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For­get what you know about fe­male su­per­heroes and meet Jes­sica Jones. Bit­ter, bruised, a cham­pion of “rest­ing bitch face”, this su­per-strong pri­vate eye takes crap from no one and you won’t catch her wear­ing a cat­suit. Oh, and make-up? Fuhged­dabou­dit.

“False eye­lashes and hair­spray weren’t al­lowed on the set,” says Jes­sica Jones showrun­ner Melissa Rosen­berg, chat­ting to

SFX dur­ing a much-needed break in Lon­don. “And there was an ex­tremely con­scious ef­fort to never have her play the honey pot. You know, any time you have a fe­male cop or de­tec­tive, in the first episode you’re go­ing to have that char­ac­ter put in high heels, a tight ban­dage dress and go out and se­duce some­body. Never was gonna hap­pen here.”

In other words, wel­come back to Hell’s Kitchen. Set in the same New York neigh­bour­hood that Dare­devil calls home,

Mar­vel’s sec­ond Net­flix TV se­ries has dark­ness to ri­val Dare­devil. Josh Win­ning goes un­der­cover to un­cover the mys­ter­ies of JES­SICA JONES

Jes­sica Jones is the sec­ond of Mar­vel’s Net­flix TV shows. Shar­ing a few guest play­ers with the Man With­out Fear’s show (no­tably Rosario Daw­son as nurse Claire Tem­ple), it’s ev­ery bit as grubby, vi­o­lent and morally am­bigu­ous as its fore­bear. And if you thought Dare­devil, which de­buted to great ac­claim in April, was dark, you ain’t seen noth­ing yet.

“One of the things I love about this char­ac­ter is she’s so deeply dam­aged, and yet at her core, she wants to do some­thing good,” Rosen­berg says. “She wants to con­trib­ute some­thing good to the world. It’s buried deep in there... Where I con­nected to her was the dam­age, that’s what at­tracted me, be­cause we’re all dam­aged on some level, in some way, and that makes her ac­ces­si­ble. Oth­er­wise she’s quite a tough char­ac­ter, you know, she’s got a lot of de­fences up and that bro­ken as­pect of her is the au­di­ence’s way into her vul­ner­a­bil­ity.”

If Dare­devil was a Goodfel­las-es­que le­gal drama with teeth, Jes­sica Jones rev­els in noir-ish ter­rain (Ro­man Polan­ski’s Chi­na­town was a touch­stone for the se­ries both nar­ra­tively and vis­ually). Noc­tur­nal, haunted by her past, al­ways ready with a hip-flask and a fist, Jones re­calls the Bo­gies and Mitchums of ’30s and ’40s film noir. While her ori­gin story re­mains a mys­tery for the first half of the sea­son (in the comics, Jones ac­quires su­per-strength af­ter a car crash that re­sults in her be­ing doused with ra­dioac­tive chem­i­cals), what we do know is that af­ter a spin sav­ing in­no­cents in span­dex, tragedy prompted Jones to bin her su­per-suit.

Now, she works as a pri­vate de­tec­tive, tak­ing cases on a free­lance ba­sis, as well as do­ing grunt work for high-pow­ered at­tor­ney Jeri Hog­a­rth (Carrie-Anne Moss). “Not only does she have quite the dra­matic child­hood, but in her more re­cent past she’s a vic­tim of rape, and her way of hav­ing dealt with that thus far is to for­get it,” says Rosen­berg, “but it keeps creep­ing out – the only way out is through. So

dig­ging the dark­ness

she gets that op­por­tu­nity and that part of our 13-hour arc is re­ally deal­ing with that vi­o­lence, and if you will, tak­ing back the night.”

