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Fans have yet to meet the final Defender: Danny Rand (Finn Jones, best known for his work as Loras on Game of Thrones), who’ll make his debut when Iron Fist arrives in March. At the beginning of his stand-alone series, he’s a fish out of water upon returning to New York after surviving a plane crash as a child and being raised by monks.
But if viewers want to turn to the comic books to understand Danny before he arrives, Jones says not to worry about finding the time. “This is my version of Iron Fist, this is [showrunner] Scott Buck’s and Netflix’s and Marvel TV’s version of Iron Fist,” he says, adding that he didn’t finish binge-watching all of the other series before diving into the role or read every Iron Fist comic as a way to help keep the character his own. “We are dealing with an entity that is in and of itself.”
So what exactly is that entity? Even Danny doesn’t know the answer at first. “He’s a child trapped in a man’s body,” Jones says of where the hero begins his series. “He’s an incredibly fierce warrior, but he doesn’t know who he is.” In other words, he has to grow up — and grow up fast. “Iron Fist is like Danny in his adolescence, and The Defenders is like Danny taking responsibility and moving forward with his purpose,” Jones explains. “He’s craving desperately for family, for help, for guidance, for people to learn from, and for a team [in The Defenders]. But because of what happens in Iron Fist, he’s very untrusting. It’s really his way or no way.”
Jones spoke with EW after filming a scene for Marvel’s The Defenders that united all four leads. Below, he talks Danny’s stand-alone series, the character’s dynamic with Luke (Mike Colter) in The Defenders, and what it was like joining the cast.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I heard you had a strangely serendipitous beginning on this. The day you finished shooting Game of Thrones was also the day you wound up reading about this part, right?
FINN JONES: It was, actually. It was the last day of Game of Thrones, and I was traveling back to the airport, and I got an email from my agents for this audition for “Kick” [the code name for Iron Fist], and at first I thought it was going to be a football show, and I hate football, but I was like, “Okay, I’ll take a look at it.”
It was right after Game of Thrones, and I was thinking, “Wow, I’ve been doing this show for six years. What’s gonna be next?” And I opened it up and I saw it was actually something for Marvel and I started to read the character description and I remember it vividly, I remember reading it and just having this deep, deep sense that this was the next thing I’m going to do.
Why was that? What about Danny Rand drew you in?
I like his contradictions. I like the fact that he’s someone struggling to find his identity and has lots of different flaws and complexities and it’s in those elements that I think is most fun to explore… When he comes to New York, he’s really trying to find out who he is and what he wants to become. For most of Iron Fist, that’s what he’s trying to pursue, to find out about his parents, as well as being the Iron Fist.
Was there something about Danny that made you feel like he was the right role for you? How are the two of you similar?
Well, we’re both orphans. I was adopted, so I understand that need for something more. I understand that loneliness that Danny feels. Danny gets really stressed and really pissed off sometimes, and I understand that. I think it’s the alienation aspect, but also that optimism. I understand Danny’s optimism and where that comes from.
Is Danny like the other members of the Defenders, in that he doesn’t want to be a part of the team?
No. Well, yes and no. Here’s one of Danny’s contradictions again. On the one hand, he’s craving desperately for family, for help, for guidance, for people to learn from, and for a team. He’s looking for that deeply. But because of what happens in Iron Fist, he’s very untrusting of a lot of people, and he has a very independent spirit, and it’s really his way or no way.
How does being on a team affect Danny, then?
What we’re seeing [in The Defenders] is Danny is definitely becoming more at ease, I’d say, and more comfortable with his environment because he has others around him, because he’s not going at it alone anymore. You get to see Danny’s brighter side coming out, and he’s not so tormented by this, but also because he’s found his purpose.
In Iron Fist, he’s so unwound, because he doesn’t know who he is, there’s always so much confusion, and he’s always on the brink of a total meltdown, or totally annihilating something, someone, mainly himself. There’s always this high energy frenetic tension, but in Defenders, he’s definitely more responsible. He has ground, has drive. I’d say that’s the key word for Danny in The Defenders. He drives all of the Defenders to get behind him to solve this… [Pauses as the publicist looks up] issue.
Speaking of the issue, have you worked with Sigourney Weaver, who plays the series villain, yet?
She’s been at table reads. She’s amazing, she’s wonderful, and she has such a good energy about her.
And what about her character?
[Pauses] She’s great. [Laughs]
It’s funny: You just came from Game of Thrones, which is also notoriously secretive about its plots.
Well, I will say that Marvel is 100 times more secretive than Game of Thrones. Like, they’re not even on the same playing field.
Really? How do the fan communities compare?
I find the comic book audience a lot more intense than the fantasy one, definitely. It’s been cool. There’s been a great response when I’ve been out and about and people realize I’m playing Iron Fist. It’s made me realize that loads of people actually read comic books over here and loads of people are into martial arts.
Now, you’re in the unique position among the lead cast of having to go straight from filming your stand-alone series to filming The Defenders. What is that like?
It’s really fun doing that. I see it as kind of this journey where Iron Fist and The Defenders is like the complete first season of Danny’s journey. It’s really nice to play it back-to-back because Danny does go through this awesome huge arc, so the end of Iron Fist is like the halfway point… In The Defenders, he’s got a grasp of who he is and he’s trying to do something with it. It’s great to play that consistently over the year and not have that broken up.
You’ve shot most of your scenes so far with Mike. What can you tease about your characters’ relationship, given their comic book history as a team in Heroes for Hire?
I love Mike, he’s so sweet. We’re working together really well, which is f—ing cool. So far all of our stuff has been like, “Whoa!” … It’s a really big thing among the fan base, and that aspect is coming through really well. The great thing about the comic books is they’re fantastic but they’re — and I don’t want to say two-dimensional — they’re comic books, and what we’re doing is we’re making more fleshed-out characters who have real problems with the world. There’s more to Danny and Luke’s characters and what they can bring to each other than the comic books ever came upon.
How much pressure do you feel, especially as the new guy?
I don’t feel like I’m the newbie at all. I don’t feel any pressure because I believe in the story. You know, I did six years of Game of Thrones so I’m used to that level of hype and that level of expectation. I know feeling pressure gets you nowhere creatively. You’ve just got to understand the character, understand the story, and just play it to the fullest extent.
Marvel’s Iron Fist hits Netflix March 17, and Marvel’s The Defenders arrives this summer