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Charlie Cox interview: ‘I don’t feel like a star, I just happen to lead a TV show’

The actor discusses playing Daredevil on ‘The Defenders’ and coping with new-found fame

Jack Shepherd
Thursday 17 August 2017 15:56 BST
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Charlie Cox at Comic Con
Charlie Cox at Comic Con (Getty)

Before Daredevil, Charlie Cox was known for many projects. Stardust, Boardwalk Empire, and The Theory of Everything were all solid roles that gained the actor attention, but none of them were particularly career defining.

Now, almost three years later, Cox has top billing on The Defenders – the upcoming Netflix superhero mash-up – above Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, and sci-fi legend Sigourney Weaver. In the miniseries, four of Marvel's biggest superheroes – Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) – are charged with saving New York City from supervillian The Hand.

Sitting down with The Independent after a day of roundtables and interviews at a London hotel, the London-born 34-year-old spoke candidly about fame, interacting with fans, and the luxury of being able to choose which projects to pursue.

Coming into The Defenders, did you feel like the de facto leader of the group?

I did until I read the script. Someone made a passing comment when we were shooting Daredevil 2 – before Luke Cage and Iron Fist – saying how ‘Matt Murdock is the Captain America of that group’. But then, when I read the scripts it was very clear that was not the dynamic they were setting up. These were four people with equally strong opinions who are forced together against their will to work together. That was the most interesting idea. Whether one person emerges as a leader from that group is yet to be seen. It was more interesting that it was an ensemble, and it was about each of them recognising what the others bring to the table.

Four leading actors coming together has the potential to be a battle of egos. Was that a concern beforehand?

Yeah. I always feel that way about any project. If you have ‘stars’ involved – film stars, movie stars, TV stars – you’re always concerned with what that will do to the dynamic of the project. Maybe this doesn’t change, but I don’t feel like a star, I just happen to lead a TV show. Everyone was just up for having a good time. It felt like no-one was there to prove anything. When the show started filming, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones were already out. We had had our successes and enjoyed those. I didn’t feel like any of us were there to prove ourselves, it felt like a celebration. It comes with a bit of a pressure, but it was a lovely group of people and I honestly really enjoyed it.

Trailer released for Marvel's The Defenders, new Netflix release

Do you want to be a film star?

It depends what that means. I would like to be someone that people come to, to be in films that get seen. I’m in a very lucky position now where, if I want to do a film at the moment there are films I could do. I spent a great many years doing films that, despite me thinking they might be good or vaguely interesting, didn't get seen. You have to be in a certain type of film. There is an elite group of people who do one or two movies a year and at least one of them will be in cinemas. I would love that. But I have to say I’m pretty grateful for the current situation. I’m in a TV show that is seen that allows me to work. I get to be an actor.

It pays the bills.

Exactly, you get paid. I make a living. I get five, six months of the year off. Between Daredevil and this I did a play in New York which was fantastic. After The Defenders, I did another film [the upcoming Night in Hatton Garden], which was really enjoyable. I’m at a point now, though, where my level of fame is absolutely perfect. I get recognised once, maybe twice a day. Or at least I get approached once a day. And that’s really manageable, and it’s nice. I like when people come up and say they like the show, or they want a photo. Any more than that and you start to get into territory where leaving the house to get a pint of milk – and I’ve been with those people — where they just go ‘I’ll get someone else to go’, because they’ll get harassed in the queue.

It’s quite surreal, that heightened environment. I guess that’s your life now, though.

What’s interesting is that a lot of people who do approach you – and I say this in the nicest way – they aren’t necessarily as socially comfortable as other people are. People come up to you and say ‘I don’t want to disturb you, but I just want to say I love the show and it’s lovely to meet you.’ Then there are others who have wonderful intentions but don’t quite know how to speak so eloquently. I will have a photo with someone and not know it’s happened because they’ll just walk up and go *pap* like you’re a statue.

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We’ve all glorified actors and it can be difficult to separate Charlie Cox from Daredevil.

Absolutely. And I do that with people. I have opinions of actors who I have never met. Like, I think Jeff Bridges is a really nice guy. I just assume I would get on with him, I assume I would love to chat with him. I might be completely f**king wrong about that. And then there are the people I don’t necessarily like. Do you know what I mean? So, I’m sure people definitely do that, and watch the show and think that. They have opinions about who I am, what I’m like and all that kind of stuff.

After this series wraps, would you be happy for your legacy to be Daredevil?

The funny thing is, I worked with Wes Bentley many years ago. Wes Bentley was, when I worked with him, ‘the kid from American Beauty’. After that, he disappeared for a very long time. Now, he’s done The Hunger Games, a Christopher Nolan movie, and he’s doing really well. A lovely guy. He said this to me, that people always go ‘you’re the guy from that movie’. And that’s fun for a couple of years, but after 10 years, you’re like ‘I’ve done other stuff’.

My career hasn’t felt like that. For a long time, I was ‘the kid from Stardust’. I did tons of stuff but nobody ever saw it. Then I did Boardwalk Empire, and I was in America, so I was ‘the kid from Boardwalk Empire’. Then Daredevil trumped everything, so much so that I’m shocked when people say ‘you were in Boardwalk Empire’. The honest truth is, there have been periods where it was so difficult getting work that if my biggest problem is ‘what am I going to be known for’ then that’s a pretty good problem to have. I hope, at this point in my career, that there’s other stuff I can go on to do. Because of the way the Marvel cinematic universe works, because of the fandom behind that machine, that huge company, there will always be people who seem me as Daredevil, or one of the actors who played that character. Does it worry me? Not yet.

‘The Defenders’ is available on Netflix from 18 August

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