Playing newbie vampire Jessica Hamby in True Blood was a breakout role for Deborah Ann Woll, but her latest part is something she can sink her teeth into too: Karen Page in the Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil, which begins streaming its second season this weekend.
Woll stars as the assistant to lawyers Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who as his crime fighting titular alter ego, faces new foes this season: Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead) and old flame Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung).
It’s a fun departure for the Brooklyn native and USC grad, who has also appeared in movies and on ER, The Mentalist and My Name is Earl. Here, she explains why, hints at what’s ahead, and reveals her surprising pick for Netflix binge-watching…
“I have a policy of not watching the work that I do, and one interesting side effect is I have no imagery of the show that isn’t first person, through Karen’s eyes. So I’ve only seen Daredevil twice as Karen and there’s something wonderful about that.”
What do you love about Karen?
The things that Karen wants to do and will do willingly are things that are outside my comfort zone. An example would be pestering people with questions, being nosy and pushy and getting her way. I love how assertive she is, even sometimes to a fault, and I like that the role asks me to do things that I would never do in my life.
Do you like the physical side of it?
I’m a pretty physical person, so it hasn’t been too scary. It’s never a burden. That stuff’s fun, and when you have as qualified stunt professionals and choreographers as we have on this show, it’s a privilege to work with them. However, I do like that Karen can’t resort to throwing a punch. She has to beat you with her brain, or she has to trick you, or she has to be one step ahead of you. Even though I’m not playing a physically strong character, I get to then expand upon her other strengths, which are maybe less tangible, but just as cool.
How do you compare Karen to Jessica on True Blood?
As Jessica, everything was new and vibrant. Things smelled more rich and were more colorful. The world was like this open book that she wanted to step into. And she had no fear because she was so young. With Karen it’s much more, ‘I want to observe, I want to understand, and then I will jump into the darkness. I’ve been hurt before so I come into this with my guard up.’ Instead of being more colorful, things are darker and more uncertain. Even though she wants to be certain about her ideals, she can’t be.
So far, Karen’s in the dark about Matt being Daredevil. What do you think of that, and will it change?
I have a policy of not watching the work that I do, and one interesting side effect is I have no imagery of the show that isn’t first person, through Karen’s eyes. So I’ve only seen Daredevil twice as Karen and there’s something wonderful about that. To Karen he’s like a ghost, this exceptional being that she has no concrete sense of. I believe that Karen wouldn’t connect the two yet. She knows something is up with Matt but she wouldn’t make that connection—there’s not enough evidence yet. But she’s a smart cookie and maybe she will.
What else can we expect this season?
The Punisher and Electra bring out the more extreme side of Daredevil. He has this code—he won’t kill people. He has boundaries that he’s decided make him right and anyone that crosses them, wrong. The questions that we’re asking this season are: Who decides who’s a hero? Why is one way better than another? Does that even matter? Foggy and Karen certainly get caught up in that discussion. Heroism comes in different packages, and the superhero package is one we’re all familiar with. Karen is searching for truth, saying ‘something awful happened to me but I’m not going to stick my head in the sand and let it happen to other people,’ and I think there’s real heroism in that. I like that as a triad we can represent brawn and brains and kindness and all the different ways you can contribute as a hero.
Why do you think superhero shows are so popular?
I don’t know, but what’s interesting about Daredevil specifically is that as humans, we want to become the things that we fear. I was reading about werewolves, and there’s this idea that when you are scared of something, you create these myths about becoming these things you are terrified of. Bad guys are out there terrorizing good citizens and Daredevil becomes the thing that terrorizes them. So he takes on the thing that we are most afraid of and makes it good. Living in a really scary world that we live in today, there’s something kind of comforting in that a person who is good can flip the cards on the things that they are scared of.
What goals do you set for your career?
I’m ridiculously ambitious in that I would like to do everything. I started in theater and I would love to go back and do more of that at the highest levels that I’m capable of attaining. There are so many great stories to be told and I’m really glad that I’m starting in television. When I was growing up, there was this wealth of movies being made in the five- to 10-million-dollar range, and a great variety in that. But now it’s either huge budgets or tiny. Television, especially streaming and cable, have filled that void, and you can tell more diverse stories. So I’ve had some great opportunities and I hope that I can branch out into every medium.
What are you binge watching on Netflix?
The Dick Van Dyke Show. It’s so good!