Category: Iron Fist

How Luke Cage and ‘The Defenders’ Challenge Iron Fist’s Privilege

INVERSE – The sleeper fan favorite character of The Defenders might surprise you: It’s ya boi Danny Rand (Finn Jones).

After an origin story in Iron Fist Season 1 that was met with fan backlash and critically mixed reviews, some felt that he’d be a plot device that brings the fight against The Hand to the other Defenders but not much else. But surprisingly, Danny ends up being the glue that holds the team together, plying them with Chinese food, when Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra threatens the entirety of New York City. With the help of Matt Murdock’s Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Danny managed to evolve and becomes the man — not the weapon — he was always meant to be.

Danny Rand and Iron Fist actor Finn Jones spoke with Inverse about The DefendersIron Fist Season 2, and what Danny’s privilege really means moving forward.

How do you think Danny’s interactions with the other Defenders will change him for Iron Fist Season 2?

I think throughout Iron Fist [Season 1], Danny doesn’t even know what a superhero is. So, in Defenders, this is the first time he is meeting other people with abilities, and they all have their problems. They’re able to go about their lives and use their abilities responsibly and with purpose, and I think this is the first time that Danny is really seeing that. It definitely helps sharpen his focus and sharpen his senses and inspires him.

It’s almost like Danny’s meeting some long-lost brothers and sisters for the first time. They’re just equipped to tease him and punch him into walls.

At the end of the day, they’re there to help mentor him and help him grow into a responsible adult that he knows he can be. Essentially, Danny has got a good heart — his motives are all in the right places, but he’s young. He’s a had a tough upbringing. He’s got a big weight on his shoulders, and he’s never really had influential figures in his life to lead him down the right path, and so he’s always been a bit of a mess, very hot-headed. So, what we’re seeing in The Defenders is these three people who he’s come into contact with are really helping put him on the straight and narrow.

It’s an intense interaction right off the bat; Luke certainly wants to put him on the straight and narrow. The scene in Episode 3 where he calls Danny out for his privilege was probably the first time Danny had ever considered that — how did you prepare for the scene in Episode 3 where Luke calls Danny out on his privilege?

I loved it — this is a very iconic relationship between two superheroes, and they’re known for being BFFs. What I love that Marvel is done is that it’s not just gone straight for the, oh, let’s hang out and be best friends to begin with. They come in with conflicts of interest, and they made it relevant again. It’s interesting to watch. I definitely think it’s the first time that Danny has actually thought about his condition.

His condition being that he’s inherited all this money and a multi-billion-dollar company?

I think Danny is very misunderstood in the fact that a lot of people see that he comes from money and automatically think that he’s privileged. Well, actually, Danny lost his parents when he was 10 years old. He grew up in a world where he was alienated to his former life. He had a very rough upbringing for 15 years.

So, he hasn’t grown up with privilege. He’s come back to New York and suddenly he’s got this responsibility of being the Iron Fist and owning this company and having all of this money. It’s a lot for him to take; he’s like a kid in the candy shop, you know? He’s just trying the best he can.

He doesn’t really understand the other side of the argument.

That’s what I love about this interaction with Luke. It’s the first time he realizes that maybe just one exchange with hitting the enemy or throwing money at the face of adversity isn’t the right way to go about it. He doesn’t know any better.

So, by meeting Luke for the first time, he’s like ‘Oh, shit.’ And then, he learns there’s a different way to do this. Maybe I shouldn’t just go around beating people up. Up until now, he’s only seen things as black and white. He’s seen the problem and he’s seen the solution. He’s very young and he’s very reckless, and usually he just either punches it or he throws money at it because he knows no better. It’s a really wonderful thing when he starts to see a different side of the argument. Danny is really compassionate by nature and he’s very quick to understand Luke’s point of view, and he’s really quick to make amends.

And how would you define Danny’s relationship with Luke and the other two Defenders, Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock’s Daredevil?

