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Interview with Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll

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As most of the world is devouring the second season of “Marvel’s Daredevil” on Netflix, we present Andy Burns with our second interview from the cast of the show with Deborah Ann Woll, who portrays Karen Page on the series. Meet me after the jump as Andy and other interviewers find out all the season two secrets of Karen Page, Daredevil, and the Punisher.

Between the events of season one and season two, how has Karen changed?

Deborah Ann Woll: I think we ended the season on a real low note. She’d done something horrible that she’s going to have to live with the rest of her life. I imagine that over the six months, she’s been trying to come to terms with that, and to forgive herself in some way, and I think the boys are always a bright spot in her life. And this business, at least with Wilson Fisk being out, and new people coming in, I think there’s a sense of pride that they’re really helping the people of Hell’s Kitchen who have been overlooked and taken advantage of. So I think they’re riding high and … of course that will all change really fast.

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So far this season, with Matt Murdock’s excuse being that he’s an alcoholic, so with Karen ending on a low note last season and looking for something to fix in herself, is she okay with the fact that he’s an alcoholic? Is that something he wants to fix?

Deborah Ann Woll: First thing, I don’t know that Karen buys that excuse. Now that was my feeling, maybe it won’t come across in the editing, or the way it was put together at all. My feeling was that she doesn’t buy it that it’s alcoholism. I think that it’s clear that something sneaky is going on, that there’s something that he’s not telling her, but I think she sees a broken individual and recognizes that she is also one, and I think with the feeling of guilt over what happened last season, I think Karen is pushing as hard as she can to be the best version of herself that she can be, that she has to make up for her faults. I do think that she sees Matt as not the one she can save, but I think she just understands, she can recognize that she’s going through the same thing.

Andy Burns: You mention the idea of broken characters though, if you look at the source material for Daredevil and you look at Karen’s character, she becomes a pretty broken character in the runs that you see. If you follow her character arc in the comic books, you know things get very heavy and hard for her – how aware are you of that arc, and do you think about what could lay ahead as you play her today?

Deborah Ann Woll: Yeah, I’m very aware of it. When I first got the role, I went ahead and did my research and read. I didn’t read everything, Charlie (Cox) gets the award for that, and maybe Jon is catching up. I read the key runs that I knew featured Karen, and I even read the runs that Karen wasn’t in that I knew we were drawing inspiration from for the show. My feeling with Karen in the sixty years of Daredevil writing there has been is that she is almost a different person in every single run. In a way I really felt that that freed me up, that we could take that idea of a woman who was searching for her identity, searching for her place in this world, and really do our own take on it. We weren’t as bound to her story as we might be to Matt Murdock.

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One thing that I will say having seen some of the screeners from the season, and last season really, I feel like a lot of what’s happening with Karen’s character, her sneaking off at night, she’s also leading a double life as a journalist/private investigator, somewhere between those two roles, do you feel the story of Karen parallels the story of Daredevil, or is her journey unique?

Deborah Ann Woll: No, I think there’s an intention to that as well. I think now that we’re exploring some of the romance and some of the feelings between Matt and Karen, the idea is that they are so similar, and could be a true comfort to one another, but they’re both too scared to show who they are, because these are dark things. How do you go to someone you’re in love with and say ‘so I kinda killed a guy.’? You immediately lose that person, especially if you think he is this incredible lawyer who saves the world by leagal means and here you are, well, sneaking through dark alleys and breaking into people’s houses. As far as Karen knows, she’s the worst that there is. I think similarly, Matt feels the same. It’s going to be a journey about the two of them reaching a point where they can be honest with each other.

With Karen’s dark secret now of the murder of Wesley, do you feel as an acting decision, did that affect how you reacted to Frank (Castle) at all? Did you have any sympathy for somebody who had to cross that line?

