What’s it like becoming part of the Marvel Universe – did you grow up reading superhero comics?
I always felt it was unattainable. The Marvel Universe literally seemed a world away, and even now I can't quite digest it. It was also a great opportunity to work with Netflix, who I feel are pretty much dominating the TV market at the moment. In saying this, I try to put all of this to the back of my mind as you suddenly start to feel the hefty weight and your shoulders! I try to see it like any other gig ....and do the best I can I do. I'd never read any of the super hero comics so I was clearly a Marvel 'virgin'. Looking back now, I feel that maybe this was a blessing, as I had no preconceived ideas about the character. The comics really gave me the foundations of Iron Fist, and the world, which was really addictive...the Netflix/ Marvel series however offers fans something quite different. They were taking ideas/ concepts and flipping them on their head. And this is what really attracted me to the project.
Davos is well known to Iron Fist fans. What can we expect from your portrayal of the character?
In the comics, Davos is three times the size of me, and wears a black and purple superhero outfit. He's the outright villain. As much as I'd love to squeeze into some purple lycra, I didn't want that to be my interpretation of Davos ...not yet anyway. I really wanted Davos to be real, human even. Season 1 really establishes who this guy is and his relationship with Danny Rand. And I wanted it to become apparent very quickly that Davos is not the 'bad guy'. He has clear reasons for doing what he does. It's not as simple as wanting to 'steal' the Iron Fist off Danny Rand. In fact, Davos was happy that Danny became the Iron Fist, but with Danny having now abandoned K'un Lun and it's people; it's not only scarred their duty to the cause, but its scarred their duty to each other, as 'brothers'. Its a dynamic that's much more complex, and we're only scratching the surface by the end of season 1. Right now though I felt it was important for the audience to understand the heart of their relationship, before it changes forever.
Do you enjoy playing villainous or ‘bad’ characters on screen?
I never see these characters as villainous or 'bad'. If you start playing 'the villain', I don't think it's as interesting. Each character has clear actions/ reasons for behaving/ reacting in a certain way...Once I get to the heart of that, that's when the character becomes exciting to me. The 'villains' are always my biggest challenge to play, but are the most fun, because you have the ability to flip the role on it's head, and challenge the audiences initial perception.
Many people will be wondering how Iron Fist will be adapted to the small screen. Can you give us a bit of a background?
I feel that Netflix/ Marvel have taken the concept of the comics, but created something very different. The comics feature a lot of action, which is great, but I'm not sure how interesting that would be for fans over 13 hour long episodes. What Marvel/ Netflix were interested to explore was the drama and the complexity of the characters in the comics, with a few new characters added in for extra measure! Netflix/ Marvel are brilliant in taking a concept, which can appear a little far fetched on the surface, and bring it totally up to date in a modern setting. Furthermore, they're great at getting you hooked on the story by constantly throwing you with surprises...you can never predict what's round the corner.
Iron Fist is the last of the Defenders to see their solo show come to our screens. Is there a reason for that, do you think?
Not that I know of. Each Defender is very different and appeals to a variety of audiences. I'm presuming Netflix/ Marvel just felt that now was time to release Iron Fist to its fans, as well as the Netflix subscribers.
There has been some criticism to casting Finn Jones, a white male, as Danny Rand. What are your thoughts on the casting decision and what Jones brings to the role?
I understand totally where the criticisms were coming from, but I strongly believe that Finn was the right man for the job. Finn has a certain naivety, which Danny needs. This is just the beginning of Danny's story and the character needs to have room to grow and develop as the superhero (this is only season 1); something which Danny only really connects to half way through the series. Finn taps into this perfectly. Finn and I never tested together so I wasn't quite sure how the chemistry would work, and trust me I've experienced some real disasters! The relationship between Danny/ Davos is so crucial to the story, without that, the show has a very weak foundation. Luckily, it all clicked together from the get go, and it was easy! I was slightly disappointed that the show was criticized for 'white washing' when the full series hadn't been released. In saying that, I fully appreciate the importance of diversity in both TV & Film. And there's a real lack of it. As an 'actor of ethnicity' I've been very lucky, but it hasn't been easy. Things are definitely in motion with regards to that, but we still have a way to go.
What would you say is the most exciting thing about this project?
It's 13 hours of TV that strives to entertain the socks off you by simply telling you a bloody good story! Oh, and there's some amazing fight sequences to get your adrenaline going!
In a world where new superhero movies and TV shows are coming out all the time, how does Iron Fist stand out from the super-crowd?
All the Marvel TV shows are very different, and like Iron Fist, it has its own identity; from the soundtrack, to the characters, even the cinematography! Iron Fist appeals to its fans like all the Marvel shows, but it's themes appeal more to a younger audience, in relation to the other Defenders. In saying that, I feel Iron Fist reaches out the kid inside you no matter how old you are... When Danny first ignites his fist, you'll see what I mean...
You’ve starred in some incredibly diverse projects in your career to date. What inspires you to be so adaptable in your acting?
I love investigating the psychology of different people, and how it effects them both emotionally and physically. In fact the majority of my prep time is spent researching the character as I get such a buzz piecing it all together. For me though the real fun comes when you step on set, let all of that 'work' go, and trust your instinct. And more importantly, be brave enough to be playful. And it's the 'playing' that inspires, and encourages me to take myself out of my comfort zone. Once I've closed the book on one character, I strive to take on a project that flips the last character on it's head.
Is there a particular moment in your career where you thought “I’ve made it”?
I don't think there'll ever be a moment when I'll feel 'I've made it'...but there have been times when I've experienced moments in my career when I've thought 'how the hell did this happen?' For instance, finding myself singing RnB tunes with Will Smith (my childhood hero) between takes....
What else can we look forward to from you over the next couple of years?
I'm just about to start a one-off film for the BBC based on Sathnam Sanghera's The Boy with the TopKnot. It's a beautiful and touching story, and I can't wait to get started on it.
Iron Fist is currently showing on Netflix