Here’s the thing: Most super-successful series have not, in their first two seasons, had as many showrunners as "Marvel’s Daredevil." The superheroic tale of a blind man who makes up for his loss of sight with some extreme martial arts skills was officially created by "The Cabin in the Woods" director Drew Goddard, but he was succeeded by Steven S. DeKnight before the end of Season 1 and Season 2 is now being overseen by writers Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie.
These gentlemen have two things in common: With one exception, they all previously worked on shows run by Joss Whedon, and they all have a pure geek excitement you’d hope for from the guys telling the story of Matt Murdock. Below, Ramirez and Petrie reveal to Indiewire how exactly they ended up at the helm of this series, the very little they’re able to reveal about the upcoming season and how they looked to incorporate the Punisher into the series. An edited transcript follows.
Okay, so first off, real question — how nervous do you get, when it comes to working with Marvel, about talking to the press?
DOUG PETRIE: Extremely. On the scale of secrecy stuff, it’s like the CIA, then Marvel.
MARCO RAMIREZ: They take it really seriously. They take it more seriously than anybody I’ve ever worked with.
PETRIE: It’s their prerogative. It does make you a little jumpy because it’s so at odds with — we’re storytellers. To have a story, and to know what a story is–
RAMIREZ: –to be proud of the story! Then to come to these things and want to sell the story and to be as excited as we are to have worked on. But then not be able to fully tell the story and talk about specifics is a little frustrating.
I’m glad to have that confirmed.
RAMIREZ: You’ve seen one and two, right?
RAMIREZ: It’s great to talk to someone who’s seen one and two because, for months now, none of my friends have seen it. Nobody I know has seen it besides the people I work with. So it feels like, "Oh God, I’m talking to a completely new person," is actually kind of exciting.
PETRIE: "Oh, you’ve seen the back of Jon Bernthal’s head? Coming down the hall?"
I have. It’s looking nice.
RAMIREZ: Yeah, he keeps it clean.
PETRIE: They showed that shot at Comic Con, just the back of his head and people went nuts! For the shaved back of his head.
RAMIREZ: The front of his head got very, very jealous. It became like a Woody Allen kind of joke. It was like an "Annie Hall" joke.
PETRIE: I was doing a whole conversation with the front and back of his head. "You look sick, bro." "No, you bro. It’s all you."
I mean, it’s kind of annoying when the back of someone’s head looks as good as the front of his head.
So you were in the writers’ room for Season 1 — when did it become a thing, where you were aware of the fact that you might be taking over Season 2?
PETRIE: It was a little bit of a surprise right up to the starting gate, where they told us, "You guys are doing Season 2." We were like, "Cool."
RAMIREZ: And they were like, "No, you guys are doing Season 2." And we were like, "Oh, okay, this is exciting." We were always part of the picture. They were like, "This is what we see: Doug, Marco and Daredevil will meet the Punisher and Elektra. How does that sound?" It was all kind of like one giant morsel. We loved working together in Season 1 so that was great. We love "Daredevil" — Season 1 had not been released yet when we first got signed on, so we were sworn to secrecy. We were in like a bunker for several weeks working on it before Season 1 had even hit the Internet.
PETRIE: We had no idea what the critical or commercial response would have been to Season 1.
Where did that package come from?
RAMIREZ: It’s largely a Marvel and Netflix conversation. Probably more Marvel — Jeph Loeb.
So Jeph Loeb comes to you and says, "You guys want to take over the show? And by the way, you’re going to meet Punisher and Elektra?" What was your reaction to that?
PETRIE: Fuck yeah.
RAMIREZ: It was not a very long conversation.
PETRIE: Yeah, we really clicked in the writers’ room in Season 1 — we always wanted to work together, so that was a great thing. That was my wish list for Season 2. I remember in Season 1 we were kind of half guessing, half estimating what would Season 2 be: My recollection is that Elektra kind of came and went as a possibility. I said, "No, you have to do Elektra," to no one in particular. Mostly to my car in the ride home. It’s beautiful and sad.
But then they independently came up with the idea, which felt very right to me. Usually, we’re big on slow burns — the show itself and us as storytellers — I felt, and I think we felt, that you have to pull this trigger.
One thing I talked about with Steven DeKnight last year was the fact that he very deliberately only chose to refer to the Kingpin as Wilson Fisk. I think that plays into the slow burn very nicely. Are you taking a similar approach — making the show about Frank Castle, not the Punisher?
