The Defenders: The Redemption of Iron Fist and Danny Rand

Finn Jones told us about why you shouldn't judge Danny Rand by Iron Fist season 1, his origin is completed in The Defenders.

Danny Rand took a bit of a beating in the wake of the first season of Iron Fist. But you wouldn’t know it to talk to Finn Jones, who was nothing but upbeat, cheerful, and chatty when we spoke with him by phone in May. The actor had a lot to feel good about. The Defenders had wrapped production, and he was waiting for word (now confirmed) that Marvel and Netflix would greenlight Iron Fist Season 2.

Mr. Jones told us about the mental and physical challenges of playing Danny Rand on his own show and in The Defenders, what he would like to see in  Season 2, and much more.

Were you prepared for the reaction that you got at New York Comic Con last year when The Defenders were united on stage for the first time? Because I’ve never seen anything like that at New York Comic Con.

Finn Jones: So this is the situation. I think I was running on about three hours of sleep. We just wrapped season 1 of Iron Fist at, like, I think 9 AM that morning after six months of intense, intense shoot. And so, we’ve been working I think two solid weeks of night shoot solid leading up to it, and then on the last day, we wrapped it at like 8 PM, and then I had like three hours of sleep before I had to come in to do New York Comic Con.

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I remember just being thrown on the stage… I was watching footage back from the show—You know, I’ve never seen footage back from the show before, and suddenly I’m in front of thousands of screaming people, watching the footage back for the first time, getting this reaction for the first time, then also meeting the other Defenders for the first time. And it was just like… [Laughs] It was very overwhelming and super intense. It was fun, but, you know when some just completely pound your senses, like sense overload? I was kind of numb to it all because I was just so tired by that point.

So, you couldn’t have had a lot of time between when Iron Fist wrapped and when you had to go right into The Defenders, right?

Maybe it was like a week and a half? A week and a half, two weeks? But then—you know, you’ve got two weeks—but then you’re in prep for The Defenders anyway. I planned to go away and have a holiday. I kind of planned to do that in my head, and then after six months of intense shooting for Iron Fist, my body just shut down afterwards. So I needed a week to kind of recover and get back to normal. And then, by week two of my time off, I was already planning to go into costume fittings, table read-throughs, all that kind of stuff. So I pretty much went straight from Iron Fist into The Defenders. It wasn’t really a break. Even though it was, it didn’t feel like it.

Since you’re sharing this one with three other leads, was The Defenders a little less grueling?

Well, I think everybody benefitted from that schedule, working on a schedule which is an ensemble piece because we have time to let the work breathe. We have time to prep the scene with more care, especially with the fight scenes. I had more time to rehearse because there were days in my schedule where I didn’t have to be on set filming. On a regular show, you’re working everyday, five days, sometimes six days a week. On this show, especially in the beginning, we kind of worked maybe three to four days a week? And obviously when we’re all teamed up, then we’re all together all of time, so it went back to a normal shooting schedule.

But for sure, especially for me, going from such an intense six months shoot to then go into The Defenders, which is a bit more spread out, it was definitely needed and it was definitely necessary. I think the work is just allowed to breathe a little bit more, especially since we shoot on such a tight time frame. We shoot one episode of television in around eight to nine days, which is really not a lot of time when you’re trying to create the content that we are. So to be able to spread that out and breathe, I think, only helps the performances.

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I remember reading somewhere that you said you didn’t have a lot of time to prep physically for those fight scenes in season 1 of Iron Fist. Can you tell me a little bit how that changed this time? What kind of martial arts styles are you working in? 

So here’s a kind of run down on how it works out. I got the role around end of February 2016, and then I was shooting at the end of March 2016. So I had a month from getting the role to actually being on camera. And within that time, I also had to go back to London, pack up all my stuff, say goodbye to everyone, move cities, get a visa. You know, do all of that admin and family stuff as well as going into training across two countries.

So I trained for about two weeks in Los Angeles, and that was just basic. It wasn’t really any style, it was just kind of getting my body used to moving in that way, just being flexible and learn how to move properly. But really, two weeks there, and then I had a week in London where I was also scanning all my papers for my visa, before I moved to New York. Once I moved to New York, I spent a little bit more time in the studio preparing. We did a lot more like Tai Chi, and Wushu and more kung fu up until the show started. And that was great, you know, all that training was really cool. I just wish that that level of training could have continued while we started shooting. But once we started shooting my schedule was so jam packed. I was working 14 hours a day, every day and there was no room for anything other than shooting and resting and learning lines.

And so when it came to stunt choreography and any kind of training, I was really doing that during off hours, and when your body has been put through a 14 hour grueling day Monday to Friday, and sometimes Saturday, and then working nights, your body is no real place to actually take on new information, especially learning a martial art. Like, people have spent years dedicating their lives to that, and in strict conditions. And yet here I am, trying to pop out a television show while also trying to become a master at martial arts. So everything was just very tightly squeezed.

