the ending of “True Blood?”
Yeah, it did. I was definitely sad about that ending, and you go through a little bit of a grieving. It was nice to have something else to focus on in a new, very welcoming family to sort of help me through it.
I heard from your bosses that you gave a hell of an audition for this role.
Did I? I don’t know! I don’t know that I knew that I gave a great audition. This is the first time I’m hearing that. Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool! Yeah, I don’t even know if I knew what it was when I auditioned in the first place. I had a feeling that it was “Daredevil,” because I kind of knew they were doing that. But who knows? It could have been anything. I think when you’re on a series for seven years, you love that character like you love yourself. But you also relish the opportunity to do anything a little different. It was fun to sort of find a woman who was intensely serious and sort of mature and responsible and also kind of dangerous. It was just different than being a 17-year-old.
Tell me about your own nerdiness and why that makes you happy.
I don’t know if all nerds would say this, but being an introverted person, someone who, I have sort of a limited amount of social energy to give, [Laughs] being a nerd and the kind of activities that I love, like Dungeons & Dragons and things like that, it allows me to be with friends and be with people and feel accepted and not feel drained, but feel that I’m given energy by those things. Dungeons & Dragons has quite literally changed my life. I mean, I am a happier person, a healthier person because of Dungeons & Dragons. [Laughs] I know that seems weird or frivolous to say, maybe, that a board game could do that for me, but it is true.
What were you going through that made Dungeons & Dragons such a happy, powerful discovery for you?
Some people are extroverted, and they gain energy from hanging out in large groups with lots of people. I’m introverted; it’s more that it takes energy, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with people, but it’s harder. I have to sort of work myself up to it, and I think Dungeons & Dragons was the first time that I felt I could be social and not also nervous or also afraid in some way. I felt confident, kind of for the first time.
What have you loved most about becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Specifically with Marvel, this idea that 20 different properties — whether they be film, TV, comic book or whatever — are all somehow in the same world is mind-boggling and great. I love the idea that our gritty “Taxi Driver” show can exist in the same world as the Avengers. We’re the dirt under the gloss. It’s cool. There’s a rationalization for why we need people to deal with the stuff on the streets and we need people to deal with the gods and aliens. They’re all linked, but in the same way, Thor can’t bother himself with a gangster, and Daredevil can’t take on an alien. But… maybe he could.Â
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