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There were few doubts that the good guys would lose someone they cared about at some point during the course of The Defenders, the eight-episode Marvel-Netflix series. Unfortunately for Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), that loss came from his side of the aisle.
In the sixth episode of the series, the blind assassin Stick, played by Scott Glenn, loses his life in battle against Elektra (Elodie Yung), or at least the killer husk previously known as Elektra. Stick experiences a swift and sudden end, killed unceremoniously by the woman he spent years of his life raising as a daughter, the same person he believed needed to die in order to defeat the Hand. Despite that belief, Stick could never bring himself to deliver the fatal blow to Elektra, even in the midst of their final fight. It’s a choice that cost him his life, even if Glenn himself suggests there might be more life in Stick yet.
In a candid interview, Glenn spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Stick’s fate, why the character might live on in the future, the physical demands of inhabiting the role, and even a meditation on how things ended both at large and specifically for his character Kevin Garvey Senior on The Leftovers, a series he describes as “the best job I’ve ever had.”
How did you find out Stick would die on this season of The Defenders?
[Marvel TV head] Jeph Loeb told me about either two or three episodes before I got killed.
Did you have any sense that it was coming up, that it was part of the design for the character? Or were you surprised by the move?
Neither one. I really didn’t have a sense of where I was going with that character. When he said, “Elodie is going to kill you,” I remember thinking… to begin with, I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage, because I haven’t seen any of [the series]. I know what we shot, but I don’t know if it came out that way or not. I was fine with it. I just wanted the fight to work in a certain way. I don’t know whether it did or not. Is there a moment when she stabs me in the leg and rolls underneath me, and she rolls right up to the point of my sword for a second? Because I told Jeph, “I should have one moment in this fight where if I had chosen to, I could have killed her, and I back off.” I don’t know if that’s still in or not, but if it’s not, it should be!
The leg-stabbing was certainly memorable. I’ll have to review. [Note: Stick definitely passes on the chance to kill Elektra.]
The reason I suggested it is because through [season two of Daredevil], I keep saying, “Elektra has to die! Elektra has to die!” But all I’m actually doing is saving her life. I save her life at the construction site when Daredevil and I show up and kill the ninjas. I save her life again in Daredevil’s loft, by putting all that potion in. One time after another after another, I say she has to die, and then I save her life. I saved her life when she’s a little kid. The other teacher is [trying to] kill her, and instead, I kill him and pull her away and take her to her new foster home. So I kept saying, to be consistent with the character, there’s no way I’m going to kill her. She’s my daughter.
It must be shocking that she’s back in the first place… and now he’s expected to kill her?
But she’s not the same person. That’s the point. The mistake would be to think it’s Elektra. It’s not Elektra. It’s whatever creature has been created by that reentry into life with the Hand and with Sigourney’s character [Alexandra]. But at any rate, I remember Jeph saying, “We’re in the Marvel Universe. If Elektra kills you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dead.” And I said, “Okay.” But for me, the show is over, unless I get a phone call, and then it will or won’t [continue] depending on the deal and all of that stuff.
Even after Stick is killed, the very next episode begins with a flashback between you and Elektra, so there’s always a way to return.
Yeah, but when Jeph said that to me, he wasn’t talking about flashbacks. He was talking about literally whatever is going on in that world where people do in fact come back from death.
Would you be interested in that, seeing what Stick looks like post-death?
It’s hard to answer that question. All of that stuff really lies with the script writer and with lines, and do I really want to go back and deal with those contact lenses again? I don’t know. It’s an impossible question to answer. Right now, all of my consciousness — which is this weird time machine that actors find themselves in — is with Castle Rock [at Hulu]. For you guys and for the audience, The Defenders just opened, but for me, it was over and in my rearview mirror many months ago. What’s going on right now is trying to figure out what we’re doing up in Massachusetts with these Stephen King short stories. It’s almost like I’m walking backwards now to get [back to Stick]. And it was the same thing right before The Defenders opened, when I was just coming to the end of it. People would call me up, and all they would want to ask about was The Leftovers.
I understand the instinct. Frankly, I’m biting my tongue, because all I want to do is ask you a million Leftovers questions.
(Laughs.) Anyway, where were we?
What are your memories of working with Charlie Cox to develop the relationship between Matt and Stick across these three different Marvel seasons?
Charlie is an interesting guy. He’s both really talented and also just flat-out one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. It was a joy working with him. The change that happened with him as a human being from the second season of Daredevil into the first season of Defenders was when we did The Defenders, he was a father. He now has a baby daughter. That changes everything.
You brought up having to wear contacts as Stick. Was this a very physically challenging role for you?
In a way, I don’t even like the word “challenging,” because it kind of implies that if you give it your best, that’s all you can be expected to do. For me, the better word is “demanding.” You either pull it off, or you don’t. When I first got the part, I realized I had never played blind before, and I was going to have to do it in the middle of doing a lot of martial arts. Once I figured that out, the contacts were fine, as long as the environment we were working in was clean. But there were some locations… I remember one on Staten Island, where when we got there, everybody on the crew were wearing masks. There were signs all around that said: “Don’t drink or eat food on this location.” Of course, the only people who didn’t have masks on were the actors and stunt people. Wearing contacts in that environment was a little scary. I actually got minor conjunctivitis at the end of that show because of it.
Yeah. But, you know. As my wife often says, “Nobody ever pointed a gun at you and told you you have to do this for a living!”
Can I ask you one question about The Leftovers?
You can ask me any question about The Leftovers that you want, since it remains to this moment the best job I’ve ever had.
(Long pause.) I’m going to answer you like Senior would answer you: “Who gives a fuck? Who cares? They’re all fucking whiners anyway. I’m not motivated by grief. ‘Oh! I lost my family!’ Who the fuck cares? Get a purpose. Have a cause. Then you won’t worry about the rest of this shit.”
Were you happy with how the show ended?
I was. I loved the way it ended. Do I think Nora was really lying or not? Yeah, she probably was. But again, it doesn’t really matter. I was very excited by the way it ended. It fit for me. Someone said, and I can’t remember who, it might have been Justin [Theroux], asked me what I thought Senior was doing now. And I said he was probably riding around somewhere in Australia with an Australian biker gang.
I wish we could see that.
Who knows? Maybe you will. (Laughs.)
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