A blind vigilante, a powerful P.I., an indestructible ex-con, and a mystical martial artist are here to protect NYC. Meet Marvel's long-awaited team.

By Shirley Li
April 14, 2017 at 04:09 AM EDT


After 65 episodes apart, the Defenders are, at long last, together.

On a chilly December afternoon in a brightly lit Brooklyn set, the stars of Marvel and Netflix’s small-screen superhero universe — Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Finn Jones (Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist) — are finally filming their first scene as a group for their summer 2017 team-up, Marvel’s The Defenders.

And they’re making quite a mess. Each Defender has arrived separately at the offices of Midland Circle (a name that should sound familiar to Daredevil fans as the shady operation behind a giant, literal plot hole in season 2), and none of them expected to cross paths. But before they can properly meet and greet, the four have wound up trapped in the middle of a corridor and must brawl their way past a group of enemies. (Hey, Marvel loves hallway fight scenes ever since Daredevil pulled one off.) “Every one of them is following their own trail of bread crumbs, trying to unpack a mystery in New York,” explains showrunner Marco Ramirez, who produced Daredevil‘s first season before co-showrunning the second. “We wanted them all caught off guard. Once they’re in that room together, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, s—, who are you?'”

It’s a bizarre beginning for a budding superhero team, but if this first meeting of the Marvel minds looks chaotic, the planning of it has been anything but. The meticulously crafted origin story can be traced back to 2013, when Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb was watching The Avengers for the fifth time and thought about creating a television series focusing on Marvel’s lesser-known heroes who have long populated the streets of New York. Loeb chose the un-Avengers-like Defenders, who prefer to operate alone in their respective New York neighborhoods and have no interest in stopping Asgardians, saving the world from aliens, or chasing mythical gemstones. “The Defenders didn’t have a ‘D’ on their belt buckles and a Defenders Tower,” says Loeb. “We agreed from the very beginning that these folks could at the very end go, ‘I never want to see your face again.'”

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Now, more than three years later, the culmination of Loeb’s germ of an idea is filming. But with four leads to juggle, writing the story has proved to be a superhuman task. What kind of villain could possibly unite the foursome? How can one show blend the different tones and worlds of each stand-alone series? Who will encourage them to come together? Who will fight the very idea?

EW goes back to the beginning in this week’s cover story, stepping on set during the group’s first scene together to dive into the making of Marvel’s The Defenders. The cast and filmmakers talk choosing the street-level fighters, picking the villain played by Sigourney Weaver, toying with new dynamics between the heroes (not for hire), and crafting a story that felt as real and as grounded as the previous shows. Speaking of which, make sure to read quick catch-up guides to each of the Defenders on air — and prepare yourself for what’s to come with a preview to Iron Fist, along with teases on where each Defender will be when the eight-part crossover begins.

For more on Marvel’s The Defenders, including exclusive photographs and interviews, pick up Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, or buy it here now. And don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Finlay Mackay for EW