By now many of you have likely binge-watched all thirteen glorious episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. The series has been reviewed to critical acclaim, and that is in large part due to its excellent cast of characters. Far and away, one of the series’ standouts has been Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Karen Page, the trusty secretary at the Nelson & Murdock law firm with life-threatening secrets of her own. In the comics, Karen Page was put through the wringer to say the least, often cited as one of the most egregious examples of comics’ Women in Refrigerators trope. In the series, however, Karen Page feels more like a fully realized character, one with hopes, dreams, and struggles all her own. While the road she walks is by no means easy, the Karen Page of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, by all accounts, a more complex, compelling character — and much of that is due to Woll’s charismatic performance.
Recently, I sat down with Deborah Ann Woll to talk with her about joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil‘s darker tone, and her experiences making the series.
Nerdist: One of the most fascinating aspects of the series is that it feels a little more mature, a little more adult.
Deborah Ann Woll: Sure. That’s really what I think we were excited about, too.
N: Yeah, because it feels unlike what they’ve done in the past. What was the tone you guys were going for, and why that is an important thing for this?
DAW: Yeah, definitely. I think that the stories that have been told so far have been kind of for all audiences, and they’re fantastic, and we love them! But then I think about someone, like even specifically my boyfriend, who grew up loving these shows, but is now an adult man, and doesn’t necessarily always – he wants a little more complexity sometimes in his stories.
I love the fact that we can have both, that within this same universe we can have something that anyone from 12 to 80 will love, and then something that’s really kind of more niche, for those people who love the stories, but want to go a little darker, a little deeper. And just more complex in the themes, as well. Because you can have adult brains working on them, we can do stuff that’s a little more nuanced, perhaps.
N: Do you think that a streaming platform like Netflix allows more freedom where that’s concerned to tell those stories?
DAW: Oh, totally! One, you are sort of released from the confines of recapping the previous episode in the first scene, or making sure there’s a cliffhanger so people come back, or we’ve got to get great ratings so they don’t cancel us. Just the idea of this is 13 hours of a story that we really wanted to tell, and we’re freed a little bit from those things. I am quite proud of the – we took that by the horns, I think, and made a good story out of it, I hope.
N: Nice pun there.
DAW: Was that good? OK, good! I’m glad you picked up on that. [laughing]
N: Yeah, it has a nice cinematic quality to it. Would you recommend binge watching, or do you think people should parcel it out?
DAW: I think you can consume it in any way. I mean, I think good content is good content, whether you watch it – however you choose to watch it. And also, it’s sort of spoiler-free, in a way – not that I’m going to give any, but…
N: “Daredevil dies in episode 6.”
DAW: Exactly! And then it becomes a new show, it’s called “The Karen Page Show.” [laughs] Now I can’t remember what I was going to say!
N: Well, let’s talk about Karen Page.
DAW: OK, great.
N: I was very happy that she was being included in the series, because she is a seminal part of Daredevil’s story. In the comic, she has sort of a crazy tortured arc, and we see a little bit of that at the beginning, but talk about the character. How did you approach her? What excites you about Karen Page?
DAW: Yeah, I think for me, because she has this sort of extreme 180 that she goes through over the 60 years of the comic book story. I liked the idea, but I didn’t want to completely abandon either one. I sort of said, “Why does she have to be either sweet and innocent, or she’s like a porn star/heroin addict?”
So I said, what if we brought elements of both of those, and did them at the same time, so that she has a real struggle within herself? There is someone in her that is kind of addicted to adrenaline and danger, but she wants to be a nice person who does good things and is trustworthy. That’s kind of a fun conflict to play.
N: It makes her more three-dimensional than she was sometimes represented as in the comics.
DAW: Yeah, I think so, as well. You know, it’s always fun to take someone who is really good and suddenly torture them to death, kind of. But in a way, you lose a sense of one fluid character when you do that — not that that happened with Karen, but I didn’t want to necessarily make that kind of a transition in this story. I think it was more interesting to say that dangerous piece of her was always there, she just doesn’t always let it out.
N: I feel like you need to show that light and that goodness in people as well, because sometimes Daredevil has a tendency of feeling a little bit kind of like Eeyore, where every terrible thing that can happen, happens to this one guy.