So, one of the first conversations I had with Marco [Ramirez, *The Defenders* showrunner,] was about when Danny meets these other three individuals, what does he learn from them, and what do they learn from him? That was the most important thing to me about The Defenders, and we got that across. They really helped him understand himself so much better and really give him more perspective on who he is in the world.

I guess Luke is almost like Danny’s coach. He’s like his counselor, kind of helps wind him down in times when he’s just being a little bit out of control and pretty understanding in situations from a different perspective.

Daredevil is like Danny’s older brother. He’s someone that Danny looks up to. He starts to take a great deal of inspiration from him. I think he admires Daredevil. He admires — even though he’s seen adversity in his life, as Danny has — that he’s not letting that overwhelm him and he’s not letting that get him down, and he’s actually using his abilities for good and doing it in a responsible way. He really takes a lot of inspiration from that.

Jessica is like the cooler, annoying older sister who is always picking on her little brother. Even though she’s always picking on him, she does it out of kindness because, essentially, Danny is the eternal optimistic while Jessica is the down-and-out pessimist. I think it’s really wonderful that Danny meets Jessica, because she kind of brings it down a notch. Jessica is able to take the kids out there and try Danny and make him realize that maybe he shouldn’t take himself so seriously.

How else did Danny level up in Defenders? I’ve noticed a lot people saying his fight style is much cooler and more confident. Did you get any more fight training in between Iron Fist and The Defenders?

None. I went from Iron Fist straight into Defenders. I had a week to turn around and that was all pretty much costume fittings, script read-throughs, and sleeping. In terms of training, really, it has been in the first season and in both of the shows. It’s been on the job.

I’ve seen Iron Fist and Defenders as the first phase of Danny’s journey. I don’t really differentiate between the two, which has been a great thing for me because I’ve been able to play this arc of a character over a long period of time and it’s allowed me to be very nuanced and slow-burning, which I’ve really enjoyed. We’ve been taking our time getting Danny into top form.

Obviously, by the time Defenders came, I’d been working on [*Iron Fist*] and performing the choreography for nearly six or seven months, so I’d gotten a lot more used to it. Also, we had a new choreography team [for *Defenders*] and we had a different cameraman. So, the way it was constructed and the way that it was directed and put together was very different, which I think also helped the show’s choreography.

Now, just gonna let you know, moving into Season 2 of Iron Fist, I’m actually starting my training next week. We’re at least four or five months away from shooting, so this time around, I’m being given a lot more preparation leading up to Season 2, which I think is really gonna have a huge improvement on the quality of the fight scenes in Season 2 of Iron Fist.

Season 02 of Marvel’s Iron Fist Begins Filming in December

It was confirmed earlier this month at San Diego Comic Con that Marvel’s Iron Fist would be getting a second season and Screen Geek confirmed that it begins filming in December. Check it out:

At London’s Film and Comic Con, we had the pleasure of sitting down one on one with actor Sacha Dhawan, who played Davos on the first season.

We asked about the actor about Season Two and here’s what he said:

“It’s definitely not been confirmed whether or not I’ll be in it, but they’re hopefully starting in December. You know with things always changing, Marvel are pretty good adapting to any kind of situation.”

We asked the actor if he wanted to see the show take the more ‘mystical’ route:

“I hope. That’s the most intriguing part with my character and for me – is the world of K’un Lun. I would love to see more of Danny and Davos’ training in K’un Lun. You know with Lei-Kung, The Thunderer. [Hopefully] Gonna’ see all of that, and see a lot more of him hopefully. I think there is an interesting dynamic. There’s a bit of a story to be told.”

We also asked him if there was any chance we could see him on The Defenders:

“Actually, I can say, I won’t be. I think they were keen to develop that storyline a little bit. Not reveal it too early.”

It’s interesting to note that showrunner Scott Buck just stepped down as showrunner, per EW:

EW has learned the Marvel superhero drama will change showrunners for its next round. Scott Buck (Dexter) is stepping down from the top writing gig on the show (though will continue showrunning Marvel’s upcoming The Inhumans). Raven Metzner (Sleepy HollowFalling Skies) has been hired to fill the Iron Fist top slot.

