Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick star as martial arts masters teaming up to combat evil.
The latest Marvel comic-book hero, Iron Fist, makes his TV debut this week on Netflix.
British actor Finn Jones, best known for his role as ill-fated Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, stars as Danny Rand, who was believed to have perished in a plane crash in the Himalayas with his wealthy parents.
But, although they died, he survived and was raised by monks in the mystical hidden city of K’un-Lu and taught kung fu and Buddhist philosophy.
Fifteen years later Danny returns to New York. However, when he arrives at his parents’ multinational company, Rand Enterprises, shoeless and looking like a hippy, he doesn’t receive the warm welcome he had anticipated.
His childhood friend Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) and her scheming brother Ward (Tom Pelphrey) are now running the corporation. Wary and distrustful, they refuse to believe Danny is who he claims to be.
Ward even resorts to force to get the interloper out of the picture, but his attempts backfire as Danny has the ability to ignite the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.
‘He’s an incredibly fierce warrior,’ says Jones. ‘But he doesn’t know who he is. He’s a child trapped in a man’s body.
‘I love the character. I really enjoy how he’s a superhero with a real heart, but has spiritual elements as well. On one hand he’s from a very wealthy family, but he’s also learned Buddhist philosophy. There’s a contradiction in those elements that’s really fun to play.’
Luckily, Danny finds a friend in the form of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), who is also pretty handy with her fists – and feet – and teaches martial arts in New York.
Colleen first encounters Danny when she sees him practising Tai Chi in the park. She assumes, because of his scruffy appearance, that he’s homeless.
‘She gives him some coins and he runs after her and tells her he’s not a beggar,’ explains Henwick, who is best known for playing the whip-wielding Nymeria Sand in Game of Thrones, and also played X-wing fighter pilot Jessika Pava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
‘Colleen’s first instinct is that he’s autistic. But then she gets to know him and it becomes clear he’s not what he first seems. She’s the only person who believes him when he says, “I am Danny Rand, the long-lost billionaire”. Everyone else thinks he’s mentally ill.’
Colleen also has quite a lot in common with Danny.
‘Her mum died and her father sent her away. Later in the series, we explain why she is the way she is. The main point is, like Danny, she’s alone now. Something about him reminds her of herself, though she is not the type to admit that,’ says the 24-year-old.
Colleen’s martial arts skills make her the perfect partner for Danny as he takes on the dark forces in the world, which have already infested Rand Enterprises. For the actress, however, there was a painful price to pay for the fullthrottle fighting scenes.
‘Filming took about seven months, and I was training for up to seven hours a day. By the end of it, I felt like I was dying, but it was worth it because I was able to do almost all of my stunts myself and I have the battle scars to prove it.
Henwick, who reprises her role as Colleen in Marvel’s The Defenders later this year (see panel), says being part of a successful franchise has opened her eyes to the incredible security measures employed to keep scripts from falling into the wrong hands.
‘Star Wars was very serious about security, while Game of Thrones only really stepped it up this past year, but Marvel took the cake,’ she says. ‘I could read the script, but I couldn’t save it onto my computer. If I had any questions for the showrunner, I had to use this special email account they set up for me which was all code-locked and had triple verification.’
Henwick is quick to add that she’s grateful to Iron Fist and her other fantasy roles for the turbo boost they have given her career. ‘They have got me where I am, and I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the three strongest roles that I’ve played to date have all been in fantasy franchises.’ But the Surreyborn star does admit to wanting to take a break to do something a little more low key. ‘I would like someone to give me a script that I can take down to the café and sit and read there,’ she laughs.
AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR…
First there was Daredevil, then Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Now they’ve been joined by Iron Fist – the fourth and final member of Marvel’s Defenders.
The quartet will appear this summer in Netflix crossover series The Defenders. It sees the four heroes in Hell’s Kitchen, where they each embark on their own separate investigations before battling the villainous Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver.
‘What you’ll see in The Defenders is Danny is definitely becoming more comfortable with his environment because he has others around him and he’s not going at it alone anymore,’ reveals Finn Jones. ‘You get to see Danny’s brighter side, and he’s not so tormented because he’s found his purpose.