Elden Henson has experienced quite a bit over 30 plus year career, but his 5-year-old self could never have dreamed of what the past year would entail. Best known for his role as Fulton in “The Mighty Ducks” movies, Henson's last two projects were about as high profile as you can get: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2” and Netflix's new series “Marvel's Daredevil.” The former is halfway out the door and the latter? Well, it's about to drop on Netflix this Friday to massive critical acclaim.
Developed for television by Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods”), “Daredevil” is a dark, gritty and grounded adaptation of the classic Marvel comic book character. Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock, aka the Man Without Fear, a legally blind lawyer by day and a masked vigilante out to protect the residents of Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen from criminals by night. Henson plays Foggy Nelson, Murdock's best friend and legal partner, who was introduced in the same first issue of “Daredevil” that our crimson hero made his debut in back in 1964.
Speaking to Henson last week, the 37-year-old bluntly admitted he knew very little about the character or comic series before getting the gig. He also knew, however, that if he didn't play the often bumbling and out of his depths Foggy with some authenticity fans would see right through him. And while he eventually caught up, it turns out his limited knowledge was exactly what the producers wanted.
“[They] said, 'That”s good because, you know, we really want to make a crime show' and that really sort of hit home with me because I like things that are more slightly grounded in reality,” Henson says. “I don”t even know if reality”s the right word, but this idea that he”s fighting crime on the street level as opposed to being this superhero that can fly or who”s like saving the world.”
Yes, this Daredevil isn't the roof jumping acrobat Ben Affleck brought to the big screen in 2003's “Daredevil,” but that's not the only difference between the two adaptations. Karen Paige, played here by “True Blood's” Deborah Ann Woll, has a much bigger role and familiar characters such as Elektra and Bullseye are nowhere to be seen (at least in the first five episodes). Karen has often been the love interest for Murdock in the comic and while the initial episodes tease that possibility she actually spends most of her timing bonding with Foggy. Will the pair end up romantically involved? You'll be able to discover yourself depending how fast you get through the 13-episode season, but Henson wasn't spoiling anything with just a week to go until its public release.
“You know the truth is a lot of people ask that question. I realize it”s kind of a big one and I”m one of these people that hates to disappoint,” Henson says. “So, I don”t want to give anything away but I will say that Deborah plays Karen beautifully and Foggy is very much interested.”
Could Foggy Nelson actually find happiness in the first season of “Daredevil”? That would be a most welcome and unexpected take from a series that no matter what the hype is still likely to shock longtime fans. This show is very violent and bloody and you'll see Daredevil do things that seem slightly out of character (although depending on how he's been depicted over the years, maybe not). When we spoke Henson hadn't watched any of the series yet and was taking the compliments on his performance with a grain of salt. You see, for most of the six-month production he wasn't getting much sleep.
“Ask Charlie or Deb,” Henson insists. “I would literally be like on set like, 'Was I sleeping?' I was constantly looking at my lines because I had such baby brain that I couldn”t retain anything, man. I”m shocked I didn”t get fired. I”m really shocked I didn”t get fired.”
He pauses and adds, “Maybe I was just too tired to even think and maybe that worked for me. Maybe I just didn”t over think it.”
Henson and his wife moved to New York City to shoot “Daredevil” just three weeks after his son was born and being on a Marvel series didn't exempt him from those mandatory late night feedings. It was just another part of that life-altering year we alluded to earlier. Henson spent months shooting “Mockingjay” in Berlin while his wife remained in Los Angeles (a gig he still can't believe he got by just sending in a photo). He then wrapped “Mockingjay” on June 19 and arrived in LA the next day for the birth of their first child. Three weeks later? New York. And as for “Daredevil,” to this day he might be shocked he didn't get fired, but he still can't believe he got the gig in the first place. Blame it on — or, perhaps, thank — Skype.
It all began when Henson's manager let him know about this “super secretive” audition while he was still working in Germany. He sent in a tape which he thought the producers would hate because he was shooting nights (lack of sleep appears to be a theme in Henson's life), but they followed up asking to talk on Skype. Apparently, Henson recalls that part of the audition as a “nightmare.”
“I couldn”t get the Skype to work on my computer. I don”t speak German and the tech guy at the hotel didn”t really speak much English. And I”m the worst tech guy in the world which is hilarious because I play them a lot on TV and movies and stuff,” Henson says. “I”m always like the guy that”s like typing away, you know? I”m great at fake typing but in real life terrible. So, everything that could go wrong basically went wrong over this Skype screen test. I ended up using my phone and there were sound issues and then, of course, everyone I knew decided to call me right when I was doing it. I think we maybe even only got through the audition scene like once without being interrupted.”
Henson couldn't believe he actually got the gig after that “audition,” but thinks his reaction might have been exactly what they were looking for. He ponders, “In retrospect I think maybe the more I was sort of like getting flustered maybe they were like, 'You really just are Foggy.'”
Marvel has announced its next Netflix series are “A.K.A. Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “The Defenders,” but Henson is still hoping another “Daredevil” season is possible.
“I think there is a little opening there to continue on with the story of these characters. I think maybe it just comes from my own desire to keep working with these people,” Henson says. “I mean, honestly, I know people say this all the time, and trust me, I”ve even said it at interviews when I didn”t mean it, but I really mean it this time. This is the nicest group of people I”ve ever worked with.”
Henson continues, “It was just a great experience. Even our crew in New York was awesome, dude. Like Terence the boom operator who just texted me this morning as I was on my way to the hotel just was like, 'Congrats on the reviews.' Do you know what I mean? It”s like these people they become your family and your friends. I really hope to continue to do it for a long time or as long as they”ll let me.”
“Marvel's Daredevil” will be available on Netflix on Friday.