WITH THE DEFENDERS ON THE HORIZON, IT’S TIME FOR IRON FIST TO COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS. SHOWRUNNER SCOTT BUCK, HEAD OF MARVEL TV JEPH LOEB AND ACTOR FINN JONES TALK KUNG FU FIGHTING, CROSSOVERS AND BRINGING DANNY RAND TO LIFE…
FINN JONES IS DANNY RAND
The Game Of Thrones star talks taking on Iron Fist
How familiar were you with Iron Fist and the Defenders when you joined the show?
I knew of Netﬂix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones but never came across the comics before. Growing up in the UK I don’t think the US comic book culture really translates as much for kids. Upon reading the character description in the audition breakdown I was immediately hooked. There was something about Danny’s inner power and optimism that struck me straight away.
Why does Danny Rand stand out from the other Defenders?
He’s the youngest and certainly the most vulnerable, but despite his traumatic past he has an optimism and naivety that isn’t usually displayed in superheroes. He’s ﬂawed and nowhere near perfect. He’s driven and headstrong. I admire those attributes, especially as they all conﬂict with each other – to me, it’s what makes Danny real.
What unique ﬂavour does Iron Fist bring to the MCU?
I ﬁnd his inner, more spiritual super powers a nice break from the usual smash and thump superheroes we’re used to. However, what we see with our version of Danny is that he is a character trying to behave centred and disciplined. After all, he is mortal, and a 25-year-old mortal at that… he has a way to go yet.
What has been the highlight while working with Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter on The Defenders ? The greatest highlight is how well we all get on with each other – I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much with a group of people. There is a natural dynamic and energy created between us, and it’s been a joy all of us working together.
NETFLIX HAS BEEN BUSY. IN JUST UNDER TWO YEARS, THE STREAMING SERVICE HAS SOMEHOW MANAGED TO ADD WHAT IS EFFECTIVELY A WHOLE NEW universe on to the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was huge already. And spanning across two seasons of Daredevil , and one each of Jessica Jones , Luke Cage , and the upcoming Iron Fist , there’s no stopping it. Especially when there’s also a super-powered team-up as big and awesome as the Defenders series on the cards very soon.
But how do you make your fourth and ﬁ nal superhero, in this case martial artist Danny Rand – also known as Iron Fist, stand out from the crowd when everyone is busy getting hyped for the epic superhero collaboration that’s waiting over the horizon? We speak to Iron Fist showrunner Scott Buck and Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb about what to expect from Netﬂix’s mysterious new Defender, and how he’s set to make waves in New York. “We always begin with the person, not the powers,” Loeb says of the Defenders’ empire.
He found Danny Rand’s story particularly compelling. As a rich kid living in the ﬁnancial district of New York, Rand had everything taken away from him when his parents died and he became lost on the other side of the world. Believed to be dead, Rand causes some raised eyebrows when he shows up in New York 15 years later, very much not.
“He reappears with stories that sound like he’s crazy, and all he’s trying to do is get someone to believe in him,” Loeb continues. “It’s a story about a young man who, to ﬁnd a way to get someone to believe in him, needs to believe in himself ﬁ rst. We think that is a universal story. Even though Danny Rand is a billionaire, which makes him not even part of the one percent, he’s vulnerable and likeable, particularly in the way that Finn Jones plays him. But, make no mistake about it, he’s also dangerous and we hope you’ll fall in love with him the way we have.”
“Danny is different from the other Defenders in that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage are all very dark, haunted characters,” adds Buck.
“They’re also older, they’re in their thirties, so that’s who they’re going to be. But when we meet Danny Rand, he’s still young. He’s in his twenties and despite everything that’s happened, he’s still optimistic, which is that no matter what happens somehow everything is going to be all right, even if past evidence doesn’t suggest so. He’s a more hopeful, lighter and youthful character than the others.”
When we first meet Danny in episode one, he’s wandering around Wall Street with bare feet, a backpack and a smile on his face, trying to find someone to chat to and help him out. In short, he’s immediately more approachable than characters like Jessica Jones, who walk around with chips on their shoulders. As a character, Rand is also more relatable.
“With Daredevil,” says Loeb, “he’s already become a vigilante, and in the case of Jessica Jones, her world has already been turned upside-down, and with Luke Cage, he’s already a bulletproof man trying to decide what role he’s going to play in life. Danny comes into our world and is immediately judged by the way people look at him, and who hasn’t had that happen to them in some way? He has to prove who he is to everyone and you immediately get drawn into the story. He feels more human in a way, but when he kicks ass it’s a lot of fun.”