Fans were quick to say it was because of the show being perceived as the ‘weakest link’ of the current Marvel Netflix shows.

Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel TV, quickly debunked this, however:

“What happened, really very simply, was [Season 1 showrunner] Scott Buck was on [ABC Marvel series] Inhumans and we were delighted to get another order from Netflix and knew that Scott was not going to be available to us. We set out to find a new showrunner. Raven came in, told us a story and we thought, ‘that’s the next epic adventure for this character’ and got very excited about it.”

If all goes according to plan, we should have a second season of Iron Fist sometime next year.

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Finn Jones Addresses Show’s White-Washing Controversy

It’s been been a year since Finn Jones found out he was cast as the titular character in Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix, and he remembers that day very clearly. Jones, who had felt pressure to “get the breakout role now when it’s hot” after leaving Game of Thrones, had gone to spend the day at Venice Beach with a friend. “We were just chilling out, the sun was setting, and … we watched these two dolphins jump up as the sun was setting,” he said. “Like, ‘life is good right now,’” he remembered telling his friend before returning to his car and realizing he had a “million voicemails.”

When Jones finally dialed his agent to hear, “Congratulations, you got the role!” he admitted that he “lost [his] shit.” “I started crying. I, like, got out of the car. I was, like, jumping around,” the actor said. He even woke up his mom in England with a call to tell her the news. “It was a moment of complete just relief that, like, finally, after years and years and years of, like, auditioning and wanting to get the lead in something, and especially something as cool as this, just relief of, like, it finally happened,” the now-28 year old said. “The dream had come true. Something I had worked my whole life for had just happened.”

But as Jones celebrated, a vocal contingent of Marvel fans were doing quite the opposite.

Danny Rand, who has always been white in the comics, was introduced in Marvel Premiere #15 in 1974, a time when after being at war with different parts of Asia, America was ready to accept martial arts, but not ready to accept an Asian protagonist. Many feel the origins of Danny Rand and Iron Fist reek of cultural appropriation and Orientalism, and that casting an Asian-American actor to play Danny Rand would have been a major step toward amending that, as well as increasing Asian-American visibility in entertainment. Soon after the casting announcement about Jones, #AAIronFist was trending on Twitter.

It wasn’t long after Jones was happy-crying about landing his first lead role that he learned about the criticism of Iron Fist, which he’s continued to hear over the course of the year. Though Jones did not cast the role of Danny Rand, he did accept it — and soon, he became the face of the controversy. “It’s up to the writers to address thematic and narrative choices,” Jones told BuzzFeed News diplomatically of how he approached the character in the wake of the backlash. “And it’s up to us as actors to try and breathe life into these characters as truthfully and as honestly and with [as much] genuine passion as possible.”

When asked directly about his thoughts on the controversy, Jones paused and finally said, “You know, here is what I’m going to say about it. I get where that frustration comes from. I get the need for diversity and equality in television and film… well, actually in every aspect of life. Right now we live in a culture and a world where we are very unequal in politics, in economics, and in culture. We are being fucked over massively by the top dudes. I stand up for people, I stand up for people across all borders.”

Marvel Comics / Via 8bitsoul.com

Jones went on to stress that “there needs to be more diversity in television and film, especially for Asian actors.” He explained, “With this instance in particular, what I struggle with and what frustrates me is that people are commenting on the headline without understanding the full picture, without understanding the full story. What you’ll find with the way that we’re telling this story is we’re addressing the issues that people are very concerned about in a very intelligent and modern way.

“Danny Rand is not a white savior. Danny Rand can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people. He is a very complicated, vulnerable individual. He doesn’t just show up, like, ‘Hey dudes, I’ve just learned martial arts! I’m going to save the world,’” Jones said in a surfer voice. “Actually, it’s the complete opposite. He’s gone through and suffered immense trauma and he is struggling to claim his own sanity and identity back.”