But, saying that, we just got in to choreography whenever we could. That was in between filming takes, or my lunch breaks, or the weekends. I’d be in the gym, I’d be in the dojo, trying to pick up this stunt choreography. That was a bit more forgiving. We were kind of making it work up until like episode four. But from episode seven onwards, it was just, because the time was so, so crunched, I was learning on the day of shooting. I was kind of rolled out of bed in the morning. I’d have maybe fifteen minutes with the entire crew. The stunt crew’s already choreographed. They’ve choreographed with all the stunt doubles and all the extras and everyone else. And they’d come on set, and  just kind of plunk me in and tell me what I needed to do, and then I’d just get on set and do it. That was the kind of reality of the Iron Fist situation because, you know, it’s just the nature of the beast.

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But with Defenders, in terms of choreography, I had more time because I had those days off, and I had room on my schedule to actually go into the dojo for a good day or half a day, and actually really take my time learning the choreography. The great thing is now that I’ve got some time—I’ve got maybe six months before we start shooting again—is now I have time to really go and put myself into a proper program, something I didn’t have the fortune of doing before. So I just feel moving forward to Iron Fist season 2, I’m going to feel a lot more better about the martial arts. I’ll be a lot more trained and practiced. I’ve just got time on my side just to kind of jump into it.

What was your most challenging moment shooting Defenders compared to the early challenges of Iron Fist?

Well, for one, it’s always difficult doing night shoots and having to do these huge fight scenes at like 4 in the morning after working at it all week. That’s always a challenge. But actually, I kind of think the biggest challenge for all four of us is just staying focused. We had such a great time on set, and we were always joking around and having great fun when we were together ’cause we got on so well. It was actually a really enjoyable shoot.

I suffered from a leg injury early in Defenders. I’m still trying to work out what it is. I’ve kind of done something to my thigh or groin ,which really hurts. And kind of working on that and trying to work through that is a bit of a challenge, especially when you don’t know what the diagnosis is when you do something to yourself. I’ve had physios, I went to an MRI scan, and done all this stuff. So trying to do the choreography with an ongoing injury when you don’t know what it is, that’s always different and challenge, but, you know, you get through it. It’s part of the job. You’ve got to look after your body, ’cause otherwise, it’s going to fall apart on you.

Danny is kind of is the central figure of The Defenders, in a way, because it’s kind of his quest to take down the Hand now that is going to bring everybody getting together. Were you aware that that was the way this was going when you first took the role? When you were first cast as Iron Fist, did they also say, “And these are the stories elements of The Defenders?”

They didn’t tell me anything past the first two episodes of Iron Fist, and that’s what Marvel is like! They’re very secretive, so I just took it on good faith that the showrunners and Marvel were going to do me right. Reading through The Defenders, Danny’s journey is awesome. From the beginning, where we see Danny in Iron Fist to where he ends up in Defenders, he has made that complete origin arc. He has shed his immature self, and so the idea is in The Defenders, he has become the Iron Fist.

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There’s a quote in Iron Fist season one. I think it was like, “Cast off the childish needs” or something like that. I mean, Lei-Kung said that to him, and he really has done that by the end of Defenders. He’s got his shit together. He’s grown up, and he now understands the responsibility of the Iron Fist. Like, before, he didn’t know what to do with it. He didn’t really respect it because he has his own issues that he had to deal with. He had to deal with losing his parents, coming back into society after a fifteen years, dealing with owning a corporation, dealing with getting his identity back, like all these issues that he had to deal with before he could actually understand what the responsibility of the Iron Fist meant. And, you know, that allowed him to make very bad decisions over the time because he wasn’t thinking clearly. He wasn’t being responsible.

But now, at the end of Defenders…I think they teach him a lot. Luke is like the coach figure to Danny. Daredevil is like the older brother. And Jessica Jones is like that real street smart sister that always kind of like… You know when you’re being too up your own ass, Jessica Jones would bring you down to earth and ground you a little bit. And throughout all of these three different perspectives coming into his life is also the fact that they’re superheroes. At the end of Iron Fist, Danny doesn’t even know what a superhero is. So then to suddenly be interacting with these three superheroes, it gives him a deeper sense of what he can do with this power that he has, so really just make him kind of wise up and come to term with responsibilities a lot more.

By the end of The Defenders we really see the full formation of Danny into the Iron Fist as a superhero and not just a kid running around with his awesome power and responsibilities because he doesn’t know what to do.

Fans are definitely eager to see how he relates to Luke Cage in particular because there’s this comic book history between them. Is there anything you can say about that? 

