On November 20, Marvel Studios fans (and Netflix subscribers) will have the opportunity to view a very different take on superhero and comic book-based stories in the form of “Jessica Jones,” starring Krysten Ritter in the title role, Mike Colter as Luke Cage and David Tennant as Kilgrave, AKA the Purple Man. As if the source material published by Marvel’s mature readers MAX imprint, Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos’ “Alias,” wasn’t indication enough, the trailer for the series shows a very different side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than fans have come to expect from the likes of “The Avengers.”
Three of the stars of the series, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty and Wil Traval, all visited the world famous CBR Tiki Room to speak with CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching about their involvement in the second pairing between Marvel Television and Netflix, explaining what it’s been like to work on a comic book story unlike any other, how their characters play into the larger narrative and what kind of research they did to get acclimated with the world they were joining.
Darville, Moriarty and Traval begin the discussion by talking about what it’s like to make a super hero TV show that doesn’t feel like a super hero TV show. While all are happy to be working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, each appreciated the opportunity to do something left of center that fits into the world but still feels like a dark drama rather than something driven by specific tropes or expectations.
On what it’s been like playing in a very different end of the super hero spectrum:
Wil Traval: It’s been a dream come true. Honestly, for me — and probably for most actors, really — to play in a super hero show. For me, to come from Australia, come to the United States, and work in New York, ‘and why don’t you work on a super hero series?’ So it’s an absolute dream. But yeah, in terms of the content of the show, it’s a very dark and gritty world. Someone asked us a question earlier today, “Do you break up the seriousness of the show with gags and mucking around in between takes?” I’m like, “You know what, not really.” It has such gravity that you don’t want to interrupt it or compromise its integrity. So yeah, that was kind of a dark five months, wasn’t it?
Erin Moriarty: Yeah, it was kind of dark. People say, “What’s it like working on a super hero show?” You know, the show is very grounded, a lot of the peripheral storylines — my storyline didn’t involved superpowers whatsoever, so I can’t really even answer that question. As far as I’m concerned, it was like filming a dark, gritty drama, which was great for me. And then I watch the show and I’m like, “That’s right. This is about a superhero.” But it’s a testament to how human Jessica is and how the story overall, like I said, is quite grounded. So I’d say just the darkness of it, but that was fun. It’s fun as an actor, it’s very dramatic, there’s never a dull moment. It’s like, it’s kind of juicy almost. That’s an actor’s dream to have those kind of dramatic storylines. It was fun.
Eka Darville: My character’s story arc doesn’t involve a lot of super hero stuff either. When we first meet Malcolm he’s really struggling with drug addiction, so it’s not like the usual thing that I would think, “Oh, I’m gonna be in a Marvel series. Oh yeah, heroin.” It’s not like a sequitur thought that usually goes together. It’s a very, very different take on it, and it exists within that Marvel Cinematic Universe but the Guardians of the Galaxy are out trying to save the universe whereas we’re just trying to survive and protect like one block in Hell’s Kitchen. So it’s a very different experience, and the same deal, it is a dream come true to be able to work on one of these shows.
In the second half of their conversation with CBR TV, “Jessica Jones” stars Traval, Darville and Moriarty discuss how their characters fit into the larger narrative, why some have been reinvented from their comic book counterparts, and just how the series’ extremely dark source material found its way into the Netflix series in a way that works both for TV and to honor the comics.
On how their characters fit into the story of “Jessica Jones”:
Traval: My character in the show is Officer Simpson. He’s a good cop, everything’s black and white, justice can be served easily. He understands whose good and who’s bad and that kind of works in opposition to the way Jessica Jones works ’cause she deals in a world of gray. She has differing opinions on how justice should be served or executed. So that causes us to have friction between the two of us, we don’t work alongside one another so well [Laughs]. Interestingly enough, thsi character doesn’t appear in the “Alias” comics — he appears in the Marvel Comics Universe, just in a different series — he is a reinvention, I guess?
Darville: Yeah. It’s inspired by other characters.
Traval: Inspired. There’s a germ character out there but he was a little bit too hard to handle [Laughter] he was just a psychotic crazy guy. They reshaped the character for the Marvel Television series, and I think to the benefit of the character and the benefit of Marvel themselves. Now they have another character to throw into the mix.
Moriarty: My character, Hope, is kind of an average — she goes to NYU, she’s a student there, she’s an athlete. But she gets involved in Jessica Jones’ world because someone previously in Jessica Jones’ life who had a really negative impact on her life enters my life and her first P.I. case involves my character and as a result leads to the reemergence of this kind of dark person from Jessica’s past, which is Kilgrave, yeah. So Kilgrave comes back into Jessica Jones’ life through my character in a very tactical way.
Darville: I’ve got a kind of similar story to Wil here where it’s inspired by characters, seed characters within the comics, but they’ve taken it in a different direction. He’s a new creation and the way that he interacts with Jessica’s story is — it’s really hard to talk about it because if I give away anything in it it will really kind of spoil this amazing arc that he goes through. But I can say he starts one place and ends somewhere very differently. And the drug addiction stuff was pretty intense and dark to play and going there every day was a lot of work to kind of take myself to that place on a daily basis and live in that world. It was an experience, and his relationship with Jessica is like a flip-flop between victim and savior, and that’s kind of their relationship, it’s much more siblingly [sic] than anything else.
On whether they researched the original “Alias” series by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos prior to filming:
Traval: That’s what I got myself for Christmas, actually. … That source material is so deep and dark, you know the MAX series is just incredible, While I was reading it before Christmas, during that break, I was like, “What the hell kind of show are we gonna be making?” [Laughter] This was really adult content, and I couldn’t imagine what the show was gonna be. I think the scripts realize the tone of that content, of course it doesn’t follow “Alias” page-by-page, but they have reinvented that and brought what that tone was out of those pages and onto the screen.
Moriarty: And that’s why Netflix was such an important factor. It’s like you had to go to that place to do the show justice, to do the comic books justice. It wouldn’t — you know what I mean, it’s so dark, you can’t just half-ass that, you gotta go all the way with it.
Darville: One thing that I definitely would say about the tone that’s struck within the show is it’s like such a great balance between that heavy, dark content that we’re dealing with on every single episode and this very self-aware brevity and comedy comes in throughout in a lot of the different characters. It’s one of those shows that is not afraid to make fun of itself and the fact that it is a super hero show, and I really personally enjoy that about it because there will be times where I’m like, “Come on, guys” on any super hero show. And then on this show it’s like the show does that for you so you fully invest in it.
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