While Danny Rand has always been white, K’un Lun — the mystic city where Iron Fist lives in the comics, that materializes in the heart of the Himalayas once a decade — has always been presented as a part of Asia. Its inhabitants in the comic books are characters like Shou-Lao and Master Khan, and on the Netflix series, Danny, having only lived in K’un Lun and New York City, shows he is fluent in Mandarin Chinese in the first episode. According to Jones, the creators of Iron Fist took steps to right some of those wrongs that linger from the sort of American kung fu B-movie scene that the Iron Fist comic was borne out of.

“In the comic books, that place is essentially an Asian culture,” Jones said of K’un Lun. “Now K’un Lun in our version, it is a very diverse place. It’s a mystical kingdom in an alternate dimension, but it is populated by people from all over the map. You’ve got South Americans there, you’ve got Europeans there, you’ve got of course Asians there. It’s a diverse space, and we address Danny’s inability to honor and hold responsible the Iron Fist — like, that is part of the story, the fact he has this title, but is unable to harness the responsibility of what that means. And Danny is on a journey to hopefully better himself and hopefully learn to earn the right to hold the Iron Fist… and hopefully in that journey, we address the issues which people are concerned about.”

The show plays with the perception of Danny early on in one of his first scenes opposite Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), dojo owner, master martial artist, and Danny’s eventual partner in crime fighting. When trying to get a job at Wing’s dojo, Rand begins speaking Mandarin to her as a way to impress her, and she tries to respond as best she can before stopping him to say she’s only fluent in English and Japanese.

“Just because we have this color skin, it doesn’t mean we have to conform to preconceived notions of our culture,” Jones said of the scene. “We are human beings on this planet, and we all individually have different attributes. We’re not stereotypes, and hopefully, that’s what the show does. Hopefully the show doesn’t — I don’t think it does — deal in stereotypes, which I think people are worried about.”

If Iron Fist viewers continue to find Netflix’s origin story of Danny Rand problematic, Jones urged them to stick around, saying the show only gets better and better at exploring Danny’s place in the world. “It’s not until [Episode 8] where you have other characters come in from other places that we really start playing around with the idea of Danny being the Iron Fist and addressing those issues,” Jones said. “Then you’re really like, Oh shit, now we’re getting into those philosophical ideas of identity and culture.’”

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[IRON FIST] Finn Jones on Characters, Casting, and more

Finn Jones was interviewed on set of Marvel’s Iron Fist and read bellow and visit Gadgets 360 for more.

“I think what makes Danny stand out from the other three is that he has an optimism, and a youthful inspiration, which the other characters don’t have,” Jones said. “All the other characters are quite dark; they have been through the mill quite a lot. Danny is fresh, and I think he brings a lot of that to the show.”

Even visually, he added, their locations set them apart. “It’s also very elegant. Look where we are filming today,” he said, pointing to the fountain behind us. “It’s beautiful. And the whole show is beautiful. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, it takes place in like Hell’s Kitchen, it’s quite gritty. We shoot in Wall Street, [and] Gramercy Park. We’re in these big, gorgeous, [luxurious] sets.”

Jones wasn’t alone in Central Park that night. He shot with three other cast members, including Jessica Henwick, a good friend of his through their mutual work on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Loras Tyrell and Nymeria Sand – the characters played by Jones and Henwick respectively – may have never met on screen, but thanks to Comic Cons, press tours, and table reads, the two have known each other for a while.

Henwick believed they were “so lucky” to have access to such iconic places as the Bethesda Fountain. “We have access to a place that is normally flooded with tourists,” she said. “We have it here, and we are filming with a rain machine. Like it looks so epic, and that’s always the appeal of these bigger productions, is the scale of it is insane.”

The fame of Star Wars, and chasing after Iron Fist
On Iron Fist, Henwick plays Colleen Wing, a Japanese-American martial arts sensei who owns a small dōjō in New York’s Chinatown neighbourhood. Henwick is of East Asian descent. “Colleen is interesting, in that she’s had a very troubled childhood,” Henwick told us on set. “Her mother died when she was very young, [and] she wasn’t raised by her father. She was sent to her grandparents in Japan, and moved back to America.”

