For six years, Deborah Ann Woll played teenage vampire Jessica Tamby on beloved HBO campfest True Blood. Now, the 30-year-old New Yorker is sinking her teeth into something a little more grown-up—and close to home—with sophisticated superhero actioner Daredevil (available on Netflix). Part of the Marvel empire, Daredevil has been getting rave reviews (as well as the distinction of being this week’s most-pirated show, nipping on Game of Thrones‘ heels). As the secretary at a law firm co-partnered by Matt Murdock (cutie Charlie Cox), blind superhero Daredevil’s real life alter-ego, Woll’s character Karen Page helps take down the bad guys who want to take over Hell’s Kitchen. We sat down with Woll to talk about her new role, why the show hits home, and her surprising love for Dungeons & Dragons.
People are calling Daredevil one of Marvel’s best iterations. What do you think separates it from the other Marvel and superhero shows and movies out there? It’s for a more grown-up audience. I think it’s fantastic that there are things that are family-friendly, but it’s really nice that we have a pretty strong adult drama to add to the mix. And I think it’s a little less black-and-white than some of the other comic book retellings we’ve seen: the good guy isn’t all good and the bad guy isn’t all bad.
Secretary Karen is smart and pushes boundaries. Do you think she goes too far sometimes, or do you just think she’s brave? Sometimes she goes too far, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What’s wonderful about her is that she just pushes and pushes and pushes. The most important thing is to get the truth, is to save that person’s life, is to stop the corruption. It doesn’t matter if she gets hurt or loses her apartment: it just doesn’t matter. I find that incredibly brave—sometimes foolhardy—but I don’t care. It’s the best and worst thing about her at the same time.
What do you think the show’s message is? It’s about standing up for people. It’s so easy when you see someone who’s suffering to turn away and ignore it. Because you feel helpless, you feel like there isn’t anything you can do. This is a show where at least four people, despite terrible odds, stand up against incredibly powerful people, and they let themselves be heard and they make themselves very conspicuous.
In the comics, your character is a love interest of Matt/Daredevil. Do you think that is something that will happen for Matt and Karen in the show? These are attractive people who are a little lonely. Who knows? In the first season, it’s more about caring. They really need each other: they have no family, very few friends, and this is a scary world. To find people who have similar ideals is very important.
How is Karen different from Jessica in True Blood? Quite different. I like to think Jessica’s was an epic coming-of-age story. Karen feels more mature and serious. She’s lived through something and now she’s learning to deal with that and move forward.
The fact that Matt is legally blind is a personal part of the story for you, right? My boyfriend EJ has an eye disease called choroideremia. It’s quite rare, but it affects him and his family and we do a lot of outreach and fundraising for treatment. I’m certainly not trying to compare EJ to Matt in any way, but it means a great deal to me that there is a sympathetic and compelling story about a blind person on television right now. I’m really impressed and proud of the way that Netflix, Marvel and especially Charlie have handled it. He’s a complex, capable person, and the blindness is just a piece of his personality—it doesn’t define him.
You’re from Brooklyn, right? Was it nice to get to go home to film the show? I really enjoyed it. I got to see all my old high school friends and it’s also fun because these characters are living in New York. I think sometimes when you film New York on a backlot in L.A., you forget how vibrant it is, and the fact that people are rude to you all the time. So in a way, living in New York and being reminded on a daily basis that it’s hard to live in New York is really great to bring to set. I think it enlivened our performances a little bit.
We also heard you’re really into Dungeons & Dragons… I really like Dungeons & Dragons! I just Dungeon Mastered for my first time, which means I run the game, and that I tried to kill my friends. Well, I tried to kill my friends’ characters. So that was a big, cool step for me.