‘Jessica Jones’ Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg Talks About Her Tough Heroine

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Jessica Jones’ star Mike Colter a powerhouse as Luke Cage.

On Friday, Netflix premieres the first season of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” — and one of the revelations of this interview with executive producer and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg is that there’s a chance the show might film a second season before a planned “Defenders” series. Backstage at her first New York Comic Con, Kristin Ritter appears blissfully ignorant to the nerd swarm she’s about to walk into. “I’ve been in hiding,” she says in a deadpan tone familiar to anyone who has seen the short lived sitcom Don’t Trust The B in Apt 23 or Season 2 of Breaking Bad.

The first thing you should know about Marvel’s new superhero show Jessica Jones is that it doesn’t require the viewer to know or care about superheroes.Yes, for gritty thrills, it surpasses the studio’s movies and its network And streaming shows. “Jessica Jones” (released today) intimately probes what lies in the shadows of failed heroism, and maps the psychological battle that follows.Marvel and Netflix have unleashed their latest comic book collaboration, turning the “Alias” comic into a 13-episode TV series “Jessica Jones.” And folks are going mad for the deeply dark noir show.“I wish I could tell you what I was doing right now,” Colter says with a laugh calling in from the secretive New York City set of Marvel’s Luke Cage. “It doesn’t make any sense and no one should be doing it but that’s the job.” Fans will have to wait a while for his solo series but pop culture gets its introduction to Colter’s super-strong bar owner with impenetrable skin and mysterious past in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, now streaming on Netflix.“Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Season 1 ”–Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) doesn’t wear a costume but she has power, attitude, and a sinister supervillain (David Tennant) stalking her.

The drama is part of a cycle of Netflix-Marvel shows that includes “Daredevil” and an upcoming Luke Cage series starring Mike Colter, who also appears in “Jessica Jones” alongside star Krysten Ritter. Jessica Jones doesn’t shy away from Marvel lore — it takes place in the same post-Avengers Hell’s Kitchen as Netflix’s previous Marvel show, Daredevil, and you’ll catch stray references to characters like the Hulk.

Perhaps when Netflix and Marvel announced their five-show collaboration, kicking off with “Daredevil,” it was the “Jessica Jones” title that excited you the least. The second series in Netflix superhero universe returns to the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen for another dark, gritty show. 13 episodes now available. The reason being two fold: the gender of its namesake, the first female fronted superhero in the Marvel media oeuvre and, perhaps equally as important, how little a fuss it makes about it.

Krysten Ritter stars as the titular superhero turned private detective, David Tennant plays the villainous Kilgrave, who has the ability to make anyone do whatever he wants. New movies: “Blue Caprice(2013)”, a drama about the 2002 Beltway Shooter (rated R), and the Kurt Cobain documentary “Soaked in Bleach(2015, not rated).” The heady new series “The Man in High Castle: Season 1” is set in an alternate reality where the U.S is divided up by World War II victors Germany and Japan in a wary détente. By the way, this interview is safe to read if you haven’t seen the show yet — and it’s also worth pointing out that you don’t need to have seen any other Marvel TV shows or movies in order to enjoy “Jessica Jones,” which is reviewed here. Unlike its network counterpart, CBS’s Supergirl, Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ not-so-hard-boiled detective in a hard boiled never overcorrects or succumbs to highlighting its importance, revealing its feminism via nuanced dialogue rather than having a tertiary character provide flippant commentary.

If you’re disinterested in piecing together the increasingly dense continuity that links blockbusters like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy to a half-dozen interconnected TV shows — or just sick of the world’s ongoing infatuation with big-budget superheroes — well, you have something in common with Jessica Jones’ superhero protagonist. Jessica Jones’ uniform is a hoodie and Luke’s is an olive-colored shirt and jeans. “You’re not always walking around using superpowers and you’re street level. Ten episodes. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.“ brings TV’s coolest spies to the big screen with tongue-in-cheek humor, groovy sixties style and color, and secret agent action.

Instead of a speech about why being a girl is just fine, Jones and the rest of the female fronted cast (which includes Canadian Carrie-Anne Moss as a high price lawyer who is cheating on her wife with her secretary) are shown struggling with their own empowerment in a world populated by abusive men. Even “Jessics Jones” villain David Tennant, who plays Kilgrave, admitted to Comic Riffs that he was unfamiliar with J.J., despite growing up as a big Marvel fan.

A veteran of network (Birds of Prey) and cable (Dexter) television, as well as the screenwriter behind all five Twilight films, Rosenberg says she pitched television studios a show about a female superhero Tony Soprano. Times review, Mary McNamara labeled “Jessica Jones” as the first real foray for Marvel into prestige drama: “Jessica is not standing outside mortal experience looking in; she is drowning in it, and fighting her way out.” And McNamara’s not alone in enjoying the new comic book creation. I was meeting with them right after the “Twilight” and “Dexter” runs were wrapping up, and I said I would love to do damaged female superhero along the lines of an Iron Man.

In short, she’s a classic noir detective, in the vein of The Maltese Falcon’s Sam Spade or The Big Sleep’s Philip Marlowe, or more recent entries to the genre, like Veronica Mars (on which Krysten Ritter played a key role). But one episode in, you’ll begin to understand this moment: “Jessica Jones” is that Big Bang moment that sparked a meaner, edgier and more seductive Marvel universe. Daniel D’Addario from Time said that the new TV character was “Marvel’s most nuanced heroine yet.” And praised Jones further, writing, “The most interesting moment in the first six episodes comes when Jones is asked how many more like her there are out there. “How many more what, private eyes?” she replies. The documentary “The Latin Explosion: A New America“ surveys the artists who brought Latin flavors to American music and popular culture over the decades.