It wasn’t al­ways go­ing to be this way. In 2010, be­fore Mar­vel signed a deal with Net­flix to pro­duce four gritty TV shows star­ring its street-level he­roes, Rosen­berg was ap­proached by Mar­vel TV chief Jeph Loeb, who handed her a copy of Brian Michael Bendis’s 2001 comic se­ries Alias. Hav­ing spent over a decade writ­ing for shows like Dark Skies and Dex­ter, Rosen­berg couldn’t get enough of Bendis’s moody page-turner. “I just fell in love with it,” she says. “I went, ‘Look, this is a re­ally dark comic book, this is a re­ally dark char­ac­ter! I have no in­ten­tion of light­en­ing it, I want to go ex­actly where this comic goes – and fur­ther.‘”

She quickly set about de­vel­op­ing the show for ABC, the net­work that cur­rently airs Agents Of SHIELD and Agent Carter, and it seemed like the per­fect home for Mar­vel’s next small-screen out­ing. “When we sold it to ABC Net­work, they were like, ‘Yeah, for sure!’” Rosen­berg re­mem­bers. Just over a year later, though, ABC passed, and Rosen­berg went back to the draw­ing board. “Ul­ti­mately, it was re­ally too dark for net­work tele­vi­sion,” she ad­mits.

Three years af­ter that block­ade, Mar­vel struck its deal with Net­flix, and Jes­sica Jones fi­nally got ac­cep­tance. There were early con­cerns, though, par­tic­u­larly be­cause the show would be part of the Mar­vel Ex­panded Uni­verse. In the comics, Jones has ties to ev­ery­body from Dare­devil (he hires her as a body­guard) and Ant-Man (they dated), and Rosen­berg ad­mits she was ini­tially “afraid that was go­ing to be re­stric­tive”. “In the end, ac­tu­ally, it was only valu­able,” the showrun­ner says. “The mythol­ogy is so well-de­fined that hav­ing this world to play in was re­ally fun. No one ever stepped in and said, ‘You have to do it this way be­cause it’s part of the Mar­vel canon.’”

And where ABC baulked at Jones’ R-rated con­tent – its first episode in par­tic­u­lar cli­maxes with an upset­tingly bloody en­counter – there were few lim­its placed on this new in­car­na­tion. “The only limit, re­ally, from Mar­vel, was that we could do any­thing but say the ‘F’ word,” Rosen­berg re­veals. There was also a ban on ex­plicit nu­dity, with Rosen­berg say­ing: “There’s pretty graphic sex, but it’s more sug­ges­tive than bla­tant nu­dity. Other than

one of the things i love about this char­ac­ter is that she’s so dam­aged

those two things, there’s no bound­aries, we just go all the way with every­thing.”

Though it would take an­other two years for Jones to go in front of cam­eras – shoot­ing both on sound stages and on lo­ca­tion in New York be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Au­gust 2015 – one con­stant was Krys­ten Rit­ter. The 33-year-old ac­tress, then best known for her roles in TV’s Don’t Trust The B---- In Apart­ment 23 and sea­son two of Break­ing Bad, was one of the first peo­ple to read for the role, “and she re­ally set the bar for ev­ery­one else,” Rosen­berg says. “No one else could hit it. Krys­ten has amaz­ing dra­matic chops as well as comedic.”

Even more im­por­tantly, Rit­ter wasn’t afraid of get­ting her fists bruised. She’s in­tro­duced throw­ing a guy through a glass door, and goes on to tackle a bar brawl with love in­ter­est Luke Cage (Mike Colter), an­other of the show’s key play­ers. “She’d never re­ally done stunts be­fore,” Rosen­berg re­veals of her star, “so she got in there and af­ter her first take she was jazzed. Like, ‘That was so cool!’ She loved do­ing them, but we went through three dif­fer­ent stunt dou­bles for her. One broke her foot, the other hurt her neck, an­other one had an­other is­sue, Krys­ten her­self got in­jured a cou­ple of times...”