Owing to that, Henwick remarked, Wing “doesn’t feel at home anywhere”, adding, “she doesn’t know which culture she belongs to. She’s kind of a chameleon, and so I tried to infuse that in the series, that she shifts when she’s with different people. You know, the same way when you’re talking to your boss, you speak in one tone of voice, and when you’re talking to your friend, you speak in another tone of voice. She does that, but in terms of how New York she gets versus how traditional Japanese she gets.”

 

Unlike Rand, Wing has no superpowers. “I like that she’s ordinary,” Henwick said. “It’s nice to see a strong woman, and there’s no reason to it. She’s just strong. It’s not because she was hit by a radioactive bomb, or something.” The 24-year-old English actress seems to gravitate towards such roles, it seems. Her best known role is as a skilled, cunning warrior on Game of Thrones, and now she plays a martial arts expert and talented swordswoman on Marvel’s Iron Fist.

Back when Marvel announced Iron Fist for Netflix, Henwick looked up the list of characters, and spotted Wing. She immediately emailed her agent, gave her Wing’s character traits – since production houses use aliases to prevent leaks; for example, Jessica Jones was called Violet – and told her to keep an eye on auditions that would come in.

“And lo and behold, in December when I made a self-tape, it came in under a false project name, and the character was called ‘Christine’,” Henwick remarked. “And [my agent] was like ‘I think this is the character you were telling me about.’ And I said ‘100%. I have no doubt, that, that is Colleen Wing.'”

A lucky death, and the dolphin story
Jones sent in a self-tape around the same time, though he was introduced to the project in an entirely different fashion. He was at the airport after his last day of filming for Game of Thrones – [spoiler alert] the character died in the fifth season finale – and started wondering what would be next for him. “And I get this email for a television show, and I open it,” he said. “I realise it’s a Marvel superhero, and I’m like ‘Whoa, this is pretty cool. [But] yeah, I’m never going to be a superhero. C’mon, it’s like a million miles away.’”

He travelled to Los Angeles a couple of months later, to take part in auditions during the pilot season, hoping to land a new show. Incidentally, Iron Fist ended up being his first audition, Jones revealed. He described the casting process to be quite elongated – having to do multiple screen tests, auditioning in front of various people, which comes with the Marvel territory, and jumping through “lots of hoops”.

 

Jones vividly recalled the day he got the nod, last February. “I was on Venice Beach with a friend of mine, and the sun was just setting,” he said. “This sounds ridiculous, but it’s completely true. As the sun was setting, these dolphins started like jumping up out of the sea, and I was like ‘This is a good omen.’” As he got back to his car, he received a voicemail telling him the Iron Fist role was his. “I lost my mind,” he said, with excitement in his voice. “I called my mum up straight away, I was jumping up and down, I just couldn’t believe it.”

For Henwick, a call came in the week after Jones was cast. “I got a phone call saying they want to fly you to LA for 24 hours,” she said. The two, being good friends, had spoken in the meantime. So when she heard from Netflix, Henwick rang up the man who would play Rand. Jones added: “Jess called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a screen test for Iron Fist. I’m coming to LA tomorrow.’ And I was like ‘No f—— way. Come to my house the night before.’ She landed, came straight to my place, [and] we ran through the scenes together.”

Even though Jones auditioned with other actresses for the same role, he noted that they “had a good thing going on”. “We went there as a team together, and we got the job, so it was great,” he added. “It’s good to kind of stand by your friends in moments like that, and help each other out.”

When Henwick landed back in England, she got a phone call from Marvel Television executive VP Jeph Loeb: “And he said ‘Just wanted to check you got home safe’. And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m home safe, I’m fine’, thinking this is a bit weird the head of Marvel TV called me. And then, he said ‘Oh, I’ve a very small thing, and it’s four words that are going to change your life: Welcome to Marvel, Jess’.”

Martial arts, and gritty realism
After that, things began to pick up steam. Marvel’s Iron Fist went on the floors at the end of March, but both Jones and Henwick had a lot to do before that – studying their characters, dialect and accent practice, and training in martial arts, and with weapons.

