“He is a little boy playing with toys and it doesn’t matter to him that they’re actually real lives out there that are dying,” Deborah Ann Woll recounts from Mark Rylance’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It’s been a decade since the play but the performance still stands forefront in her mind.
“This is him creating this spell in his childlike brain [and he] doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. It was such a miraculous interpretation, and after that I went ‘alright, that’s exactly the kind of actor I want to be.’”
The landscape of acting has changed since Woll sat in the theatre that day. “As a [stage] actor, you have the final word. There’s no editor, there’s no director, there’s nobody coming in after you’ve done it to decide how your story is going to be told. It’s you in that present moment interacting with your audience directly. It gives you an authority over the story that you don’t get in these other mediums.
Woll gained television recognition early in her career on HBO’s True Blood as Jessica Hamby, an innocent girl who transitioned into a vampire during the finale of the first season. What was supposed to be a two-episode arc landed her a recurring role, and swept her up in the vampire craze that overtook the world following the success of Twilight. The show lasted seven seasons and became one of HBO’s tent-pole series during its run. Most recently, she’s joined the Marvel universe as Karen Page in the Daredevil series on Netflix; a 13 episode union of the comic book heavyweight and the online streaming king.
Unlike the heroes of the Marvel films, this television incarnation is decisively more humanistic in its approach. Its hero, Matt Murdock—a lawyer by day, masked vigilante by night—is blinded in an accident as a boy, yet left with his other senses heightened. The story’s villains don’t wield godly power; rather, they are a sinister section of society out for their own gain.
Daredevil’s cast of thugs include the Russians, the Chinese, and so on, echoing Marvel’s early anti-Communist, pro-American propaganda roots, and I’m curious to hear her thoughts on the choice.
“I think in any media you try to relate to what you see is going on in the world. Something that I respond to in our Daredevil story is that it’s about people who—despite the odds, despite how scary and dangerous it is—don’t just turn away and ignore it. If you’re Matt Murdock, you jump in and you fight until you save the person’s life. If you’re Karen Page, you investigate and you go where no one else is willing to go and you write the story.”
When I point out that this feeling of helplessness has many parallels to the domestic political climate, she’s quick to say that it’s why she loves the show’s message, “Somehow we’ve all been lulled into this sense of ‘we have no power, we have no control, we’re just going to sit back and watch our cable.’ I think it’s a strong message to say that we do still have a voice.”
Marvel Studios has often come under fire for its treatment of women. Although, Marvel Television—in charge of the adaptations including Agent Carter and the upcoming A.K.A. Jessica Jones—has put females into strong leads, in the comics, Page becomes addicted to heroin, stars in porn, and sells Daredevil’s identity.
I ask Woll about any concerns with the future narrative direction.
“My feeling is that it’s the writer’s job to write and my job to act. So my job is everything that’s not on the page, everything that isn’t explicitly said, mine is the subtext, the non-literal. I can interpret it however I want to interpret it, essentially, what I try to do is every time I get a scene, I try to find some sort of unique angle or some take on it that maybe is a little unexpected or a little bit different than what’s on the page and I hope that that then inspires the writers to take her in other directions.”
Prospero may hold the chess pieces, but it’s Woll who will move them across the board.
Photographer: Olivia Malone for brydgesmackinney.com.
Stylist: Zoe Costello for art-dept.com.
Hair: Luke Chamberlain for forwardartists.com using Oribe.
Makeup: Samuel Paul for forwardartists.com using Make Beauty.
Manicure: Stephanie Stone for Nailinghollywood.com.
Photography Assistants: Brook Keegan and Taylor Rainbolt.
Styling Assistant: Laura Delman.
Retouching: Jay Oligny.
Location: Mama Gallery at Mama.gallery.
Beauty Notes: Lightful C tinted cream SPF 30 with radiance booster by M.A.C Cosmetics, Defining mascara in black, gel eyeliner pencil in very black, and satin luminous lip gloss in Conch by Make Beauty, and Nail color in Eastern Light by Chanel. Dry spray, volumista, and superfine hairspray by Oribe.