Well, for one, I love Mike [Colter]. He’s a great guy. We get on really well together as actors, but also as the characters, there’s some really good chemistry there. I think we’re kind of blessed that we get on with each other so well. 

But it’s not like they meet each other and from the first moment they’re best friends, you know? There’s friction there at the beginning, and it’s pretty obvious because we come from two different worlds. Luke Cage is from the streets. He’s from Harlem, he’s from a rough area, and he’s trying to do good. He cares about community, he cares about lifting the bottom up, whereas Danny comes from a world of privilege, and he comes from a completely different side of New York, one of privilege, one of power, one of money. And so when they come together, they definitely have a clash of ideals which throughout The Defenders, they are coming to grips with.

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I think what holds them together, despite their huge differences, is that on a base level, they are just two men who are outsiders. They have kind of got these powers and these responsibilities but they are lost. And through that lost-ness, and that vulnerability, I think they see a real kindred friendship within one another. I think the way that Marvel has written the beginning of this friendship, it feels very real. It feels like it comes from a very genuine place. I’m really excited to see where that friendship develops after Defenders because I think it lays the groundwork for some really interesting story developments over time.

Is there any talk yet of giving you a mask?

I’m sorry. [Laughs] I’m just an actor. All these costumes are kind of up to the Marvel execs cause they run the comic book side of things. They’re the ones with the designs or the costumes. I don’t really get involved in those conversation. But, I would love a mask. You know that yellow plastic mask with the two ribbons blowing in the wind? Sure, I’d love to see that on Danny in that in season 2. He’d have to have it.

That’s cool because a lot of actors are kind of shy about that. And it’s cool that Defenders keeps things street level this way, but…

The thing with all of these shows is not that we’re shy to bring the costumes. It’s not that we’re afraid of them, it’s more that we want them to feel authentic when it does happen. Like for Danny’s character, I know there’s a lot of conversations like, “Oh, why isn’t Danny in a costume yet?” Well, it’s because Danny’s on this journey to becoming, understanding what this responsibility is. Throughout all of season one, he was in no state of mind to put a suit on. That would’ve been ridiculous because number one, he was not fully accomplished as the Iron Fist yet. Number two, he certainly doesn’t have the right or the responsibility to be putting on a superhero costume. He needs to work his shit out.

So it’s not so much that we’re scared to put on a costume, it’s just that we want it to feel right. And certainly by the end of Defenders, it will feel right. And moving into Iron Fist Season 2, I would love to see Danny certainly get a mask. Especially the classic yellow mask with the ribbons in the back. In terms of costume, it will have to be practical as well as looking pretty badass. I guess that will be up to the costume designers to work out what the costume would look like, but I think it will have to be practical. I would have to be able to move in it, but also look incredibly badass and modern, you know. I’m excited. I think they’ll do a good job, whatever it is.

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You have any funny stuff that’s happened to you since you’re shooting in the streets of New York at odd hours? You’re bound to see some stuff.

Oh yeah. Totally. We were filming in Times Square, and we were doing like a walk and talk, so we were just walking down the street. It was me and Jessica Stroup, who plays Joy Meachum. And I think it was like a Friday night, Times Square, and it was about 3 AM, and so we were just walking down, doing the scene, and then suddenly we just hear this, “Cut! Cut!” And we stopped, and we’re like… “What do we do? What’s going on?” And the crew’s like, “Don’t worry about it. Keep it going. There was a mistake.” And we were like, “Oh okay, all right.” We reset ourselves, we did it again. Doing the scene again, and then we heard, “Cut, cut, cut!” And we were like…” What the fuck is going on?” And then we looked over the road, and there was a bunch of drunk guys having a night out, and they saw us filming decided to play director. It was pretty funny.

But New York is a great city to work in. There’s always all sorts of interesting quirks. It’s totally iconic. Like, for instance, the other day, Jessica Jones was shooting on my doorstep. Literally on my doorstep. On the crossroads of my street. And I went out—it was probably about 7 PM—and I went out to get some dinner. And as I was walking down the street, I suddenly just walked into a Jessica Jones scene. And everyone—and it was all the same crew from Iron Fist and The Defenders—and everyone was just like… “Finn? What the fuck are you doing here?” And I was like, “What the hell are you doing here? This is my neighborhood. Why are you shooting on my street?” And they stopped the whole production, and I said hello to everyone. It was really nice. 

So I take it there’s no chance that you have a cameo in Jessica Jones, is there?

Well, you never know. It’s possible. Now that all the Defenders are together, now that we’ve aligned, it’s a lot more freeform for the characters, I think, to visit other people’s individual series, because we’ve made that connection now. It would just be more epic.

Yeah, it would make a lot of sense for you to show up on Luke Cage Season 2 as well.

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Yeah, I’d love that. I’m fully down for a Heroes-For-Hire series. I think that would be awesome, so I’m really going for that in the future.

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