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January 13, 2017 at 12:23 PM EST

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

The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen ended his second season in a fittingly hellish place: alone. Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) relationship with best friend Foggy (Elden Henson) came undone, their law firm Nelson & Murdock was dismantled, and Elektra (Elodie Yung) died while fighting the Hand, only to have her corpse recovered by the evil organization. And though he tried to make amends with Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) by coming clean about his secret identity in the last minutes of the finale, it may have been too late. So what’s a Man Without Fear to do when there’s only fear left?

Between takes shooting Marvel‘s The Defenders, Cox spoke with EW about Matt’s new low, where Daredevil begins in the team-up series, and what it was like to be the first Defender with a stand-alone show, all those years ago (okay, just three — but still!).

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You just shot your first scene with all of the other Defenders. How do you feel?
CHARLIE COX: It’s been a long time coming. I’ve known about this since early 2014, when I was cast for the first of these shows, and then I knew it would culminate into this, and in that time, I would say I’ve become a comic book fan and a bit of a geek. [Laughs] I love what we call Easter eggs, when there are moments that a true fan would get a kick out of. This is probably the ultimate Easter egg, you know? This is the moment where you see all of us in the same frame for the first time.

I hope you’re not sick of hallway fight scenes after this.
[Laughs] I walked around the corner and saw the set for the first time yesterday, and I immediately went, “This is gonna take a while.” [Laughs] I know this world.

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You’ve known it for a while — you were the first Defender cast!
It’s funny, I was thinking about that the other day, and I almost can’t remember my life before Daredevil. [Laughs] You know what I mean? It wasn’t that long ago, but it’s weird to think back to a time when this wasn’t an everyday part of my life. In terms of like, I never had a gym membership before this job, and I live in the gym now even off season. I eat meals now, and every meal, I think about how much protein I’m eating. [Laughs] I never thought about it before.

How much pressure did you feel going into this, then, if you could try to remember life before Daredevil? You had to set the bar for all of the other series.
Yeah, I do remember them saying, “We’re going to make Daredevil and then Jessica Jones and then eventually do The Defenders,” and I remember thinking, “We’ll see.” [Laughs] I felt a great deal of pressure but more so because I very quickly became aware of the level of fandom that exists around these characters. That’s where the pressure lied.

I was blissfully ignorant for two months and then I was being recognized for a character that hadn’t actually appeared on television yet. It was weird. Like, people came up to me and knew me as Daredevil before any footage had come out. I remember a guy on the subway being like, “You’re Charlie Cox. You’re Daredevil.” And I was like, “Yeah…?” I was barely Daredevil. I hadn’t even signed the contract, you know? And he was like, “Can I ask you one question? There’s a red suit and then another suit that’s black and yellow. What color is the suit [on the show]?”

And I made a joke. I said, “It’s green, right?” The look of horror on this guy’s face! [Laughs] But I do remember we went to Comic-Con, and the fans have been incredibly generous and care greatly about the characters, so the pressure I felt was really for the fans. I wanted this to be a true representation of this character.

So let’s talk where Matt is at the start of The Defenders. Where do we pick up with him?
Well, it’s been a few months since the end of season 2. I think it’s been quite a challenging few months for him. He took the death of Elektra very badly —I think he feels responsible for that. One of Matt’s big things is trying to protect the people he loves, which is why he keeps his identity hidden, and he’s failed. He’s left holding the dead body of a loved one, and so I think he’s tried to turn a corner.

It’s almost like quitting an addiction in the hope that it will get easier. He’s perhaps a little bit lost, and the best he can do for now is to not engage in his vigilante activities. When we meet him at the beginning of The Defenders, I’m not sure he’s completely found peace with that idea. I think he’s doing the best with what he can at the time. He finds himself between a rock and a hard place, which is the crux of his issue really from the beginning of season 1. “Should I or shouldn’t I? What is more beneficial to society?”

And what about his faith? If he does hang up his suit, how does that affect his conflict with that?
I don’t think he’s ever going to let that one go. He understands that these things are not black and white, not always about good and evil, but he believes that his intentions are good. He’s always, always going to wonder if he’s committing mortal sin.

What would you say is the common thread among all the Defenders, then, in this show?
From what we’ve shot so far, they want to genuinely make a difference and help people out. I’m not convinced that Jessica Jones feels quite as earnestly about that [laughs], but in some ways paradoxically, these great powers are also our great shame. These characters are living with a shame and a loneliness and have felt kind of ostracized. I think they felt like freaks and have been misunderstood. And as sad as that sounds, there’s also something quite beautiful about that. There’s something quite human about that.

How would you describe the Defenders as a team?
You know, just thinking of this shot we just did, I looked at it and I thought, “What a bunch of misfits.” In a great way! It’s like a misfit Scooby gang.

And how would you describe The Defenders, the show?
Hmm. [Pauses] Progressive. I don’t know why, but you didn’t ask for a reason so that’s what you get. [Laughs]

Marvel’s The Defenders arrives summer 2017 on Netflix.

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