Interview: 'Daredevil' Showrunners Marco Ramirez And Doug Petrie On Unleashing The Punisher

Daredevil season two introduces new characters on screen. Jon Bernthal stars as Frank Castle, Marvel comic's antihero the Punisher, and Elodie Yung stars as classic Daredevil love interest Elektra. There's some new blood behind the scenes too, or at least promoted blood. Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie graduated to showrunners this year, after working as writers and producers on season one.

We got to speak with Ramirez and Petrie in advance of the season premiere on Netflix. Ramirez even gave /Film a couple of shoutouts during our talk. Daredevil returns March 18 on Netflix. 

Marco: I'm a huge fan of your website. I'm very excited to be doing this interview.

What was the overlap with Jessica Jones? Were you privy to anything they were doing between seasons of Daredevil?

Marco: Yeah, their writers room was actually across the hall from ours so we could just walk over at any point, be like, "Hey guys, what are you guys doing?" So we were lucky in that regard and actually the way that the Marvel Netflix shows are all set up, we're all in a building. So we can walk over and say, "Hey, are you doing this? Can we do this? Can we use Turk? What are you guys doing with Turk?" So actually the overlap is physical.

Did anything they were doing tonally inform you or encourage you to push boundaries?

Marco: I think we were encouraged from Marvel at every point, that every one of the four shows should be their own thing. They should have their own visual identity and storytelling identity. Certainly we were excited for the boundaries they were pushing over there. Pushing boundaries is always a good thing, I don't know.

Doug: I think their general ballsiness was very inspiring to us. There was very friendly competition where when Daredevil came out, it was very well received. Season one of Jessica came out, it was very, very well received and now we're going okay, how do you top that? Hopefully we'll just all keep passing the ball among the four shows for a long time.

What was the development and decision to play Frank Castle's backstory as more of a mystery? The Nelson and Murdock team are actually trying to uncover what happened to his family and where he came from.

Marco: I think because Doug and I are both fans of the comics in so many ways, one of the conversations we had early on was it felt like it's a given. Everybody knows Frank Castle's backstory. And then, the more we talked to the writers and the more we realized that Daredevil season one and Jessica as well, they were bringing new fans to the table, to the binge world. It felt like maybe this isn't a given. Maybe not everybody knows this. So storytelling-wise, is there some fun in watching Matt Murdock and Foggy and Karen Page unpack this stuff? For an audience who came to watch Daredevil, they're watching Daredevil learn information. For the audience who came to watch Punisher, they're watching Daredevil react to information they already know. So it was a lot of that actually. At first, it was like well, of course, it's the Punisher. It's Frank Castle. We all know his story. But we realized we actually don't all know his story, so we should tell it. And also, because we were taking a kind of bold retelling of the story, we thought it was important for us to unpack it at our own pace, in our own way.

Was it important that both Castle and Elektra come to the series fully formed, you're not doing their origin stories?

Doug: Well, I don't think they are fully formed. I think that's what we learned from season one, as Marco was saying. I'm dating myself, but it's like watching a Polaroid photo develop. You know what the picture's going to be. The fun is in watching it come into being and I think that our characters are all about becoming, as opposed to being what the fans expect. As we build them piece by piece, morally and emotionally and in terms of costuming, we don't start with the Kingpin. We start with Wilson Fisk. And we don't start with Daredevil, we start with Matt Murdock. I think that approach is something that was so successful in season one that as storytellers and as people who want to build on previous seasons, we thought that that was a great way to unfold this over 13 episodes.

Daredevil Season 2

Was the stairwell fight your attempt to top the hallway fight in episode two of season one?

Marco: We talked about it. We talked about the hallway fight a lot while we were in the room on season one and how it would be this big showpiece for us. But I don't think we wanted to top anything. If anything, certainly there were discussions on "What if we did another one?" That felt like doing a cover band version of something we had done the year before. So it felt like what do we want to do that's not exactly the stairwell fight? What do we want to do that's equally cool but very different? The last thing we want is for the audience to feel like, "Oh, here comes another one." So I don't know if we thought about topping it. If anything, it just felt like let's add that one onto the fight scenes from Daredevil that people are going to love. It's certainly really different to the Russian fight scene in episode two, season one. The way it's shot, there's more of a heavy metal, drugged out energy in it. It's got tons of pumpy testosterone in it and it's aggressive and he's doing really brutal things. And also the big difference we have is he's in the suit this time as opposed to at the end of the second episode in season one, he's still in the vigilante outfit.

With Daredevil and Elektra fighting together, does that change the choreography of the fight scenes, that it's more of a team up?

Doug: Oh yeah, we can't say enough about Philip Silvera and our entire stunt team. The greatest thing about them is not just their physical abilities which are extraordinary, but they're real storytellers. So we had extensive discussions about if Matt Murdock is fighting alone as Daredevil, it's going to look one way. When he's teaming up with someone else, it's going to look a different way and there's going to be back and forth and there's going to be give and take. There's going to be a relationship that's being furthered and formed through the ballet of violence. Those guys got that beautifully I thought.

You had the benefit of making the first season before anyone saw it. Did you take any of the fan feedback and comments on the first season into consideration moving forward? Was any of it informative?

Marco: I think it was really informative. Marvel and Netflix took really big bold steps in allowing Daredevil season one to be as dark and violent and gritty as it was. So if anything, coming into season two, it felt like that was something the audience really reacted to was oh my God, this is different than the stuff that's being done in the movies. This is a whole other level of grit and violence in comic book storytelling. So if anything, we were encouraged to embrace it and we were encouraged to keep that tradition going. Yes, I can speak for myself, I read message boards too. I read comment boards on /Film. I do it, but I can't say that we actively went to react to any critics or any users on any of those blogs. It really mostly just felt like we were given the keys to this great car and now it's time to race it as fast and as hard as we can.

The plan originally was to do one season of each character and then The Defenders. Now that Daredevil and Jessica Jones are getting second seasons and the individual shows can continue, does that change things as far as mapping out seasons of Daredevil?

Doug: Oh, we leave that stuff to Marvel. We're kind of like, "Where do you want us to crash the car next and we'll aim it." That's really up to Marvel, not to us.

Fair enough. Was getting Matt and Karen together this season what you had wanted to do when you set up the first season finale?

Doug: One of the many things we learned from season one is that our fans pick up on the slightest hints of anything, that we really don't have to hit them over the head very hard. We can be very, very subtle. There were very small moments between Karen and Matt at the end of season one the fans really picked up on. So we knew that that door was open to us.

They seem to have different views on the Punisher and that might threaten their relationship. Could that also make Karen start to question what Matt does as Daredevil?

Doug: Sure, I think the great thing about Frank Castle is that he's going to make everybody rethink Daredevil. He's going to make Matt Murdock rethink Daredevil. He'll make Karen rethink Daredevil and if we're very lucky, we're hoping that it will make the audience rethink Daredevil. We really hope that they come back to our guy but we hope to make the ride as bumpy as possible in terms of questioning and challenging is this a good idea or is this not a good idea? What's the difference between these two guys? Taking a look at everything Matt Murdock so painstakingly built in season one and shaking it to its foundation was absolutely something we wanted to do this year.

Daredevil Season 2

Marco: One of the great things about writing Frank and talking about Frank in the room is Frank is not on a mission to change the way people think about Frank or about themselves. He doesn't care. He's just out to do his mission and his mission statement is pretty brutal. The only reason he's ever going to stop and talk to someone like he does with Matt is if someone gets in his way. Even then, Frank is not sitting around talking to criminals explaining what Hammurabi's Code is. He's just kind of doing it. The only way we ever get to unpack that is if someone gets in his way. That's what was fun about writing Frank is he's not didactic. He's not walking around talking about capital punishment. He's just doing it. He's a man of action in every way. That was pretty exciting to write.

Is Foggy more somber this season?

Doug: Foggy is going to be a little more serious. I wouldn't say somber. I think he wants things to work out. The big difference is that he learned that his best friend is Daredevil last season. That has a huge effect on him. He's worried but he's not a mother hen. These are two best friends who have been best friends for a very long time. So he's going to be tested too. The more Daredevil shows up and gets the sh*t kicked out of him which we hope to do on a regular basis, the more that's going to alienate Foggy and make him questions all of his choices. Yeah, sure.

When you get to frame Frank Castle in front of the American flag, is that a fun way to say a lot of different things with certain iconography?

Marco: I mean, if people are going to read into it in any way, sure. What was cool is we got to have these really sophisticated conversations and scenes in what is very clearly no your dad's comic book show. There's maturity and sophistication that Netflix and Marvel encourage us to have at every point so while I don't think we're trying to make any political statements at all, some stuff is just kind of unavoidably there. If it's there and you shoot it and it feels powerful for whatever reason, I think we just have to go with that. There's a similar image of Matt standing on top of an archway in a graveyard that we're also really proud of because it just tells you kind of everything you need to know about Matt Murdock in one shot. Frank in that image, yes, do I think that will be a poster for somebody? Yes.

You gave Frank and Elektra the most mysterious introductions you could possibly have done. Did a lot of talk and planning go into how exactly you introduce those major characters?

Doug: Oh yeah. We love cinema and we love drama and we love big entrances, so yes. When we're going to hit the audience between the eyes with "We told you we were bringing these characters, here they are." We definitely wanted to be theatrical and bold and give them the grand entrance that these very operatic characters deserve.

Marco: And also because our show specifically is about Matt Murdock and is about telling Daredevil's story, the way we introduce them, it's really easy to just introduce them as third parties. We tried to introduce them at the most inopportune times for Matt, or at the times when they would have the biggest impact on Matt as possible. So it's not just about showing them to the audience like: here they are in full frame, this is the person you're dealing with. It's about making sure they understand what Matt is going to have to deal with once they're introduced.

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Daredevil season two hits Netflix March 18.