“One of the things early on that I found helpful was not to think about how many differences they have but to go the opposite way and think about how much they have in common.”
That’s Marvel’s The Defenders showrunner Marco Ramirez talking to Entertainment Weekly about the tone of the eight-episode series, plus how the show will balance the characters when it beings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together in one show. The key, reckons, is that while the four superheroes all have very different powers and personalities, there are things that bond them together.
“One of the good things about how the other shows all operate is they’re all about a central protagonist, and at the end of the day, they’re not about superpowers. They’re all about someone who has some major flaw and some major crisis and also heroically somehow overcomes it.”
This mean that The Defenders is, he feels, “ultimately a story about a family of orphans who are very grown-up but still have more growing up to do. This was something I told the writers: it’s taking the questions that were posed in the finales of each of their shows. So the last times we saw them, where are they, and what are they going to need to do in order to grow up? What do they, as they come out of their own seasons, need?… We never wanted anyone to feel like they’re a guest on anyone else’s show. It’s weirdly about all four of them. It’s about all of their collective stories finally folding in on each other.”
Consequently, believes Ramirez, “We didn’t think about it in terms of how we’ll combine all the tones. We thought about the tone as its own thing. It’s about making sure this thing is something that could encapsulate all four worlds… There’s a certain amount of maturity with how they deal with the superhero-ness of it all.”
He also reveals some exciting titbits about how the various character will interact on screen.
“When it came down to it, there was just no way we would get away with telling this story and not have Danny Rand and Luke Cage have some chemistry, just because of what’s been established in the comics for them in Heroes For Hire. Danny and Matt’s relationship is really exciting to me. The Luke and Jessica and Danny dynamic is exciting and that may be one of the most fun parts of the show to some people.
“Everyone needs a relationship with everyone else here… We look up at a bunch of boards in the writers’ room, at the full season, and say, ‘Oh wait, we haven’t seen an interaction between these two,’ or, ‘These three haven’t been together yet.’ So what does that mean? Where does that lead? It was almost like a checklist, like, ‘Where’s our great Luke and Jessica scene? Where’s our Danny and Matt scene?’”
The writers also had to make sure each of the main character got a chance to show their superpowered USP in action.
“We have to work our way for Matt to do some cool parkour-y stuff, Danny to use his fist in some awesome way, Luke to use his strength and invulnerability in some cool way, and Jessica to just be a badass brawler. Coming at them from an emotional perspective is how we write those fight scenes, so Luke ends up being the protector, and Danny and Matt end up becoming the offense. Jessica is kind of the reluctant punk rock member of the band who doesn’t want to be there, but who’s really awesome. It’s making sure each of the characters can really pop.”
As for the nature of the threat in the show, “I can’t describe too much, but I can say that we knew it had to be something big,” says Ramirez. “We knew it would take something massive to pull these four characters from their individual worlds to work together, but also small enough that it felt like it existed in our world. It needed to be a crisis that brought these people together, but it still needed to be a very street-level crisis. That’s the world we’re dealing with, so it couldn’t be anything too sci-fi or too supernatural or big. That’s the stuff of the movies.”
So will it be the Hand, as featured in Daredevil season two? “This should feel like a continuation of all the shows. Not that I’m trying to be cagey, but yeah, we will feel like this is the next step for all four of the shows… This will be a serialised story that feels like it is about one kind of contained event and story in our world. It’ll be one satisfying, self-contained piece.”
The Entertainment Weekly article also confirms that writer Doug Petrie, who was credited as co-showrunning the series with Ramirez, stepped away to pursue other projects in October, after the eight scripts had been completed.