Jones, Marvel’s most interesting character yet, won’t be defined as anything so boring as a superhero.” David Sims from the Atlantic praised the “sublime darkness” of the series. Jessica Jones executive producer Melissa Rosenberg says Colter’s physicality matched the character perfectly “but also he manages to say a great deal with very few words. Stating that the latest Marvel hero “might be its most flawed, but she’s also its most fascinating, and her show marks an evolutionary leap forward for the brand’s expansive collection of movies and TV shows, deftly exploring themes of trauma, abuse, and prejudice. Cheaters are good for business.” When a disappointed client threatens to get violent with her, Jessica doesn’t pause before smashing his head through the glass on her door.

While we glimpse of her backstory to the time where she thought super-strength meant she could try being a hero, we mostly see the results that lead her to realizing she’s no Avenger: She’s failed. Jessica Jones began filming in New York last February “and we’re California people now, and both of us were like, ‘We don’t want any part of winter.’ ” A South Carolina native, Colter has had parts in movies (Million Dollar Baby, Zero Dark Thirty), TV shows (Blue Bloods, American Horror Story) and even video games (Halo), but he’s probably best known as scene-stealing drug kingpin Lemond Bishop on CBS’ The Good Wife.

Rather than begin with her character’s origin story, we are introduced to Jones via noir clichés: an overvoice tells us she’s a private eye in a post-Avengers Hell’s Kitchen New York. We soon discover that she has a dark past, something to do with abusive mind control, that’s about to come crashing back on her, but what exactly that is is revealed slowly, subtley exposing the jagged edges of Jones’ flaws and why she leans so heavily on sex (often with fellow super Luke Cage, whose own series is to follow next year) and booze to escape from her reality. “She doesn’t use her sexuality, she simply has a sexuality to her,” Rosenberg explains, eyeing Ritter. “One of the things we thought about when we first started out was, if you look at any female cop character or detective they always end up in a bandage dress playing the honeypot — in high heals trying to lure the suspect in. While he wasn’t necessarily wanting to have his own show, the actor likes being the one who sets a good tone on the Luke Cage set. “If you’re not enjoying your work, what’s the point?” Colter says. “We’re doing something really fun, we’re playing make-believe and we’re all getting to do something what we wanted to do when we were little kids. We started off by saying ‘I’m not doing the honeypot.’ I will never do the honeypot.” Jumping in, Ritter cites her stature and the character’s wardrobe, a leather jacket and jeans, as an example of the show’s unforced feminist bent.

Kilgrave is easily the most well-conceived and terrifying villain in Marvel’s cinematic universe — so much so that his introduction highlights how weak most of Marvel’s other villains have been. (Sorry, Loki.) In theory, he can have anything or anyone he wants — but he retains a particular obsession with Jessica, who he kept in thrall for months as a kind of escort. For years, we’ve had these really great male characters on TV, and then there would be the female detective off to one side, wearing false eyelashes and supplying exposition. I want to be rad and tough, grounded and strong, and Jessica is that.” As she’s pulled away to prep for her debut alongside Netflix’s other Marvel heroes — Cage and Daredevil — at Comic Con’s main hall, Ritter gives another reason for her calm demeanour. “I’ve been acting since before the internet, and I still approach things that way.” she laughs, “All the other stuff that comes with it, I just learned to keep my head down.

But she’s still deeply haunted by him, in ways both direct (unsettling dreams and hallucinations) and indirect (cynicism, alcoholism, and a general distrust of pretty much everyone she meets). This show goes into some fairly dark places, and I would assume that there were conversations with Marvel about that, given that they have to protect their overall brand. Her lover, or her best friend, or any random stranger on the street could be under Kilgrave’s control, which means it’s safer for everyone if she pushes everyone away. The series wisely drops the luminous fuchsia skin tone that earned him the sobriquet “Purple Man” in the comics, but his color of choice remains key to his character.

It’s not just his wardrobe; it’s the walls and items in the rooms where he has spent time, as if his particular brand of evil can infect the world around him like a creeping illness. Though the episodes I’ve seen don’t come right out and say it, Jessica is clearly a rape survivor. (“There is the history of assault, yes, but we don’t depict it. It’s not literally on your screen,” explained Ritter in an interview with Variety.) That subject matter puts Jessica Jones into what tends to be dicey territory for television; in recent years, shows like Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and American Horror Story: Hotel have attracted justified criticism for dealing with rape in a glib and superficial manner.

She can grapple with the horror and pain of her experience without letting it break her completely, and while she clearly has her issues, she’s also smart, tough, and courageous enough to push back. Some visitors might be inclined to read that as a statement about the thin, jaded woman inside — but anyone watching Jessica Jones will have a hard time reading it as anything other than an ironic counterpoint. You normally don’t have that kind of real estate, but when you’re not on a network, you don’t have to break for commercials and tell people again what they just saw five minutes ago or what they saw last week. I mean, you don’t know if they’re following you, because it’s not airing [and there are no ratings] and you’re not getting feedback, but you have the time you need to lay it all out in a different way. The imagery of rape — I mean, how many shows have you seen where there’s an image of a woman with her clothes ripped off and she’s been violated and she’s on the ground and all of that?

And really so often, rape and assault are just there to add “edge.” There’s a lot of, “Well, let’s make our show grittier with a spot of rape.” I know. It was very much like “Dexter” at the start, where you figured out where you wanted the lead character to end up at the close of the season, and you structured the story to get there. We have what’s important for our series, but that really relates to an important incident that connects him to Jessica, and there is so much more to learn about him in his show.

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