Rise of a vil­lain

How Dhawan broke new ground on Netflix’s Iron Fist

The Prince George Citizen - - A & E - David BE­TAN­COURT

Be­fore Sacha Dhawan be­came one of the most vi­o­lent and in­trigu­ing an­tag­o­nists in Marvel’s live-ac­tion entertainment era, he was sit­ting on a bus in Lon­don, read­ing Iron Fist comics, con­vinced he would never land the role of the mys­ti­cal mar­tial artist the Steel Ser­pent.

Each flip of the page re­vealed few sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Dhawan and the clas­sic vil­lain he had au­di­tioned to play for Marvel and Netflix’s Iron Fist se­ries.

Davos, the man un­der the mask of the Steel Ser­pent, seemed al­most alien to Dhawan. He saw skin of a dif­fer­ent colour and a hulk­ing fig­ure that seemed twice his size.

“I kind of thought there’s no way in a mil­lion years I’m ever go­ing to get this job,” Dhawan told The Washington Post.

But sur­pris­ingly to him, Dhawan got the role for Iron Fist’s po­lar­iz­ing first sea­son, play­ing a brother/ best friend to Iron Fist pro­tag­o­nist Danny Rand (Finn Jones).

Af­ter it came out, famed comic book writer and cur­rent Marvel tele­vi­sion pro­ducer Jeph Loeb called Dhawan to let him know Sea­son 2 of Iron Fist was a go, and that Davos would play a much larger and darker part in the plot.

Know­ing he was about to make the tran­si­tion from friend to foe in Iron Fist’s sec­ond sea­son, Dhawan be­gan four months of in­tense train­ing and weightlift­ing to bulk up, to pre­pare for turn­ing on the evil switch in front of the cam­eras.

Dhawan stud­ied var­i­ous forms of mar­tial arts, in­clud­ing Wing Chun, Choy Li Fut and boxing, work­ing with his train­ers to cre­ate a style of fight­ing for Davos that worked well for both the char­ac­ter and Dhawan’s abil­i­ties.

“I wanted to give the im­pres­sion that be­tween Sea­son 1 and Sea­son 2, Davos, he had lost ev­ery­thing, but it meant that he trained harder and wanted to come back harder,” Dhawan said. “I started off in Lon­don with a range of dif­fer­ent train­ers and then (was) re­ally up­ping my train­ing regime, some­times train­ing twice, even three times of day and liv­ing a bit of a kind of life­style as Davos would, where your life just re­volves around eat­ing and train­ing and fo­cus and dis­ci­pline. It was a real chal­lenge.”

The cul­mi­na­tion of all that train­ing came dur­ing Sea­son 2’s fifth episode, Heart of the Dragon. The episode opens with Davos, hav­ing just stolen the power of the Iron Fist from Danny Rand, de­stroy­ing a ce­ment wall with a red chi­fu­eled closed fist. In that scene, Dhawan wears the Iron Fist mask many fans have been clam­or­ing to see more of. He says a de­ci­sion was made that he would not con­tinue wear­ing the mask, so he would not cover up the anger that was writ­ten on his face in ev­ery scene. But in the mo­ment, he was over­come with emo­tion and felt like a su­per­hero.

“It was some­thing that I never thought was pos­si­ble for some­one who’s a Bri­tish In­dian ac­tor,” Dhawan said. “I was think­ing about Davos at that time, think­ing about his mom and fa­ther in K’un-Lun, and me, Sacha Dhawan, think­ing about my mom and dad back in the U.K., and I’m think­ing, ‘I did it, mom and dad.’ It was a very proud mo­ment, not just for me, but for other Bri­tish In­di­ans or In­di­ans all over the world (to see) that this is pos­si­ble. It’s a real big step for the Marvel uni­verse.”

Not lost in that mo­ment was Dhawan re­al­iz­ing in that scene he was giv­ing view­ers the Iron Fist of colour many thought the show needed, even if he was the bad guy. (Many fans thought Marvel and Netflix should have cast an Asian lead ac­tor as Iron Fist.) But what Dhawan, nor any­one stream­ing that episode could have known in that mo­ment, was that would not be the last time they’d see some­one other than Danny Rand with the power of the Iron Fist.

Per­haps the most talked about and con­tro­ver­sial mo­ment of Sea­son 2 is lead­ing lady Jes­sica Hen­wick (who plays Colleen Wing) gain­ing the power of the Iron Fist in the 10th and fi­nal episode af­ter she and Danny Rand suc­cess­fully take the power away from Davos. Dhawan says no one on set knew the change was com­ing.

“It’s some­thing that they were very se­cre­tive about telling peo­ple. Be­cause if it leaked, then we’re ru­in­ing the sur­prise for every­body,” Dhawan said. “I’m ex­cited to see how Colleen han­dles it. Is she go­ing to fall in love with the power? And who else is go­ing to have ac­cess to it?”

PHOTO BY NETFLIX-MARVEL

Sacha Dhawan stars as Davos in Netflix’s Iron Fist.

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