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[Warning: This post contains spoilers from the season one finale of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, “AKA Smile.”]
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is not your average superhero. She says what she wants, when she wants it. She has no problem getting wasted at all hours of the day. She’ll sleep with anyone she wants to, and has no time for your judgments. And she’ll kill her opponents if she needs to.
Season one of Netflix’s second Marvel series, Jessica Jones, ended with Jessica finally killing Kilgrave (David Tennant), the manipulative, sociopathic villain who used mind control to rip her life apart. She had spent the entire season hunting him down with the intention of locking him up for life and exposing his powers to the world to clear her own conscience after he made her kill an innocent person. But in the end, she put him down permanently.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Ritter about what changed Jessica’s mind when it came to dealing with Kilgrave, what’s next for her now that she literally slayed her demons, Netflix’s upcoming The Defenders team-up series and more.
Jessica Jones was such a real way of looking at what a female superhero could be. She was allowed to be aggressive and flawed and human.
Exactly, the material was so complex and flawed and Jessica Jones was everything. She was vulnerable and strong and has a past she’s dealing with and has a great friend. It was such a dynamic role.
The response from fans has been overwhelmingly positive, which is so rare. Has that surprised you at all?
I certainly haven’t seen anything like this before, so it’s rad. Christmas came early. (Laughs.) I always thought the show was good and it always felt a lot bigger than just me getting a part. I’m glad it started the conversations that it has and that women like it and it’s been really welcomed by fans of the comic books. I wanted the show to be good and it turned out great. So that was a surprise. It doesn’t happen every day so I don’t take it for granted.
It’s interesting to note that of the only two female superhero-led shows on the air right now, Jessica Jones represents a gritty, darker perspective while Supergirl is exactly the opposite with its bright optimism and enthusiasm. Why do you think fans are connecting equally to both the dark and light perspectives?
I think there’s something for everybody. You can ask that same question of why do people watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and also a drama. You know what I mean? There are different audiences out there and everyone has different tastes of what they want. And it’s a good thing, because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough stuff to go around. (Laughs.) It’s a good thing all your girl friends don’t like the same guy.
What was the biggest challenge in portraying Jessica?
Shooting in the winter was definitely a challenge. And it was a lot of night shoots. So honestly the biggest challenge was the shooting schedule. A lot of nights, sub-zero weather. And then it was a lot of heavier, darker material than what I’m used to. But the great thing about this character is there was never a lot of pressure to be fresh and bright and bushy-tailed and beautiful. We joke that normally on a TV show or movie, you have your glam squad, your hair and makeup team, who make you pretty. And this, it was more like the blood squad. (Laughs.) So really all of the challenges lent itself to the tone of the show and the look and the feel. Because Jessica Jones lives in a dark, cold place.
Speaking of that, how do you feel about the way that the show dealt with real issues like sexual assault and agency and PTSD?
I read the first two scripts before I even did the screen tests and all that, and I loved the writing right away. I loved how grounded everything was, how realistic the dialogue is. I loved the emphasis on performance rather than exposition. And [showrunner] Melissa [Rosenberg] has a lot of integrity for this character that you don’t find every day. So it was then on me to live up to the material. It all comes from the writing.
When you first signed on to Jessica Jones, did you know that she was going to kill Kilgrave in the finale?
No, I didn’t know. I hoped so! But as we were going along, I hoped we would have that triumphant ending for Jessica because she was just getting her ass kicked over and over. There were so many failed attempts. At a certain point, god, you just want something good to happen to this girl. Everything was going wrong, Kilgrave kept getting away, how many times was her door broken? It was just one thing after another.
How did you feel about her choosing to kill Kilgrave instead of getting him locked up?
I thought it was this triumphant, victorious moment that she really deserved. In episode 10 where Hope Shlottman finds her demise, that was the moment where it all changed. The real driving force for Jessica was to clear Hope’s name. Jessica saw a lot of herself in Hope, a young, innocent girl with no one to stand up for her, so Jessica felt like if she could save her, she could rectify a lot of what she’d been through and find some moral justice and finally close that door. But when Hope was no longer in the picture, it was almost like she had to kill him for Hope’s sake. Enough was enough.
That last shot of the finale, with Alias Investigations’ phone ringing off the hook with potential clients, was such an open-ended way to end the season. Where does this leave her?
I found that really conflicting. On the one hand, killing Kilgrave was the end of this chapter. But then, what does that mean for her? It’s not like all the pain and trauma she went through just evaporates. It doesn’t go away just because he’s dead. He gave her such a sense of purpose. He was the reason why she left the house every day. So, what happens next? How does she deal with “success?” How does she move forward, no longer hating herself? That will be interesting to see. How does she realize the full potential she has?
Along with that feeling, there were also so many other loose threads left hanging by the end of the season. While there are no plans right now to have a second season of Jessica Jones, Netflix did greenlight one for Daredevil after it debuted. Is there a chance for a second season before you show up on The Defenders?
It’s such a tricky thing. I’m not supposed to talk about that. But I think there is lots of story left to tell with Jessica and I really love playing the character. I would love to throw on her boots and leather jacket anytime.
There’s some time until Jessica joins The Defenders, but how does it feel knowing that that’s where you’re heading?
It’s like hitting the lottery in terms of a gig. It’s rare to get a part in a show that’s greenlit, let alone two shows that have been greenlit. Everyone is so close-knit already on the crew. Mike Colter and I are super close, I’ve gotten to know Charlie [Cox] a little bit just because we’ve happened to cross paths in production. But I’m really looking forward to it. With the success of Daredevil and now Jessica Jones, they’re both so wildly different, and Luke Cage is going to be groundbreaking. Marvel and Netflix have proven they know what they’re doing. But it will be interesting to see how Jessica Jones fits in with those other guys because she doesn’t want to be a superhero. She doesn’t want anything to do with that. I have no idea how she’s going to be forced to team up with all of them.
That was actually the next question, since Jessica made it clear that she already tried doing the whole superhero thing and it didn’t work at all for her. What could possibly convince her to finally put the costume on?
Yeah, right? She has these powers and this innate goodness in her whether she likes it or not. So she’ll be a really valuable asset to the team. She has super strength. She can fly. Those things come in handy. (Laughs.)
Jessica Jones season one is now streaming on Netflix.
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