Loeb and Buck agree that Danny’s relatable character mostly comes from the way actor Finn Jones plays him. “All of those Defenders characters are complex,” says Loeb. “What Finn is able to do almost effortlessly is be vulnerable and yet strong, be funny and yet serious, be accessible and yet very dangerous. Being able to balance the extremes of that character, who may well have some kind of mental disorder, and carry all of that and make it someone who we still care about is remarkable. We knew it from the moment Finn walked in and we were very lucky to have him join.”
Like all Netflix’s Defenders shows, Iron Fist is wheeling out a multi-layered foe and this one’s set to rival Daredevil’s Kingpin, Jessica Jones’ Purple Man and Luke Cage’s Cottonmouth. But corporate villain Harold Meachum, played by David Wenham, may not be all he seems. “That’s sort of the question we like: is he a villain or isn’t he?” says Buck.
“That’s part of the mystery of the show. We try to play him as real and as grounded as possible and that’s the fun of doing these shows for Netflix. We can create real characters, so he’s not a onedimensional villain. He’s someone that we actually feel for at times because he’s complex with human needs.”
“What makes each of our stories as compelling as we hope they are is that the main character is the hero of the story, but then the so-called villain, from his point of view, thinks that he is the hero of the story,” Loeb explains. “From [Kingpin’s] point of view, he was just trying to help New York, and there’s a man running around in a mask that’s trying to stop him doing that! Which one is wrong? We approach every story from the point of view that the villain is the hero of his own story, and that the hero of our story is actually the villain of his. So what Harold is trying to do, in many ways, is heroic. It’s just, as we’ll find out, his methods may be something that you’d want to call into question.”
Similarly, Iron Fist is set to bring its own unique flavour to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, more specifically, to the world of the Defenders . “We bring in a bit of the Kung Fu-style movie to Defenders that we don’t see in the others,” Buck tells us.
“It’s a different character that has a slightly lighter, less gritty tone.”
Loeb reckons Iron Fist has three things that make it stand out from its sister shows: “One is that we’re telling a story about a hero that’s a bit younger than the rest,” he says. “And so in many ways he’s got an enthusiasm that is incredibly infectious, but also quite naïve. He hasn’t got the same cynicism as Jessica Jones or Matt Murdock. Two, there’s incredible action and adventure that lives in the world of martial arts, and we’ve tried our best to pay homage to an incredible kind of ﬁlmmaking. And three, it’s a story of a man who’s trying to prove himself, not only to the world but to himself, without a family and without anyone to really help deﬁ ne who he is. He hopes he can ﬁnd himself.”
Like Danny Rand, the show needs to deﬁne itself if it is going to stand a chance of not being overshadowed by the anticipation leading up to the long awaited team-up series, The Defenders . Loeb says Marvel begins every television series, whether it’s on Netﬂ ix, ABC or FX, the same way it approaches its comic book lines.
“There’s a motto that we go by in the comic books, which is for someone, every comic is their ﬁrst comic,” he tells us. “It’s the same way with television. We have to assume, or rather we hope, that a lot of the audience for Daredevil , Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are coming to see Iron Fist . But we also have to think about an audience that hasn’t seen any of those other shows.
“We need to tell something that’s very accessible, but at the same time something that feels like it’s part of something larger so that you do have the hunger to be able to go: ‘How can I learn more about the Marvel universe?’ The good thing about Netﬂ ix is Daredevil seasons One and Two and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are also on! So, after you ﬁ nish the 13 hours of Iron Fist , there is plenty more for you to watch before you see the Defenders .”
Marvel has become well-known for weaving its properties together, and the studios’ TV series are no exception. Bringing the likes of Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, who ﬁrst appeared in a main role in Daredevil Season One and then into Jessica Jones , Luke Cage and Iron Fist helps to build anticipation for The Defenders by reminding the audience that everything is connected. But Rosario Dawson isn’t the only thing all of the shows have in common…
“More importantly, we have New York City, which we consider to be our ﬁfth Defender,” Loeb tells us. “Our story is about New York and the people that live there, and how each of those worlds are different. Danny takes us to a place where we have never really been in our story land, which is that one percent – that world of Park Avenue and that Wall Street world of high ﬁnance. Then he immediately counter-cultures it with Colleen Wing’s (Jessica Henwick) world, and what that world is in Chinatown, a whole other district of Manhattan that becomes another part of that character of the show.”