DAW: [laughs] That is true.
N: He’s blind. Everyone around him dies.
DAW: But at the same time, though, it doesn’t just happen to him – he kind of goes searching for it. And that’s the other thing that I like about Karen. She’s not just getting in trouble because she’s the girl and she’s associated with Matt. She’s getting in trouble because she’s kind of going out and looking for it. She’s saying “I see something terrible happening, and I’m going to jump right into the midst of that, possibly at my own expense, and I don’t care. I’m not going to let this continue.” And I think that that’s good. They’re in trouble for a reason. I kind of like it.
N: I like that she is taking matters into her own hands. At the law firm, she sees them trying to help people. She’s trying to take matters into her own hands by speaking to Ben Urich, by going off on her own, dealing with a shady brokerage.
DAW: I love that in a way, that even though Matt, unbeknownst to Karen, is out breaking people’s bones to get information, she’s like “You’re not doing enough!” Because as far as she’s concerned, he’s too ‘by the book.’ And I love that idea, that they are so alike, and yet they don’t know it yet.
N: Yeah. I just imagine Matt’s inner monologue all the time is just, “Come on!”
DAW: “Do you have any idea what I did last night?”
N: “All of my ribs are broken all the time.” Speaking of which, I’ve also been impressed with how violent this series gets.
DAW: I think it’s important that when Matt takes a punch, it hurts. I think it’s important that bad guys aren’t going to die with one punch. It’s really hard to take someone down. And in a way, that feels like – it’s almost less scary to me than the almost cartoony violence, you know? Because if what we’re showing is “Oh, you can shoot a bunch of people and there’s no consequences, and there’s no blood,” or anything like that – that’s kind of gross, actually. It’s horrible. In a way, I find it comforting to say, “No! When you hit someone, your hand hurts. And when they hit you back, you could die.”
I want us to be afraid that when there are guns going off, this could be the end for Matt.
N: Not that there aren’t consequences in the Marvel universe, but it definitely feels like in Daredevil particularly…
DAW: Well, he’s not invincible. He really has very little superpower. His superpower is kind of like his dad. He just won’t stop – he’s got that rage. He has these heightened senses, which are very helpful, but it doesn’t stop him from getting hurt.
N: It’s a nice touch for the series. I’ve also enjoyed the relationship between Karen and Foggy. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the dynamic there? It’s definitely different than the one between her and Matt.
DAW: I like that we didn’t jump in real fast with the romance aspect of it. I think that it’s good to establish all of these characters on their own before we start associating them as couples. I mean, the best way to answer that without giving everything away is that, at least from Karen’s perspective, Karen has no home.
She has no family that we hear of. She was working at this place and they ended up betraying her in a great way, and I think she’s feeling really lost and alone, and think she finds a home with Matt and Foggy. People who are like-minded, who care for her, and I think that they need each other maybe more than they’re willing to admit. So romance or not, these are people who are deeply related to one another.
N: So, what was the experience of making Daredevil like? It’s nice seeing that everyone is bubbly and pleasant in person.
DAW: We’re not just all moody. [laughing]
N: Yeah, it’s not all doom and gloom. [laughing]
DAW: We had a great time! I guess because we’re the first of the Netflix series, which is even quite a different feel from the Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, and that kind of arena that they’re playing in. I can’t say that I really felt that I was part of that Marvel universe or that team until after we were done, or at least part-way through.
It was kind of like we were doing this weird other thing. It definitely feels like Marvel, but it doesn’t look like Marvel. So we’re still sort of waiting to see how people sort of accept this new idea. I really like it. I’m happy to be a part of it – a pioneer in that way.
N: Have you had any interactions with fans yet? Are you looking forward to that at all? Like the Comic-Con type of stuff?
DAW: Sure! We’ve had a little bit, but the fans have no idea what we’re offering yet, you know. Certainly, we did New York Comic Con, and they showed some scenes, and I think people were pretty beside themselves. [laughing] They showed quite a bit. I was surprised how much, actually. Yeah – I’m just excited for the fans to get it and be able to watch it, and hopefully enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.
Daredevil is now streaming on Netflix.