Scott Glenn has been an established force in film for decades now, but in the last year he’s taken on two high-profile television roles. First, he appeared in several episodes of Indiewire favorite “The Leftovers” as Kevin Garvey Sr., and then Glenn guest-starred in the gritty new Netflix series “Daredevil.”
Glenn only appears in one episode of Marvel’s critically well-received superhero drama, but he makes a striking impression (pun intended) as Stick, the blind man who unlocked young Matt Murdock’s gifts but wants to enlist him for a bigger war. Below, Glenn tells Indiewire how choosing to play Stick was love at first read and if there’s any distinction, for him, between playing a character from a comic book or the real world.
I wanted to start off by asking you how “Daredevil” came to you, or how you came to “Daredevil.”
I got a call from my agent that the people of Marvel wanted me to play this part in “Daredevil.” When I first heard it, my agent said, “They want you to play the Daredevil’s mentor.” And I actually got kind of stupidly pissed off, like, “Oh, I’ll just be this old guy behind the desk, spouting words of wisdom.” And then they sent me the script and I read it, and I went, “Holy shit, this is really good stuff.” The minute I read the script I fell in love with the character and decided to do it.
Did they just send you the script for the episode that you’re featured in?
But it was an easy decision?
It was very easy, yeah. I loved the character. I’ve never played or even thought about playing blind before. And all of a sudden, I realized I’m gonna have to use… I have a background in different kinds of martial arts. And I realized, I’ll get to use that, plus I’m going to have to solve the riddle of doing all that stuff and being blind at the same time. And playing this odd, kind of shadowy character, I would describe as skipping along a moral tightrope. So everything about it looked to me to be both demanding and fun.
Was there any particular trick you used to figure out how to play blind and also be a skilled martial artist?
There are different ways of doing it. The way that a lot of people play blind is: Say if you’re talking to someone and you want to play blind, the simplest way is just to stare at their mouth. For me, that wasn’t really good enough because of all the physical stuff I had to do. So I did an exercise — it’s called peripheral walking or peripheral standing. Rather than paying attention to what is in front of your eyes right now, you have to be relaxed, just start taking in all the information on the peripheries of your sight. As far to the left, as far to the right, going above you and going below you. The more you start paying attention to that, the more you will find that you’ll still be able to walk up and down stairs or see punches coming at you or whatever.
So during the 12 or 14 days of shooting that episode, all day long, we’re in that bubble where I paid way more attention to what was going on in the periphery of my vision. Which of course, drove my wife nuts. But that was kind of my solution to it. It’s a great exercise to do anyway. It will make you a better athlete and a safer driver, all of those things.
You’ve done tons of fight scenes before, but was “Daredevil” the first fight work you’ve done with a young man?
Yes. I played around with— my wife asked me today about all of this martial stuff I’ve done and it’s like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 — a lot of stuff! So physically I had that knowledge, and Philip Silvera, our stunt coordinator on “Daredevil,” did a tremendous job. But yes, that was the first time that I ever worked with a kid as kind of a martial arts mentor.
Is it tough trying to avoid beating up a kid?
Noooo. [laughs] I worked with two kids on this: a kid who did a lot of the stunts and then the actor himself. Both of them were really nice kids, and you’re aware of when you’re waving a stick around or kicking or punching, that if you make contact with someone that much lighter and throw them and stuff, it’s gonna be a lot worse than if it’s a big stunt guy. That was in the back of my head. But Phil is so good at setting up those sequences that there was never a real problem.
The character, of course, is clearly tied into a larger mythology. How much about what that character is tied up in do you know about at this point?
I know way more than I did before, but my answer is, to begin with — and this is not bullshit — the people at Marvel have been unbelievably generous and fine to work with. Anything I needed in terms of research or anything, wardrobe, they provided me. Having said that, with the Marvel people, security or secrecy verges on religion. And I really want to respect that. So to talk about what more I know about or what’s coming down the line, I’d really rather let the Marvel people talk about that than me.
The reason I ask is more just because I’m curious about, as an actor, how much you need to prepare.
I know and I have all the information about Stick that I need to play both the inside and the outside of this guy. The more time you spend with any character, whether it’s from a comic book universe or a really naturalistic universe, the more time you spend, the more that character just becomes another aspect of yourself. That’s all you’ve really got to work with, is you. I don’t know if that’s a good answer or not, but that’s the honest answer.
So with regards to seeing more of your character, can you say anything at this point about Season 2?
No. [laughs] The people at Marvel and Netflix have said that they want to work with me again, and I certainly want to work with them. But other than that, I have no idea what’s going on.
Speaking of other shows that are going into Season 2, can you say if you’re gonna be involved in “The Leftovers” at all?
I am right now talking to you from a hotel in Austin, Texas where I am working on an episode of Season 2 of “The Leftovers.”
That’s very exciting. How is it going so far?
It’s going great. I feel like in some ways, I couldn’t be a luckier actor, to have Stick from “Daredevil” and Senior from “The Leftovers.” Two really different, incredible parts to do. I’m just lucky.
This is some of the first serious TV work you’ve done in quite some time.
Yeah. The thing I’ve realized, when I started working on “The Leftovers,” my previous experience with television was always kind of, I don’t know, what’s the right word… heart-breaking? [Shows] always seemed to run up against some kind of restriction or sense of, lack of freedom or censorship. And that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened at all with either “The Leftovers” or “Daredevil.” It’s just a very clear experience, when you’re doing something that hasn’t been engineered for a break every 15 minutes to sell something.