'Daredevil's' Charlie Cox on Becoming a Religious Superhero

"One of the great things about playing a fallible superhero, one who doesn't necessarily have super powers, is that the stakes are raised by the prospect of them perishing," the actor tells THR.
Barry Wetcher

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the first few episodes of Netflix's Daredevil.]

The road to redemption has officially begun as Daredevil — aka "The Man Without Fear" — has officially bowed on Netflix.

The first of five Netflix superhero series, Daredevil's television adaptation sets its focus on Hell's Kitchen in New York, a district recovering from the Chitauri Invasion that destroyed nearly half the island. Organized crime has taken root in the recovery efforts, making Hell's Kitchen a dangerous place to live. Matt Murdock (Boardwalk Empire's Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer, decides to take matters into his own hands by donning a black mask to deliver vigilante justice in order to save the city he loves.

The Hollywood Report spoke with Cox about what it means to be Daredevil and the relationships he shares with the people around him.

How important was Matt Murdock's mortality in portraying the superhero?

One of the great things about playing a fallible superhero, one who doesn't necessarily have super powers, is that the stakes are raised by the prospect of them perishing. I always have trouble with movies that have ambiguity over whether a character can die or not. If these characters are human, they're not invincible, and then obviously it helps increase the stakes for the show. That was a selling factor for me, a cool element of the show and something that would hopefully keep the fans on the edge of their seat.

One of the more interesting aspects of Murdock is his Catholicism. You don't see many other superheroes having a religion. With everything that has transpired, why does he still look to religion for insight?

I grew up Catholic, and when you've grown up and these belief systems have been presented to you at a young, impressionable age, I don't know that you can shake them. Even if your rational mind tells you something else, sometimes they're so deeply ingrained that they are with you for the rest of your life. Maybe that's not true for everyone. Matt's faith is quite strong and he has come to rely on it — although at times it puts him in a difficult position because of who he is and what he does and what he's capable of. Part of his journey as a Catholic is to find harmony around his religion and faith, as well as who he is as Daredevil. It's a wonderful dichotomy for an actor to play because it produces so much conflict and inner turmoil.

In the first two episodes, we see the backstory with his father (John Patrick Hayden). Do you think Matt blames himself for the death of his father?

That's something that's explored differently in the comics. I don't think, as an adult, he blames himself. Rationally, he knows who his father was, how he behaved, and that the people he got mixed up with was not influenced in any way by Matt. But at the same time, I think from what I've read, any child who loses a parent or sibling in a tragic way like that takes on some of the blame. It's almost easier to take on the blame because it's a way of protecting yourself from hating the world. It's almost like if you could find someone to blame it takes away a bit of the pain. With Matt, that's a real possibility. Obviously Matt was very proud of his father and what he did. He thought he was a hero, and so that element definitely played into it.

What drives Matt to want to protect the city, especially from Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio), at all costs?

Matt doesn't initially know Wilson Fisk. When we meet Matt Murdock, he's just started this masked vigilantism at night. He's aware very quickly, however, that there is someone or something that is infecting the city. There is some greater power above all of everything that is going on — all of the criminal activity — and he discovers as the show goes on that this person has a name. As the show continues, we find out more about Wilson Fisk. What happens with Matt is that initially he just gets in too deep. He follows one foot after another until he reaches a place where he knows he can't stop and has to see it through. He has to find this guy and end it. Maybe he thinks that in accomplishing that, he'll be able to hang up his gloves, as it were, and move on. But that's more of an unknown.

Matt's a lawyer by day but at night he goes out and breaks those laws. How does that tension play out during the course of the season?

One of the things I loved about the show and the writing is that though we had these very exciting fighting sequences and the energy and pace of the show is quick and thrilling, we also punctuate those scenes with very long, emotional, character-driven material. We've got these wonderful conflicts presented to Matt, being both superhero, Catholic, masked vigilante, and then we get those wonderful scenes where we see him struggle with those conflicting desires and beliefs within him. It's one of my favorite things about the show because I relate to that inner-conflict, being surrounded by one's life and decisions and what one believes to be the right path.

The Matt and Foggy (Elden Henson) relationship is great since Foggy is one of the few normal, grounded humans on the show. How important is his relationship with Matt, and does Matt pose a danger to Foggy by doing what he does?

One of the things that Matt struggles with as he continues this journey is that he's incredibly aware of the possibilities involving the people who are close to him. At one point, he even tries to alienate the people he loves so that he doesn't put them in danger. The idea that what he's doing could affect the people he loves is immensely frightening to him — more than anything else. I find it interesting when you have two best friends who don't seem to have any other best friends and that's kind of the case with Matt and Foggy. They're loners in their own way but they've clung on to each other, and they're able to hide in their friendship with one another. You've got two best friends who spend all their time together, went to college together, and yet Matt has been able to hide this great secret of his from his best friend for all those years. That says a lot about a relationship.I think they care about each other greatly; it's another added beautiful complication to what it is to be human.

Episode two introduced Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple, who seems to be a foil for Matt and also grounds him. After hitting it off quickly, is a romantic relationship in the cards?

She's the first person ever to know about him, the first person in his whole life that he can be himself with. When he's with Claire, Matt doesn't have to pretend anything. It's the first time ever he's been really vulnerable with another human being. He's completely exposed. That's massive. She help gets him patched up, and he begins to rely on her emotionally. He craves the opportunity to talk about who he truly is in front of someone, and she's someone he can talk about it with. He can gauge her opinion on what he's doing, which is important to him. It encourages him. Similarly, Claire is also kind of a bit of a lost soul, a loner who doesn't really fit into this world she's in. She's found many of the same comforts from being his friend as he does from her. It's not surprising that there's the inkling of a romantic relationship because when two people identify so much with one another, a romantic relationship is often formed.

What is that catalyst that propels Matt from vigilante to superhero?

The first season is about that journey. We meet young Matt and we see the evolution of his character. The answer to your question — I really think that's up to the audience to decide what the difference is between vigilante justice and superhero justice. A lot of that will be discussed when we get to the introduction of the superhero suit because it's not just about putting on a suit for the sake of putting on a suit. There's a purpose, reasons for doing so. There's a lot of discussion about function and form, how it's made and who makes it. I think the answer to that question is up for debate and for each audience member to decide.

When it comes to the action sequences, how much did you prepare and how much were you allowed to do? Could you actually see through that mask?

The mask was made of this special material, which was genius because you could see quite clearly through it, but when you look at it, it looks solid. I did as much martial arts training as I could and spent a lot of time with the stunt coordinator and my stunt double. I had a long conversation about the kind of martial arts Matt did. I want to do as much as I'm allowed to do, as much as the insurance companies will allow me to do, which turned out to be quite a lot. That's the great thing about our show: it's grounded in reality. A lot of the fight sequences really are just two men rolling around trying to hit one another. I didn't have to learn a great deal of very stylized movements. I did a lot, but obviously as the show progresses Matt's fighting ability becomes more fine-tuned and his ability increases, so my stunt double had to do a lot more of the specialized moves. He did things I didn't even know human beings could do. But right up until the very end, I was doing as much as allowed and I loved it.

Are you watching Daredevil? What do you think so far? Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more coverage in the coming days.

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