'I was quite scared,' the actress admits of filming Elektra's rebirth in one take
Elektra (Elodie Yung) was never going to be just a weapon.
In the sixth episode of Marvel’s The Defenders, the resurrected Black Sky remembered her identity and literally stabbed the Hand leader Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) in the back, effectively ending Alexandra’s reign and taking control of the remaining Fingers for herself.
But Elektra never wanted to run the Hand. All she wanted was to be free, as showrunner Marco Ramirez put it, and to be free with Matt (Charlie Cox). By the end of the series, she accomplishes the latter as Midland Circle crumbles around her and Daredevil, presumably crushing both of them underneath — until it turns out Matt survived. So what’s next for the sai-wielding ex-girlfriend of the Man Without Fear? Below, EW spoke with the French actress to look back on her most memorable scenes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, should we assume Elektra’s still alive? We don’t see a body, and Matt manages to make it out of the rubble, somehow.
ELODIE YUNG: Well, from my understanding, I’m still alive. You know, they gave me this potion to bring me back to life, so that’s my understanding of it, but really I have no clue. I’m just as confused as you, I don’t know what’s going on. [Laughs] I might still be in that building as I’m talking to you [laughs].
I hope you make it out! At the beginning of the season, in episode 3, we saw how Elektra was resurrected and came back a feral, amnesiac version of herself. What do you remember about filming that? You were covered in fake blood, which looked absolutely gross.
Oh, it was. I think what they use is corn syrup or the equivalent, so it’s very gooey, very sweet and sticky. I insisted on doing it, because to me, [it was] the resurrection, so I felt I needed to go through the pain and to be put in this coffin with blood. Luckily we did it in one take because honestly, this is not something you can do all day long.
It’s something, and I was quite scared. I had to put things in my ears and then just stay three or four seconds under the blood, and then someone knocked on the sarcophagus [to cue me to get up]. And then we shot all night, so it was just being cold in this disgusting place. But that’s one of the joys of doing something like this! [Laughs] You don’t do this every day, and I’m down for this type of thing. It’s an experience, you know? [Laughs]
I’m glad you didn’t have to do it too often. It looked uncomfortable.
It was. I can confirm that. But I think it was worth it, the scene looked great.
In those early episodes, you had to play a resurrected Elektra, who had no idea who she was. Did you approach playing her as a wholly new character compared to who you played in season 2 of Daredevil?
Well, to me, I just [thought of her] as someone who got into an accident and completely forgot who she is, and then starting from there just gave me endless possibilities to approaching this new Elektra. I didn’t want the audience to actually know exactly when she would remember herself, but I wanted to give hints of the past, little moments where people would maybe question if she was playing Alexandra or if she was just completely not remembering anything, you know? So it was fun for me to play those moments, and it feels a bit like a brand new Elektra.
Also, in the beginning, with the bloodbath, I approached her like a foal, like an animal who just was born out of the mother’s womb. I wanted it to [seem] like an animal, really. You know those images of horses or deer when they give birth, and it’s just very disgusting, gooey, and violent? I wanted something like that. I wanted her to not be able to stand up immediately. The recovery is quite fast, and she learns specific skills quite quickly, but I wanted this progression of being an animal and then just transforming and learning skills and remembering who she was.
When did you first learn from the team that you would be the final villain, that it wasn’t Alexandra who would make it to the last battle? And how much pressure was there going in once you knew that?
I just love that they always have surprises for the audience and for us as well. I knew the arc from the start, and I was quite excited by it because when I kill Alexandra, it comes a bit out of nowhere. I just got really excited by this idea that although you know that now she’s this weapon and she’s been trained, she doesn’t have a side. I like that she’s a free spirit and she’s just her own woman, her own self, and when it comes down to the love of her life, she still has this instinct where she wants to protect Matthew, and this is where it comes out.
So no pressure for me to be, you know, the baddie, the villain. I never see my characters or stories from that angle. I just thought she’s a woman who forgot who she was and then it kicks in and she remembers and instinct comes back and she has to find Matthew. That’s it, that’s her quest.
