The Devil Unmasked
Charlie Cox on playing a blind superhero and his favourite off-screen activities
ON MY WAY TO INTERVIEW CHARLIE COX, my stomach is rumbling so hard it surely wouldn’t take someone with Matt Murdock’s superhuman hearing to catch. Lucky for me, I’m early and there’s a 7-Eleven nearby. Just as I fish out a note to pay for the sandwich, my mobile phone buzzes violently from an unknown number. It’s Cox’s media representative. I tell her I’m close and shove half the sandwich into my mouth as I cross back over. The waiting room I’m shown to looks like Netflix has thrown up all over it. It’s covered in merchandise and posters of Cox’s on-screen persona, Daredevil. As I’m thumbing through my notes and questions, a young woman enters the room and tells me, “He’s ready for you.” In the next room, Cox stands up and extends his hand. He is built. That much is apparent even through the loose white button-down he has on. How actors have the time to work out is beyond me. We sink into large leather armchairs and chat. I have only 15 minutes. Could he tell that Daredevil was going to be something special? “You never can know about these things,” he says. “What I noticed when I read the first few scripts was that the writing was really interesting ‒ it was so sophisticated in fact that it didn’t read like anything I imagined a script for a superhero series would.” He goes on to explain how the dialogue feels natural, the characters are rounded and believable, and that there’s really so much that happens on the set that makes his contribution small by comparison. “Like the editing, the cinematography, and the music. I was really blown away with what everyone did on the show to make it what it is,” Cox beams with a pride that is derived from doing a good job. Despite receiving constant praise for his acting abilities, the 33-year-old remains modest, admitting that portraying a blind person is a tough thing to do. “In real life, if you don’t suffer from vision loss, you draw emotion from other people through their eyes. And if you’re trying to tell someone that you’re sad, or happy, or angry, you do so much of it with your eyes as well,” he explains. Of course, with Matt Murdock, Cox and his fellow cast members don’t get this luxury, so drumming up emotions has been tricky. “I didn’t anticipate that and it continues to be something I work on,” he says thoughtfully. Of all the Marvel superheros, Daredevil has to be the most appealing because under that suit (which is pretty comfortable according to Cox) is a man anyone can relate to. “I think of Matt as a human being first. If you’re not careful, there is a tendency to play superheroes as super-human,” he leans in. “I wanted to make sure we had the right balance of all the good and bad qualities ‒ so Matt is emotionally unavailable, stubborn, arrogant, but he’s also courageous, and immensely kind.” With only a few minutes left, I decide to pry into his off-screen life, as he keeps a lower profile than most actors. Like a true Brit, he loves watching and playing football. He tells me he’s an Arsenal fan, even though it’s a little embarrassing to admit because of the terrible season they’re having. When he does get time off from filming, he also likes backpacking. “I love seeing different parts of the world. I’ve travelled up the east coast of Africa, spent time in South and Central America, and also been to Asia a little bit.” And like the typical Singaporean journalist, I asked him that question. “Oh, we went out for chilli crab and pepper crab last night, and they were fantastic. I like seafood, so I really enjoyed them. There’s not been much time but I’m getting a sense of Singapore through its food. I really want to try some street food, so I’ll definitely come back.” As I munch on the remainder of my sandwich outside the hotel, I feel like I’ve had a nice chat with an old friend. And that’s exactly what the man behind the Devil’s mask is like.
If Charlie Cox hadn’t gone into acting, he would likely be working outdoors. His favoured alternative career choices are landscape gardening and travel writing. He attributes this to spending too much time in studios.
I think of Matt as a human being first. If you’re not careful, there is a tendency to play superheroes as super-human Catch season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix