Sigourney Weaver Needed A Comic Book Crash Course For Her Role In The Defenders

When "The Defenders" premiered on Netflix back in 2017, the show's four leading superheroes — Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones), and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) had already headlined shows featuring their origin stories. The superheroes and the lore surrounding them had been established through their respective adventures in Marvel's shared universe on the streaming service, so fans were pretty excited about "The Defenders." Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage teaming up in the same show? Who wouldn't be thrilled about that?

With an exciting lineup of superhero characters, Marvel had to make sure the big bad in "The Defenders" was equally exciting. It's hard to beat the destructive antics and mind-control abilities of Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Kilgrave (David Tennant), so Marvel introduced Alexandra Reid, played by the queen of sci-fi, Sigourney Weaver. She's a mysterious woman who is the leader of a relentless organization called the Hand. An influential force in New York City, Alexandra handles business deals and exploits governments. She deeply cares about the things that matter to her. And she'll do anything for it.

Here's the thing: When "The Defenders" was in the making, we knew very little about her character, and we weren't the only ones in the dark. Alexandra Reid doesn't exist in the comic books, but the organization she works for does (think an order of ninjas that serve a demon). Without much background about the character, Weaver required a comic book crash course to prepare for the role.

Sigourney Weaver had to watch Marvel's Netflix shows

Sigourney Weaver shared with Entertainment Weekly that while she was aware of the Defenders team in the Marvel comics, she didn't know much about them. 

The "Alien" star had previously worked with Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica Jones, and was impressed by the quality of writing on her show. Moreover, the actress was excited about "The Defenders" because it featured regular people with extraordinary gifts — and the series was set in New York City, her home. "The Defenders" wasn't a show about larger-than-life superheroes with flowing capes and cool boots. It was about making a city a better place to live. As she told Entertainment Weekly, Weaver could relate:

"When they approached me about this they sent me some of Daredevil and Jessica Jones — and I'd worked with Krysten before on 'Vamps' — and I was so impressed by the writing and by the whole thing about Marvel on the small end. These characters are regular people, and they have a couple of very important gifts, but they're not superheroes and they don't jump around in boots and capes. It's not the apocalyptic moment; it's all about the city, and I guess as a New Yorker, I really cared about that instantly. Making that block that much better for the people who live on it, that really spoke to me."

She watched Marvel's Netflix standalone shows

Sigourney Weaver was immediately drawn to the show. But she had to educate herself and watch all the Marvel Netflix shows in order to fully appreciate the characters. The actress was also thrilled by the possibility of playing a "worthy adversary" to the four heroes. She continued to Entertainment Weekly:

"... I had to completely educate myself. I knew nothing. I kind of heard about [the Defenders] because they're certainly in the zeitgeist, but I needed to watch them to really appreciate them. And then the idea that I was going to be [lowers voice] an adversary [raises it back] I thought was really fun. She's a really worthy adversary. I thought it was a very beautifully written part, very ambitiously conceived, and challenging."

'I've certainly never played anyone like her'

"The Defenders" is set a few months after the second season of "Daredevil" and the first season of "Iron Fist." The superheroes team up to fight against the Hand, which is an order of mystical ninjas entangled in mercenary activities and organized crime. As their leader, Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra is a woman of considerable intellect. She's cunning and ruthless and of the belief that people's lives are expendable. On the surface, she's an unmistakable villain, but not as per Weaver, who likes to think of her as an ambitious adversary to the Defenders:

"You know, we had a lot of talks early on about who this woman was, and with my work in general, I try to avoid things like the "ice queen" and terms like that that are often thrown at women who aren't completely sympathetic. I hate all those terms so much. So I encouraged our little group, Jeph and Marco [Ramirez, the showrunner] and the writers, to not think in those terms, because I find them completely meaningless, and to help me understand who I was from a really un-cliché-ed point of view, and I think we succeeded in that. I really enjoyed playing Alexandra. I've certainly never played anyone like her. I felt like I was in heaven, I just felt very lucky to be a part of it."

Weaver worked hard with the writers to make Alexandra a multilayered character that strayed away from the clichés of familiar villains. She wanted to introduce Alexandra sympathetically and let viewers see her through an empathetic lens. If you've watched "The Defenders," you might remember that Alexandra is a genuinely caring character who has to face her worst fear after being betrayed by someone she immensely trusted. Alexandra's character is a sophisticated, determined adversary to the Defenders, and we have the actress to thank.