RAMIREZ: In Season 1, two big decisions were made creatively that I think really set the tone for how all these Marvel shows with Netflix are going to work. One was, I remember specifically when Goddard came into the room and said, "You guys, what if he’s in the black mask for 12 episodes? Is that crazy?" The entire room said, "We’d watch the shit out of that show." That was one, and another was Steve DeKnight’s thought, "Maybe we pull back on him being completely the Kingpin already. What if he’s just this kind of awkward guy who lives in this beautiful apartment who pulls all the strings, but essentially he’s Keyser Soze, and not yet the Kingpin — he’s not out?" That was met with a wonderful reaction and response, and we have 13 hours to tell those stories.
So, organically coming into this season, we took the same approach on how we could build Frank and Elektra. We thought, "What’s the coolest way to introduce them? What point in their journey is the smartest way to introduce them? At what point in the journey will be the hardest format to deal with?"
PETRIE: In New York, where newspapers are no longer a kind of print medium, they are still in the show. There’s an always mid-70s, grungy, "French Connection" world where newspapers are a big deal. So, yeah, he gets pegged as the Punisher, but we, in the room, always called him Frank. We always thought of him as a living, breathing, three-dimensional person.
So I don’t want this question to come off as combative, especially because I know you guys were on the show from the beginning. But when you take over a show from other showrunners, what’s key for you in making it your own?
PETRIE: It actually felt quite organic. I think that we’re lucky because it wasn’t a show that was created as a series and here we are in Season 2. There’s 50 years of canon from great and very respected writers. We had a lot of room to expand that wasn’t of our own creation. We weren’t saying, "Okay, we’re going to take your baby, rip it from its crib, and teach it to dance…" I could torture that metaphor more. But we knew that there was room in Matt Murdock and the world of Season 1 and Season 2 to expand — that was there for us.
RAMIREZ: I think Marvel and Netflix had faith enough in us, which felt really good. So we didn’t really feel the pressure of needing to improve ourselves or test ourselves like, "What would the Doug and Marco version of the show be?" It was really just, "What stories do we want to tell?" No matter what, it’s going to be the Doug and Marco version of the show. It will be us running it, it will be us rewriting and writing it. It’s going to be ours, but we didn’t have to actively lean in and say, "Let’s make some brave choices our predecessors never would have made," because they’ve all made really good choices, from Steve to Drew [Goddard] to Frank Miller to the [Brian Michael] Bendis run. Everyone’s been really smart and great so far. So how do we just continue this great legacy, as opposed to re-imagining it or redoing any of that? All of the paints were in the box, and there was a blank canvas. We thought, "Great, the paints are here, let’s just get crazy."
PETRIE: There was nothing that we wanted to break. We didn’t want to break anything, and there was room in the world to expand so it felt very organic.
I want to know about the first decision you guys made as showrunners, which was really your first official decision. A casting moment, or a plot moment…
PETRIE: I think it was lunch.
Did you get to decide where lunch was?
RAMIREZ: Yeah, and it was Chipotle and then everyone was gone for the next three weeks.
PETRIE: Yeah, we really screwed the pooch for the first one. It was all uphill from there. I think very early we looked at the season — to use the canvas metaphor — as this broad canvas. We knew, especially, we had two antagonists coming in, and we wanted to have a classical three-act structure to the season. We kind of kept it, but it kind of went away. We knew that our production schedule would be a great seasonal thing. We’d start in the summer, because you know as New Yorkers, nothing is worse or hotter than the summer in New York City. And Christmas always felt like a classic Marvel arena.
RAMIREZ: I don’t think I can answer with much specificity. I remember one specifically for Doug though, which was very early in the season and embraced his history as a New Yorker. He said, this should happen in the last couple episodes, and we should see this. Months later we kept it, and it’s there still in the cut. I think that’s one of the things we’re both really proud of. That’s kind of super vague and not giving you an answer at all.
I’ll come back in six months and ask you.
RAMIREZ: It involves New York. I remember on day one, one of his first ideas, Doug said, "You know that magical thing that happens in New York in the winter?" That’s in there. I remember for myself was one of a major costume-related decision for a main character. I saw it clear as day and said, "No, we shouldn’t do the other thing, we should do this." It’s not one that I think I would have done, but as a comic book fan, being able to say, "What if we introduced this person and this is the thing? Let’s give them what they want but not how they’re expecting it." That was really exciting, to be able to step back and say, "Oh, fuck, we just nailed that. We did that." I think both of those elements work on the show.
PETRIE: I think that was the initial vibe where we really kind of hooked in on what the show would feel like, not even as storytellers or as Marvel comics fans, but as New Yorkers. That was where we started, and I think that’s where the show really lives.
"Marvel’s Daredevil" Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.