Vi­o­lence of a more psy­cho­log­i­cal va­ri­ety is what re­ally drives this first sea­son, though, not least when it comes to the show’s Big Bad. Just as in the comics, Jones’s neme­sis is Kil­grave (David Ten­nant), whose abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late peo­ple’s minds means he can turn just about any­body into his slave – and he’s key to Jones’s tor­mented past. Though he’s a wak­ing night­mare for Jones, Rosen­berg has noth­ing but praise for Ten­nant. “He’s one of the finest ac­tors I’ve ever had the plea­sure of work­ing with,” she en­thuses. “He brings so much to what he does on so many dif­fer­ent lev­els. We ended up hav­ing th­ese full mono­logues, pages of di­a­logue for him, just be­cause we wanted to hear him do them!”

This may just be the be­gin­ning for Jes­sica Jones, but she’s a vi­tal part of the jig­saw puz­zle that is Mar­vel TV. Solo shows for Luke Cage and Iron Fist are also in the works, with minis­eries The De­fend­ers on the hori­zon. “There’s a lot of story that has to hap­pen be­tween now and then,” Rosen­berg ac­knowl­edges. “They each have their own story be­fore any­body knows what the group is. Each show is able to do its own thing. I hadn’t even seen all the Dare­dev­ils be­fore we started shoot­ing, and the Luke Cage peo­ple haven’t seen every­thing we’ve done. It’s re­ally so that each one has its own vi­sion, and yet there is this uni­verse that we’re part of, so you’d watch us and we’d glance off the Dare­devil world, but we’re re­ally our own thing.”

As for the fu­ture, like Dare­devil, a sec­ond sea­son of Jes­sica Jones is de­pen­dent on the re­cep­tion of its first. That hasn’t been a hin­drance for Rosen­berg, though. “At the end of sea­son one, we leave Jes­sica in a re­ally in­ter­est­ing place where her life is about to change,” she ex­plains. “It’s a bit of a cliffhanger. We leave our­selves as many dan­gling threads as we can and then we start weav­ing to­gether when we get there.” Some­thing tells us this isn’t the last we’ll see of Miss Jones.

Jes­sica Jones be­gins on Net­flix on 20 Novem­ber. Read more about her comic book his­tory over­leaf.

Had you heard of Jes­sica Jones be­fore you au­di­tioned for the role?

No, I hadn’t. In fact, my man­ager pitched me the show so badly. He was like, “You’re so right for it. She’s a su­per­hero, but she’s re­ally bad at it.” I was like, “Okay, so you’re not pitch­ing it very well.” I had a meet­ing with Mar­vel, with Jeph Loeb, and I read the script. He locked me in a room, took away my cell­phone. When I came out, I was blown away. I didn’t know what to ex­pect, but I cer­tainly didn’t ex­pect this badass, rich char­ac­ter.

What did you like most about the char­ac­ter?

This is every­thing I ever wished to do, all in one part. She is vul­ner­a­ble, she’s very funny at times, she’s kick­ing ass, she’s walk­ing around the city look­ing like a badass. Just every­thing about her, I was like, “Oh, this is it. This is my part.” I’m still pinch­ing my­self that here we are talk­ing about it.

Is it quite in­tim­i­dat­ing com­ing into the Mar­vel fold?

Some­times it is, and some­times I just try not to think about it. I’m not naive to the fact that Mar­vel is a gi­ant su­per-brand, and there will be eyeballs. Yeah, it’s over­whelm­ing and some­times I’m like, “Oh, shit!” But at the end of the day, cre­atively, all I re­ally think about is the char­ac­ter.

She’s also the first fe­male Mar­vel su­per­hero to head­line her own show. Does that come with ex­tra pres­sures?

It def­i­nitely comes with its own ex­tra ex­cite­ment. It felt very ground­break­ing, very ex­cit­ing. I would love for a gen­er­a­tion, the girls com­ing up be­hind me, to be in­spired by this char­ac­ter, and to show there can be strong, amaz­ing fe­male an­ti­heroes. Jes­sica Jones is unique. Josh Win­ning

David Ten­nant’s Kil­grave is the mean, mind­con­trol­ling bad­die.

Don’t Trust The B---- in the lat­est Net­flix show.

It’s not look­ing like, say, Age Of Ul­tron just yet…

Mike Colter look­ing the part as Luke Cage, aka Power Man.

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