Deborah Ann Woll: Absolutely. I think that Karen’s identity gets entirely wrapped up in Frank’s identity. What Karen did almost by accident last season, because of the situation she was forced into, Frank does intentionally. I think that if the world looks at Frank Castle and he’s a monster, he’s a murderer, he’s a bad guy, then what does that say about Karen? That she’s a monster. Then she has to see the gray area in that in order to feel like she has self worth. So, yes, I think that the sort of hookup between Karen Page and Frank Castle is really inspired. I was so impressed that the writers decided to go that direction. I not only got to work with Jon Bernthal, which was the highlight of the season for me, but it brought out elements in both these characters. It brings out a warmth in Frank Castle and brings out a coldness maybe in Karen. It’s been a privilege really.

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We see a lot of characters including Frank confide in Karen, become really comfortable with Karen, what do think it is about Karen that makes people instantly drop their guard?

Deborah Ann Woll: Well, I think it’s this open-mindedness because of her past experience that allows her to understand that people do terrible things for good reasons sometimes, so she’s not as quick to judge. Matt, because of what he does, has to see the world in black and white. In order for him to be the good guy, he has to believe there is a line and that’s what separates him. He’s a Catholic, he dresses up like the Devil, that would be a fascinating complication, I think it’s just a good metaphor for what he’s struggling with. Karen, interestingly enough, wears a lot of gray, these muted middle colors. She’s a bright spot in one episode and the next she’s the deepest darkest, the saddest part of it and in these scenes I wanted to play with even those changes, like coming in at the top of the scene and be that light, and then have one thing remind you that you are not that. You are potentially a monster, and fight that conflict all the time.

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Andy Burns: How much ownership do you have over her character – do you feel on set that there’s ever room to change a line or two if you feel it necessary?

Deborah Ann Woll: Yeah, definitely they are open to things like that. I tend to go less down that road, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel ownership over her. You have to feel, if you play a character for five minutes, you have to own them. That’s how it works. But I think for me, what I love, and I think you find some of the most interesting things, and I started doing classic theatre, it’s wonderful, but you look at something like Shakespeare, and you hate the guy on page one, and then you love him on page four. And you have to somehow figure how to make that work, ’cause you can’t call him and say, ‘hey, Will…’ You just have to figure out why that would happen. When I see things and I go, I wonder how that would work, if I really sit with it and think about it, and dig deep into who she is, I can come up with something even more fascinating, than something that will work because it’s real simpler. A lot of times I will stick with quite literally what they have because it can open up cool avenues. You make it work. You understand that human beings can change on the turn of a dime, and give yourself that challenge.

You mentioned working with Jon earlier, playing a very intense character. How fast did he snap out of it, how was it filming with Jon?

Deborah Ann Woll: He’s pretty good at snapping out of it. But like all of us there’s a give and take, certain days are better at it than others, other times it just stays with you. We all need a couple minutes, a half-minute or so to switch in and switch out. He is actually a lovely light person.

Andy Burns: I don’t believe it.

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Deborah Ann Woll: He and I spent a lot of time together, a lot of late nights, with very dark material. Sometimes at four in the morning and you’ve been talking about murder, you just need to make a joke.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Deborah Ann Woll: This year, I have a lot of favorite scenes. My favorite scene this year was a scene with Charlie, I call it the study date scene. I think it’s my favorite because it’s a turning point. That I love the idea that we go into the scene thinking that the scene is going to go one direction, and we have an idea of how it’s going to end, and there’s a moment that completely flips it on its head. And it changes the whole relationship. I don’t know when people will be reading this, and I don’t want to give too many spoilers this soon. I just love that scene, and there’s a moment for Karen to realize that she has even more controversial feelings about what’s happening this year than even she realizes. It kind of pops out that maybe that is what she thinks, that she has to admit it to somebody she wants more than anything to love her. Charlie and I did a lot preparation work on that. I had this color coded seven different units and theme music change, I couldn’t stop working on it.

Andy Burns: I was talking to one of the writers I work with and we both talked about how strong Karen is. Where does her strength come from, in your estimation?

