The Defenders showrunners interview

We first spoke with Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez by phone when they wrote and produced the second season of Daredevil. They are big fans of /Film, especially Ramirez, so when I met them in person at a Marvel Television cocktail party for the Television Critics Association, it was fun to geek out together in person.

Ramirez and Petrie went from showrunning Daredevil to showrunning the long-anticipated Marvel TV series The Defenders. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will meet in the fifth Marvel TV series on Netflix in 2017. Here is what Petrie and Ramirez were able to say about the upcoming show at this point. 

How big of an adjustment was it going from Daredevil to The Defenders?

Petrie: Oh wow, what a great question. It was a very natural adjustment. I’m such a big fan of the other shows that it’s been really exciting to take Matt Murdock, who’s so singular in his focus, and spread him out into this other world.

Does television allow you to spend more time exploring the part where the Defenders don’t get along at first?

Petrie: You have time over the many episodes, exactly, to spread out the characters, let them breathe, let them expand and let them get to know each other, so they don’t have to love each other right away, but we’ll love them by the end.

Ramirez: I think yes. Somebody asked earlier about whether or not The Defenders is going to feature more spectacle, more explosions, basically, was the question.

Why would it?

Ramirez: I don’t know. I really think what the focus of these shows and what makes a show like Daredevil and a show like [Jessica Jones] and I’ve seen Luke [Cage], it’s fantastic, is that they’re really sophisticated character stories. So I think the thing that excites us the most going into The Defenders and writing these scripts is just to tell character stories and interaction between them, watch them bump up against each other.

That was the most fun part of The Avengers when they didn’t get along for the first half of the movie.

Petrie: Of course. It’s fun because it’s just like any other family. They have to fight.

Ramirez: What’s been fun is we have a lot of time to tell his story. It’s not a two-hour movie. We’ll have eight or however many episodes so really everybody gets to interact with everybody. It’s been one of the great joys of watching something like The Avengers or The Dirty Dozen, any movie like that. Any of those stories feels like people are going to watch people grow, bump heads, fight along the same side. We want to watch all that.

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If people think it’s TV’s The Avengers, is The Defenders very different from The Avengers?

Ramirez: I think it’s easy to just sell it as TV’s The Avengers but I really think it’s different. I was trying to think about it the other day. There aren’t many projects in TV that have ever done something like this. You often feel like people sometimes splinter off a show and do a spinoff, but you never kind of have them spin in. You never kind of have four different properties overlap and come into each other.

Are you able to design episodes where it’s only one Defender, or they pair off?

Petrie: We’ll be doing a lot of mixing and matching absolutely, but I think the fun of it is to see the team.

In the writers room, which pairings have you discovered are really great?

Ramirez: We have four stunningly talented actors. The world knows Mike [Colter] because the world saw JJ. So we have four great actors. There’s no version of me answering that question without somehow spoiling something or somehow disappointing an actor.

Petrie: They’re all great. Any two you put together makes sense because if you have Matt and Jessica, you get two very smart hard tripping New Yorkers. If you’ve got Danny and Luke, you’ve got what fans recognize as heroes for hire, but we’re not there yet. If you’ve got Jessica and Danny, you’ve got the hard cynic and the wide-eyed innocent. So there’s really no pairing that doesn’t work.

When there is action, and there will be some…

Ramirez: Yeah, you can’t have these four together and not have some.

Is designing the action different, figuring out how four people with abilities work together?

Petrie: Oh my gosh, yes. The fight scenes are exponentially more complicated, but also there’s an opportunity too that’s much more fun.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to having to service so many characters in each sequence?

Ramirez: If anything it’s been a great challenge because it makes you feel like I have to stay true to who these characters are. Luke has to be Luke. JJ has to be JJ and Danny has to be Danny. Same with Matt. If anything, it’s been a real exercise almost in restraint. These people are all so strong headed, so I’ve taken it as a learning experience. They’re all so strong willed and so smart and so capable that sometimes, this was something I experienced writing for Frank [Castle, a.k.a. Punisher] last season, sometimes the page screams back. It’s like, “No, no, this is what I’m doing. I don’t care what your plans are.”

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