Ever since Daredevil‘s second season premiered on Netflix, viewers have been asking themselves the same questions. What new villains will appear in the so-totally-gonna-happen third season? What comic-book storylines might the showrunners adapt? Will the Irish mob finally get around to watching John Wick? All of these are important questions, to be sure, but the greatest question of them all has to do with a one-off character from the premiere episode, “Bang.”
Billed simply as “Homicide Detective” in the credits, the nameless figure is played by veteran character actor Robert McKay. His IMDb page is populated by roles whose titles start with words like “detective,” “sergeant” and “officer,” but as McKay indicated in his chat with Uproxx, he doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he relished the opportunity to play a weary, vocally expressive New York police officer in the his Marvel series.
How are you, sir?
I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m up to my neck in homicides, but I’m good.
[Laughs.] You’ve been popping up on television for quite some time. I remember you from The Sopranos…
Oh my god, really?
Yes. Was that one of your first roles?
Back in 2000, yes.
How’d that come about?
The thing with The Sopranos was… Okay, a little backstory. I first did something in high school, a little play. And honest to God, once you came out for the applause at the end of the show, it was something that stayed with me for a long time. But I didn’t pursue it until maybe the early ’90s. Then I said, “Let me revisit this. I really feel something when I do this.” So I started doing all the stuff that every actor does, what struggling actors do. I did the extra work. I went to all these things that were open.
And then I saw this thing in Backstage, one of the acting magazines, for which you’d send your picture to a post-office box. Some guy calls me two days later and said he had an audition for The Sopranos. It was only one line, and when I went in there were at least six other guys trying out for this. So I went in and auditioned, and everybody started laughing. The director, the producers and somebody else. I wasn’t sure if that was the reaction I wanted or should’ve gotten, so I left and two days later I had the role. That’s how I got my start.
You’ve had steady work on television ever since.
I’ve been very fortunate, yeah. Once or maybe twice a year, something comes along. So I just step in there and do it.
When I saw you playing a homicide detective on Daredevil, I thought of the old narrative about actors not wanting to be typecast. Yet lots of actors enjoy the character work. How do you feel about it?
You know, it’s funny. When I get submitted for something, especially after I was fortunate enough to first get representation, they look at me as that detective type. I’m not saying it pigeonholes me, but it does give me an opportunity to show what I can do. If anything expands beyond that range, that’s all well and good, but I realized after a while that I was doing too many of these. But then I look at the major movies and I see big stars playing cops. They’re playing doctors. They’re playing homicide detectives. It’s not something that I think is detrimental. It’s just something that’s helping me build as the actor. Not every cop is the same cop with the same problems. They’re individualized. They’re people with their own specific needs and wants and problems. It’s just more opportunities.
Your “homicide detective” was the best part of the Daredevil season two premiere, and I was devastated when he didn’t show up after the first episode. Several friends and colleagues said the same thing.
Yup. There was lots of chatter about you online, too. Especially on Twitter.
Alright, I would love for all of you guys to write a letter… [Laughs.]
…and send it! It’s funny you say that, because when I say that line about “It’s going to be a week of work for me,” I figured they’d bring the guy back. That he’d be called back and forth, and spoken to in regards to what happened in Hell’s Kitchen. Alas, it was not to be. I feel the same way, but you never know. If this sort of response to the character is happening, who knows?
I was pleased to see that others had responded just as my friends and I had. I was wondering if you’d seen any of this, but it sounds like you haven’t.
No, I haven’t. My agent was nice enough to send me that clip, but I’ve yet to watch the whole series. So yeah, this is all news to me but it’s really wonderful to hear.
You said you were “up to my neck in homicides.” What are you working on now?
I was fortunate enough to audition for a film shooting in Georgia called Hidden Figures. It’s about the onset of the space race, and how the Americans were using woman as living computers. Some of these women were African-American, and the role I play is that of a pastor who introduces the women and their loved ones to the community at large. I say what it is that they’re working for, for NASA. I’m playing a pastor, not a detective. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Do you have more freedom with the auditions that come your way these days?
In a way, yes. Along the way you develop certain friendships. So when people write movies and look for a particular actor for a certain role, those connections will come up. I recently shot a movie last year called Steps, and I also play a pastor in that. A few years ago, I played a recovering drug addict and Vietnam vet. I’ve been able to stretch out a little over the years, and a lot of the roles weren’t major ones, but they still allowed me to move beyond the detective roles. The detective roles have been more prominent, but I’ve been able to expand some in the last few years.
Was this how Daredevil came about?
No, Daredevil actually came through my representation in New York. The audition for this was so hush-hush…
They don’t tell anyone anything…
Yeah. You go to the audition. You don’t see the copy until 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment time. You say these words. You have to make a decision, about your choices regarding what the character might do, right then and there. Then you get the callback saying “this is for Daredevil” and you’re like, “Wow! That’s for this?” That was done in New York.
Some of the other work I’ve been able to do… Years ago I wasn’t able to do enough work, so I allowed myself the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia, more recently to Pittsburgh and now to North Carolina. It allowed me to open up my realm, so to speak, to get more work. So my suggestion to anyone who finds themselves bogged down and not getting anything, any kind of work, is to allow yourself to the freedom to travel. You never know because it might pay off.
The second season of Daredevil is available to stream on Netflix.