On any given day, odds are “Mad Men” and Daredevil are at the forefront of my thoughts. Now, with Netflix’s “Daredevil” debuting this Friday and “Mad Men” airing the first of its final seven episodes on AMC last night, it seems like everyone’s thoughts are on the mod mid-century drama and the Man Without Fear.
At first glance, these two pop culture artifacts may seem pretty disparate, but I would argue that Matthew Weiner’s character-driven series about the advertising world of the ’60s has a lot in common with superhero comics in general and “Daredevil” in particular. They’re both series with sterling track records; “Mad Men” won the Emmy for Best Drama four years in a row and “Daredevil” has featured iconic runs from industry heavy-hitters like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid, Ed Brubaker and more. They are each capable of humor and darkness — as evidenced by Mark Waid’s current “DD” run. They both focus on secret identities, guilt, and — this one’s specific to ol’ hornhead — making bad decisions in regards to love. Both Don Draper and Matt Murdock married women they barely knew, and neither ended well (I sure hope Megan Draper doesn’t end up like Milla Donovan). Heck, the two TV shows even share a director in Phil Abraham.
Since I see all of those similarities between “Mad Men” and the “Daredevil” comic, it’s been hard for me to not work up a Marvel-ous fancast while rewatching Don Draper’s exploits for the umpteenth time. So before Netflix’s absolutely fantastic looking “Daredevil” series debuts and blows everyone away, let’s take one quick look inside an alternate reality where Matthew Weiner shifted his focus away from “Mad Men” to the Man Without Fear.
James Wolk as Matt Murdock / Daredevil
As the series’ lead superhero, Matt Murdock has to be a lot of different things. The actor that puts on those red glasses has to be charming, handsome (of course), captivating and convey a loads of internalized guilt/rage/feels. Charlie Cox, the actor actually bringing Daredevil to life, seems like a fantastic choice for the part as he’s conveyed all of those elements just through brief teasers and motion posters. But in this alternate reality, we’re giving the role to James Wolk, the man who played Bob Benson in Season 6 of “Mad Men.” Wolk’s performance was all handsome charm covering up subtle motives, maneuvering and manipulation. Wolk’s “Mad Men’s” Daredevil for that reason, and also because he kinda looks like a Chris Samnee drawing come to life.
Alison Brie as Karen Page
More than pretty much every character in Daredevil’s supporting cast, Nelson & Murdock secretary Karen Page occupies space at both extremes. On one end, she’s Matt’s spunky love interest; on the other, she’s a heroin addicted adult film star willing to sell DD’s secret identity for a fix. Whoever plays Page has to not only stand toe-to-toe with a superhero, but she has to be able to swing from light to dark. Alison Brie, who has played Pete Campbell’s wife Trudy throughout the entire series, has proven herself capable of intensely dramatic moments. I mean, she’s married to Pete Campbell. Match that with her energetic performance on “Community” and you got an actress that can play all sides of Karen.
Rich Sommer as Foggy Nelson
Over the years, Rich Sommer has mastered playing a character that is constantly put upon, underestimated and overlooked. Harry Crane is basically Foggy Nelson without all the, you know, empathy, so this is a part that Sommer has already proven he can handle. Then there’s the fact that he also looks like Daredevil’s everyman best bud and knows his way around a bowtie. Finally, Sommer would get to play a character that fans are meant to love instead of a character fans love to hate.
Jon Hamm as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Finding a real human being capable of matching Wilson Fisk’s intimidating frame is a pretty impossible task, so you have to go with an actor that can accurately convey the character’s intensity. Vincent D’Onofrio looks to be a stellar, standout choice, but I also think Jon Hamm has it in him to be a truly terrifying crime boss. Just close your eyes and listen to any one of Don Draper’s angriest moments (his confrontation with Peggy in “The Suitcase” or, like, all of his office scenes in Season 7); that’s Wilson Fisk’s voice — deep, low, booming yet restrained. Don Draper can be a nightmare person, just imagine Hamm let loose in a role like Kingpin.
Christina Hendricks as Black Widow
No, Black Widow isn’t announced for “Daredevil,” but in this “Mad Men” mash-up world we’re visiting, she is and she’s Christina Hendricks. First off, Hendricks naturally looks the part of a deadly and capable superhero. Second, she plays Joan Harris, a character capable of pulling off the subterfuge needed to advance in a truly misogynist workplace, all with a disarmingly icy demeanor. Hendricks plays Joan Harris with such unwavering confidence that I can easily imagine her account exec character standing up to Tony Stark.
Jessica Pare as Elektra
Like Black Widow, Elektra’s not guaranteed to show up on the “Daredevil” series any time soon, but we’re in an alternate reality. Elektra has to show up, and — since the role hasn’t been cast yet — I’m stumping for Jessica Pare to play her in all realities. As a trained ninja assassin, Elektra is an extremely physical character; Pare’s performance as Megan Draper — Don’s youthful and fiercely independent second wife — has been incredibly physical as well. From performing “Zou Bisou Bisou” to an embarrassed Don to getting into emotionally brutal fights with him, Pare has inhabited a character defined by her individuality and determination. Give her a sai already.
Jared Harris as Ben Urich
From time to time, Daredevil gets assistance from Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich — a middle-aged everyman with a wife and closet full of trench coats. Urich always gets in over his head, but he means well and his reporter skills often end up helping Matt Murdock out a great deal. Jared Harris’s Lane Pryce can kinda be viewed as “Mad’s” everyman; he was very unassuming when he joined the ad agency and treated the antics of his new co-workers with a lot of skepticism. You were supposed to relate to Lane, which is why — well, up-to-date “Mad Men” viewers know where I’m going here.
John Slattery as Stick
As the quick-witted dirty dog/silver fox Roger Sterling, John Slattery has become one of “Mad Men’s” breakout stars. His role even led to him landing the part of Howard Stark in “Iron Man 2,” which makes sense since Sterling comes across as a bit of a proto-Tony. I want to see Slattery put his casual delivery and endless cool charisma to work as Stick, the arrogant and blind sensei responsible for teaching a teenage Matt Murdock everything he knows about fighting. Just imagining Slattery in a fight scene is downright delightful — especially if Stick also has a taste for martinis.
“Mad Men” airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC; “Daredevil” debuts April 10 on Netflix.
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