Check out this exclusive interview with actor Geoffrey Cantor who plays Ellison in the Daredevil Netflix series.
Warning: Season 3 spoilers ahead.
You have a lot of great moments this season. Which was your favorite?
Playing Ellison outside of the confines of the Paper was liberating. From the dining room table, with family and Karen, to the hospital to a street corner in New York, even the expanded office space, it was a bigger world, with elements of Ellison’s life revealed.
The Hospital seems to be a fan favorite, and I enjoyed the complexity of it. From my point of view, I’d been betrayed by someone I love. That’s always an interesting place to explore as an actor, and new territory for Ellison. The scene in the house was the first time where my work and family intersected. But maybe my favorite was the moment at the hot dog/knish cart. I was able to embrace Karen, both literally and metaphorically, in spite of the hurt. That’s pretty evolved.
When you first got the role of Ellison did you have to do any kind of research in order to play the role of an editor in chief? Has playing this character given you a new outlook on journalism?
I took my cues more from having watched so many films and Television shows in which Newspapers and even TV News rooms are represented — All The Presidents Men, House of Cards, The Post, The Newsroom to name a few — than actually heading to the offices of the Post or the Times. I felt pretty confident that those depictions were accurate. I also had a friend who worked on Fleet Street in London back in the 80’s.
I play a journalist in one of the most popular shows on TV. In these rather precarious times, where the Fourth Estate is under siege, I feel it’s an honor, really. I have an obligation to own and share him, warts and all. It is my hope that I play him with all of the integrity that I feel he has. And the writers assure that I have the words and behavior to back that up. I grew up in the Walter Cronkite years, and have always watched network news. I admire the sensibility of an anchor like Dan Rather, for instance. I suppose I miss those days a bit. I don’t know that my outlook has changed as much it has been validated. I believe in a free, objective, and honest press. I am very happy that Ellison and I share this point of view, and maybe a little jealous of the fact that he lives it.
What was the vibe like on set during the Bulletin attack scene? I was certainly afraid for Ellison when Dex stepped into that room.
The vibe was pretty playful at first. And I’m thrilled that you were concerned for me. (Spoiler — many people thought I was dead after that moment, but I knew I wasn’t). They didn’t film the big fight and the office entry on the same day. But we all knew that some bad stuff had gone down, and was about to go down. So at first, it was really about choreography. We had to figure out where we needed to end up, how we would get there, what needed to happen, who needed to do what. Then when we ran it, added in some of the choreography, lights, and energy, it got very (appropriately) tense.
In this season, there are a lot of really tense moments. One in particular really stood out to me. The scene between Ellison and Karen at the hospital. What was it like to film such a strong and heartbreaking moment? Did you have to get into any kind of headspace before filming?
About two weeks before we filmed that scene, I’d had abdominal surgery (I’m fine, really), so it was pretty easy to get myself into the space.
As far as the acting of it, as I mentioned earlier, it was a great scene to play, made even better by having the opportunity to work opposite Deborah Ann. She is a unique talent. We have a great relationship, both on and off set.
They filmed it as a whole (with the exception of that first moment when she overhears my discussion before she enters) and from every angle, allowing us to play it through. It would have been very difficult to try to film a pick up from somewhere in the middle of the scene.
Whenever writers offer actors a scene like that, especially when you aren’t one of the leads, it feels pretty good. It means they trust you. But more important you get to push yourself a bit more than usual. It requires a little bit of headroom before filming, but I feel that way most of the time, even when the stakes aren’t so high. It was more about the “after” for me. It lingered a little. I hadn’t seen the last few episodes yet, and wasn’t entirely sure how it would end up.
Some actors choose to not watch their own work. Have you watched this season in full? What are your thoughts on it if you have?
I can watch myself. I don’t love to, but I do watch the shows I’m in, and I don’t fast forward my bits. I’m a bit critical, I think pretty objective. I’ve watched up to episode 6. I watch on the elliptical, and admit that I had to finish Maniac first (as it came out first).
I think that of all the Marvel shows, including the previous seasons of DD, this is the most…adult. Sure there are great fights. GREAT fights. But there is nothing spooky. No super powers. Rather it is an intense look at basic human struggles. Epic in scope, we see a show that takes on personal relationships, guilt, love, fear, and even faith. It is a complex story with a deeply flawed hero. Then you have the rest of the cast and their story lines. Nadeem faces financial ruin and tough decisions. We gain insight into Karen’s past, and understand how it has impacted all of her decisions, and resonates in her relationships with everyone, including Ellison. The politics of police and local government are recognized in Foggy’s story line, and we see him not only with his family, but with Marci as well as he struggles with his own sense of purpose. Of course Fisk and Dex, PTSD. These are grown up themes.
Any fun set stories you'd like to share with the fans?
I have a habit of…um…doing a variety of characters when we are hanging around. I lived in London for about 6 years, and occasionally, I will jump into a voice. And there are others. Characters I mean. You can ask Deborah. She eggs me on occasionally. It breaks up some of the down time.
Another thing that I remember doing during season one happened when I was talking to Doug Petrie, one of the writers, between takes. He was working on his storyboard. I took his pad and did a caricature of myself as Ellison. I believe he still has it.
Also Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie), Marci (Amy Rutberg), and I were all in a web series called Karl Manhair, Postal Inspector. That’s all I can say about that. But you can look it up. VERY different. Except, course, that all three of us are in it.
If you were able to play a different character in the Marvel Universe or DC whether it be a hero or villain, which would you choose?
It may be blasphemy, but I really would love to play Rorschach (Walter Kovacs) from the Watchmen. Villain? Hero?
Rorschach is a great choice. Although it hasn't been confirmed by Netflix some sites are saying Daredevil is receiving a fourth season. If it is, what villain would you possibly like to see pop up? Anyone Ellison could possibly want to feature for the Bulletin?
I think it would be interesting to see Ellison and the Bulletin actually take on the myth of Daredevil, through Karen, and have a moment where his identity is revealed to him, causing him to have to rethink his approach to his reporting. I can only assume that Kingpin will be a player, so perhaps if Tombstone showed up, and they were vying for power in Hell’s Kitchen it would be great fodder for the Paper.
The idea of a Bulletin website with occasional updates throughout the year intrigues me. We could film a documentary style web-series on the site that suggests what is happening in Hell’s Kitchen from the paper’s point of view — as if the paper understood the value of social media. Think of it as an Ellison led series about a newsroom. I know a guy.
Big thanks to Geoffrey for taking the time to answer these questions for the page and for the fans. You can follow him on Twitter over at @geofcantor
Daredevil Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.