If you watched the two-part trailer for Daredevil season two, you saw that Elektra (Elodie Yung) doesn’t show up until the end of part one — and that’s how she makes her entrance in the series, too. You’ll be glad all 13 episodes of the series premiere at once so you can binge until Elektra arrives. (Just kidding — we knew you were going to binge anyway.)
Elektra has a history with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), and she returns now that he’s fighting crime as Daredevil at night. Elodie Yung spoke with a group of reporters before the Daredevil panel for the Television Critics Association and we were there to ask her questions. She was joined by Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel television. Daredevil returns March 18 on Netflix.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Elodie, were you a big Elektra fan before or did you do a crash course on the comic books once you got the part?
Elodie Yung: Crash course. I was a fan of the series, of Daredevil. That’s the only thing I knew about this world, really. I never read comic books before, so I did my homework, did my crash course.
Jeph Loeb: It was important to us that we find the right person for the role. Oftentimes we do find people that don’t know Marvel — it really doesn’t matter. In many ways, it enables them to start at a blank slate and really interpret the character the way that it’s being presented for this particular medium. So yes, it should feel like there’s no one else that could play Elektra other than Elodie, but it should also feel like if you don’t know who Elektra is, that this is somebody who is challenging Matt Murdock and questioning his values and reminding him of his first love. Those are the things that are as important as it is to be this iconic character of Elektra.
Q: You do practice martial arts. Did you hurt anybody behind the scenes?
Yung: No, no, no, no. I wouldn’t hurt any on purpose, nor accidentally. No, we were very much in control, but yeah, it helps. I’m a black belt of Karate so for this type of part, it really helps because I have a strong base. Elektra is way better than me — I’m a bit rusty. I mean, I’m a black belt, but I stopped when I was 20. I’m a bit older now, so I needed to get back on track and learn new things as well, because she’s a killer. So she should be much more than a Karate martial artist. In the way she’s fighting in the series, we’ve introduced Capoeiria. I had to learn how to manipulate the sais. There’s some Muay Thai in the way she moves as well — a lot of fun stuff to learn and do.
Q: Elektra is mysterious and exotic. What is your take on her?
Yung: Yeah, that’s what they keep saying. I don’t see myself as exotic. She’s mysterious, yes, because she comes back into Matt’s life out of the blue. He probably wondered what she’s done during these 10 years he didn’t see her. And she hides most of her life from Matt, so in that sense, yes, she’s mysterious. My take on her is as far as Matt is trying to figure out how to handle justice and how he is as a hero in his city, I think Elektra tries also to figure out who she is. I think it’s probably why she comes back into Matt’s life.
Loeb: If season one was really about Matt’s decision to become a hero, season two really became about ‘What is it to be a hero?’ So in introducing the characters of Frank Castle and Elektra, it was to be able to push and pull on Matt. It wasn’t just to have those characters then join the ongoing ensemble cast. It actually was to have Frank on the one hand, who sees justice in a very black-and-white kind of way, whereas Elektra lives more in the gray — or says she lives more in the gray. I think one of the things that’s so dynamic about Elodie’s performance is you never quite know if Elektra’s telling you the truth.
I think the idea of Elektra being a strong-willed, mysterious, independent, to a certain extent femme fatale, is the kind of character that an audience speaks to and yearns for, and at the same time, should be taken aback by. If we can continue to play that, then particularly when you want people to watch 13 episodes in a row, this is one of the gifts that Elodie brings us.
RT: How do you feel when Jeph calls you a femme fatale?
Yung: Feels good. It’s not often that I’m being called femme fatale. Thank you, Jeph. Can you carry on? I like that.
RT: Is Elektra a femme fatale?
Yung: Yeah, I think so in many ways. She’s a strong woman. If she needs a man, she will take him. She’ll just do what feels right for her and she wouldn’t ask permission to do anything.
Loeb: I also think there’s an element of that, and that’s more of what I meant, that there is an element of danger that comes along with it. That you know that if you’re going to dance with Elektra, there is just as much a chance that you are going to fall in love with her as you are going to wind up dead. That to me is the traditional nature of what it is to be a femme fatale. You are putting yourself at risk by coming into contact with someone who is this strong, this independent and has her own agenda. That agenda is going to come over whatever agenda you happen to think you have. That will certainly put our hero in jeopardy.
Yung: Big time.
Q: Do you feel like you’re part of a big agenda shift in the way comic books are presented in film and television, with more female driven stories being told?
Yung: I do feel privileged to play Elektra, because definitely she is a strong female character. She’s a strong character. It would be nice if eventually we’d just say she’s a strong character, not a strong female character. Yeah, I think it’s important to discover a character like her and I feel very lucky.
Loeb: Obviously we get asked this question a lot and it’s curious to us in many ways. If you look at not just Marvel in the comics but Marvel in the movies and television, if you start on S.H.I.E.L.D. between Agent May, Daisy and Mockingbird, the list goes on and on on that show. Agent Carter is back for a second helping. Then you get to Jessica Jones but it’s not just Jessica Jones. When you look at that show, Rachael Taylor, who plays Trish Walker, and Carrie-Ann Moss, who plays Jeri Hogarth, each of them bring a different flavor to those things. I actually think what Elodie said is really the right thing. It certainly is a hope that there’s going to come a time where we’re not having a conversation about whether it’s a female character. It’s just how do you feel about playing this character? That will come with time. I can certainly tell you from those of us that work on the creative side of bringing these shows that Marvel never looks at any of those situations as whether it’s race, religion or gender. It’s just: what’s the best story?
RT: Elodie, if you did a crash course, what was one thing you got from the comic books that really clued you into Elektra?
Yung: I think, you know, what I tried to capture by reading the comics is I wanted to keep the coldness. We had conversations at length with Doug [Petrie] and Marco [Ramirez]. We think Elektra is kind of a sociopath, you know. This world is a game for her. It’s like a chess game, and what motivates her is what she wants. She’ll use anything she needs to use to get to her goal, and if she needs to kill people, she would. She has this coldness and this sociopath in her, and I tried to keep that, really. But, on the other hand, we wanted to create a character with different layers. And I think I think Elektra isn’t a bad person. She’s not a good person. She’s a person with different traits, with layers, and she’s searching for who she is. So, really, in this season, there’s an arc to her story, and hopefully, we’ll find out who she really is by the end.