Before we talk about her and Matt, let’s dive into her and Alexandra a little more. How would you describe that relationship? Is it mother-daughter, mentor-mentee, or something else?
I would describe it just as you did, and I think I would sprinkle on top something a bit weird or maybe sexual that comes from the obsession Alexandra has for her. She needs her. It’s built a bit like mother-daughter, definitely, and mentor-mentee, but she needs Elektra around.
Right, she starts breaking down when Elektra isn’t there. Was the scene where you kill her off the final scene the two of you filmed together? What was that like, and just because I’m curious, how much fake blood was there?
It was so fun, Sigourney had so much fun doing it. And there was a lot of blood, a fair amount. We just rehearsed as we usually do and we got it in a few takes, and it was quite exhilarating and fun to have this twist. I don’t know, I just enjoyed it. I don’t have any other words to say “I enjoyed killing her,” [laughs] but she enjoyed being killed too, so. [Laughs]
I have to ask, how did it feel to be the person on the show who gets to kill off Sigourney Weaver?
Oh it’s a privilege, I felt blessed. [Laughs] It was a privilege to kill her, yeah. And I got really lucky throughout this show, to have most of my scenes with her, to be in very intimate scenes with Sigourney from day one. The first day we met, it was nighttime, and it’s the scene where she’s like, “Everything’s going to be all right,” and she strokes my cheek. I was like, “Huh! I’m glad, this is going to be five fun months for me.” So I learned a lot, just being with her. And she’s a wonderful, wonderful woman. I love her.
As for Elektra and Matt, what compelled her to keep fighting Matt and to be the new leader of the Hand even after killing Alexandra? Why didn’t she just live a life of her own and maybe take Matt with her?
We’ve previously established Elektra as a sociopath, and I think deeply it is in her nature to be a very independent person and a sociopath who would use people as resources for her to attain her goal. I think when her consciousness comes back and she remembers who she is and says “I’m Elektra, and he is Matt Murdock,” in my understanding, I saw that as “She’s back and she’s gonna use them.” She’s not trying to be the head of the Hand or to control it. What she wants is to be reunited with her love. In her head, she’s like, “You guys are going to work for me, you’re going to help me get to Matthew.”
What she wants, in a very Shakespearean way, is to live forever with him. She wants to find him because she wants him to live forever the same way she lives forever. It has to be accomplished through death, but it’s a bit like, “See you on the other side.” That’s what I understood from it, that they’ll be together forever, and I don’t think she wants to control New York and all that.
She’s just a sociopath who thought she could be with the person she loves forever, in death.
Exactly. In death or after death.
This season, you also got to fight in a new costume. Was it harder or easier to fight with such a long coat on?
It’s never easy with all the costumes. The good thing is we have an incredible wardrobe team, and they made it very practical for us, so when you see one coat on screen, it’s actually five different coats, and depending on the choreography and what’s involved in it, we could have a shorter coat and there are tons of tricks inside the coat to strap it here and strap it there so it doesn’t get caught in whatever we have to do, and so it looks beautiful.
I think it adds to the drama and to the darkness of Elektra this year. She’s a mysterious shadow at the beginning, so I really liked that, and then we used it as a tool. Sometimes we used it as if I was a matador, playing with the shape of it, so we used it as a weapon as well.
I like that comparison to a matador. When she kills off Stick (Scott Glenn), she basically gores him with her sword like a bull would with its horns. But just to wrap up: After two seasons of playing her, how would you categorize her? Where does she go on the spectrum of a hero to a villain?
If we had to categorize her now, I would say she’s an antihero. But her goal is not to fight the heroes [the Defenders], really, I think her goal has always been to try to be happy with Matt [laughs], which is quite sad because she’s got a lot of darkness in her, and he’s on the opposite side. The only motivation she has is the love she has for him, so I don’t know. I think more antihero.
Well for what it’s worth, Marco said that across The Defenders, Elektra’s story was about her finding freedom from the people who have tried to control her. That makes sense to you, right?
Yes, it’s true, she does. And completely!
Marvel’s The Defenders is now streaming on Netflix.