Deborah Ann Woll: I think, it has to be a sense of justice, a search for truth, that drives her even when it’s not to her benefit. There are moments when it could get her killed, there are moments when it could get people not to like her. I think the relationship with Karen and the DA, with Michelle (Hurd), is such a great relationship there because Karen is so angry, she’s so angry that they’re not doing it right, that the system is so corrupt. And she comes at the DA that hard, even though she could tear Karen apart. It’s almost foolish, but on the other hand, but how kind of admirable as well, that she doesn’t even let that stop her. She just goes ‘no, it’s wrong,’ and leaps in head first. So yeah, I think some of that strength comes from she can’t let people get away, or something that is a harm to others.

Again paralleling Daredevil, she’s the one without fear. Daredevil is fearless because he has to be, and she’s fearless because she just don’t give a fuck.

To step outside the character for a second, for someone who has done traditional television, in terms of weekly episodic, how has the difference in fan response felt between week to week and binge all at once watching?

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Deborah Ann Woll: Well, I guess I’m just insecure enough that I tend to avoid all interaction with the outside world when it comes to my work. It’s just too scary. I don’t have a ton of specific examples, however just because the way that it’s written with something like “True Blood,” I can remember people saying things to me, and be in the middle of a season, and thinking ‘just wait.’ That’s what you think right now, but in a couple of episodes it’s going to be totally different. Now when people approach me and want to talk to me about the show, they have absorbed the entire story. There’s maybe a more complex, maybe a more deeper thought behind what they want to say versus the episodic which was very in the moment – oh, I hated when you did that, but wait, it’s coming up. They have more time to think about (now).

Andy Burns: Speaking of fanbase, I’m wondering who you are seeing as the audience for Daredevil. We’re seeing the pushing of limits with superhero characters – the first season of Daredevil was so gritty and real, then there’s the Deadpool movie with its over the top violence, and now there’s the talk of rated R movies or versions for Superman/Batman and Wolverine. Do you think fans and parents of kids who love super heroes have any cause for concern that the genre could swing to far towards an adult direction at the expense of a younger audience?

Deborah Ann Woll: I think of the comic books, I mean look at Jessica Jones, they had to tone that way way down, there was a ‘fuck’ on every other page, the first word was ‘fuck,’ isn’t it? I think there’s value in bringing these stories to film and television, that we also have a range. There are stories out there like Guardians of the Galaxy that are totally appropriate for all ages, and then PG-13, PG-16, and then to R. I don’t think we’re in danger of everything becoming R-rated. I think part of what’s important is that a lot of the young girls and boys who grew up reading comic books are now adults and they want to continue to absorb these stories in a way that appeals to them as grownups. I hope that’s what we’re doing.

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The show very much explores heroism, and what it means to be a hero, how do you define heroism?

Deborah Ann Woll: After two years on the show, I don’t know if I could boil it down. Maybe the point is that we shouldn’t. Maybe being a hero is personal. Frank Castle, maybe he’s a hero. You have to decide for yourself. That was kind of Karen’s journey this year – what does she think it takes to be a hero? Can she simultaneously think that Frank Castle is a hero and that he should be in prison? Can he be both? Can he be a symbol and a bad guy? So yeah, I’m not going to answer that, end of interview.

Do we have any inkling yet if Karen will be in the Defenders?

Deborah Ann Woll: Hey, talk me up.

Andy Burns: I feel quite strongly you should be in the Defenders.

Deborah Ann Woll: Thank you. I will say this. Clearly, once we get through season two, we are nowhere near done with Karen Page, we have much more story to tell, whether that will be told in Defenders or, if we’re lucky, season three of Daredevil, whatever it is, I don’t think it’s the last we’ll see of her.

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Thank you to Deborah Ann Woll and to Andy Burns. Please check out our interview with Charlie Cox here, and Less Lee Moore’s overview of Season Two here. Daredevil Season Two is currently streaming on Netflix, don’t miss it!

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on March 22, 2016, in Andy Burns, Daredevil, interview, Marvel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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