With The Defenders on the horizon, Loeb gives us a little teaser regarding what to expect: “I know it sounds cliché but expect the unexpected,” he says. “ Defenders has always been Marvel’s greatest non-team. These are four very distinct, very well-drawn characters that have to ﬁ nd a way of working together for a very short amount of time with no guarantee that they aren’t going to just kill each other.”
Iron Fist is available to stream on Netﬂ ix from 17 March.
EssEntial Iron Fist
Danny rand stories you should read before watching the series
Marvel Premiere #15-16
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Gil Kane
Inker: Dick Giodano
Colourist: Glynis Wein
Letters: LP Gregory
Iron Fist made his first entrance in the Marvel Premiere Vol. 1 stor y The Fury Of Iron Fist! , in May 1974. We meet Danny Rand in the realm of K’un-Lun, where he has just finished demonstrating his fighting skills before his master Yu-Ti and his Dragon Kings.
Iron Fist #1-7
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Al McWilliams
Colourist: Janice Cohen
Letters: Dave Hunt
Danny Rand’s first solo adventure commences in this seven-issue arc, in which he infiltrates Stark Industries and teams up with Misty Knight to rescue Colleen Wing. Predictably, Iron Man ends up showing up, and Rand and Stark fight it out.
Immortal Iron Fist vol. 2: ‘ the seven Capital Cities of heaven’
Writers: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction
Artists: Kano, David Aja, Tonci Zonjic
Of all the Iron Fist comics, The Seven Capital Cities Of Heaven is the one you need to read the most urgently. Iron Fist returns to K’unLun to kick ass in a tournament against the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. With so much action and high stakes, this is a nail-biter.
ETA: Summer 2017
Confrmed cast: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Sigourney Weaver
Showrunner: Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez
Body: Not much is known about the imminent Defenders , except that our heroes will be battling Sigourney Weaver’s powerful Alexandra. There’s also a wealth of conﬁ rmed returning characters, from Elektra (Elodie Yung) and Stick (Scott Glenn) to Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick). Oh, and Rosario Dawson will be back as Claire Temple obviously.
ETA: 2017 TBC
Conﬁrmed cast: Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah
Showrunner: Steve Lightfoot
Body: We absolutely cannot wait for Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle to get his own solo run. Westworld’s Ben Barnes will continue to stretch his villainous muscles as classic villain Jigsaw, and Girls star Ebon Moss-Bachrach will be playing Frank’s loyal hardware supplier Micro. Following the bond they formed in Daredevil , Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) will also play a key role in the series.
Jessica Jones Season 2
ETA: 2018A second season was conﬁrmed for the PI back in January last year but it’s been on the back burner due to Jessica’s Defenders duties. We won’t get it until next year at the earliest. With Kilgrave out of the picture, who will step in as the antagonist?
Daredevil Season 3
Much like Jessica Jones , the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen deﬁnitely has another season on the way but it has not started rolling yet. Although there are still plenty of ninjas out there and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is still around, surely it’s time they gave us Bullseye.
Luke Cage Season 2
After completely breaking Netﬂ ix on its debut, it is absolutely no surprise that everyone wants more Luke Cage, and an ofﬁ cial order was given in December. It remains to be seen where it will come in the packed schedule though.
ON THE BENCH Some of the classic Defenders are waiting for their call-up
The Sub-Mariner One of the founding members of The Defenders , we’re still yet to see a live action Namor (although there are some rumours that it won’t be too long before we do).
Valkyrie How long can be it before we get a bit of Asgard on the streets of New York? She combines super strength with ﬁnancial backing, although it should be noted that she can be a little bit unpredictable…
Nighthawk Kyle Richmond’s character arc could add variety to the line-up, as a spoiled kid former super villain turned hero. Nighthawk was originally part of the Squadron Sinister before he saw the error of his ways.
Gargoyle Gargoyle is possibly a little too fantastical for this group. Isaac Christians is an elderly WW1 veteran who made an ill-advised pact with some hellspawn that resulted in his soul being transferred to a gargoyle’s body.
The Son Of Satan I they need some Ghost Rider-esque devilishness, Daimon Hellstrom is your man. He’s literally the son of Satan with a lot of dark magic gifts to battle the forces of darkness