“People train years, [even] all their life. I had two months,” Jones said, to laughter. “So it was a lot of work. Before we started shooting, I was working in the dōjō. I was doing two hours of martial arts, and two hours of weight training. I didn’t want to bulk up; he’s meant to be slender, toned, kind of more agile, and athletic, rather than a muscle-bound gym rat.”

Henwick was assigned to aikido classes in England, straightaway. And when she flew into New York, she worked with series stunt coordinator Brett Chan, and his assistants, who taught her other martial arts styles – including kick-boxing, and Krav Maga – and how to use a katana, a traditional Japanese sword that’s the weapon of choice for Colleen Wing. “It was intense,” she noted. “I’ve transformed my body over these past five months. I’ve never felt so physically capable, as I do now.”

For Jones, one of the best things about his character, he thought, was that he’s full of contradictions. “He’s a corporate, wealthy, materialist billionaire, who has also studied Buddhism, and martial arts,” he added. “And it’s in these contradictions, that I think the character excels, really becomes interesting.”

Henwick, for her part, was initially worried that it’d turn out to be a “2D book” performance, seeing as Wing was a comic book character. “But thankfully with Colleen,” she added, “there was so much to draw upon, and the writers put so much in her that I had so many things. I think that’s what I liked about her, she’s very layered.”

When it came to playing the character, Jones relied as much on the script, as on himself. “With characters, I like them to be much a part of me, as they are the character,” he said. “So I bring a lot of myself into the role, as well as what is written.” He added that even though the showrunner, Scott Buck, had his own vision of Danny Rand, he also left a lot of it up to Jones. “I’m very grateful to Scott, and Marvel and Netflix, because it allows me as an artist to breathe, and put my own stamp on the character,” he said.

Jones continued to sing the praises of Netflix and Marvel’s approach, and remarked on how they are taking out “that Hollywood aspect of the superhero”. “There are so many superhero films coming out, and I think a majority of the audience are pretty fed up with how generic they are,” he said.

While it’s easy to place a larger portion of the blame on Warner Bros/ DC productions, Marvel’s own big-screen fare has threatened to turn into risk-free boilerplate. On the other hand, the Netflix offerings have never shied away from its gritty realism. Daredevil’s two seasons have been brutal, and unforgiving; Jessica Jones dealt with abusive relationships, and was pushed beyond the cliff edge; and Luke Cage couldn’t outrun his past forever.

“More than anything, Iron Fist is about character development and story,” Jones noted, echoing the words of Buck. “And to get that kind of storytelling with the superhero genre, it’s a winner. It’s intelligent, it’s interesting, it’s what the audience want.”

When we visited in late September, both Jones and Henwick had another two weeks before wrap-up. The two are now busy filming for the mini-series Marvel’s The Defenders, which will bring all four superheroes – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – together with other cast members. Like a TV version of The Avengers, but just once.

That’s not due until the summer though; before that, Iron Fist arrives mid-next month. Could we see Luke Cage on the show, and give fans a glimpse at Heroes for Hire? Jones wouldn’t be held down on an answer, and simply said: “It’s possible, anything is possible.”

Marvel’s Iron Fist hits Netflix on March 17. To catch future entries in our Iron Fist on-the-sets mini-series, follow us on Facebook/ Twitter, or keep an eye on our Entertainment section.

Disclosure: Netflix sponsored the correspondent’s travel and accommodation for the duration of the visit.

2016 New York Comic Con

Finn attended to the New York Comic Con yesterday (October 08) alongside his Iron Fist and The Defenders Co-Stars. You can check a bunch of high quality pictures of Finn at the event in our gallery! Big thanks to my dear friend Belle who donated most of the pictures!

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GALLERY LINKS:

Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – ‘Iron Fist’ Signing Booth
Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – ‘Iron Fist’ Panel
Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – ‘The Defenders’ Panel
Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – ‘Iron Fist’ Press Line
Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – ‘The Defenders’ Press Line
Public Appearances > 2016 > October 08: New York Comic Con – Backstage