SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of Season 1 of Marvel’s Jessica Jones.
Seven months after Marvel’s Daredevil made its dark and acclaimed debut on Netflix, the superhero giant and the streaming service are back this week with Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the second of their four planned series. Developed and executive produced by Melissa Rosenberg, the 13-episode first season of the anti-hero superhero series goes up on November 20. Don’t Trust The B____ In Apt. 23 alum Krysten Ritter plays the rough-around-the-edges Jones based on the character first introduced in 2001 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos.
The second female-led superhero series to take flight in less than a month after CBS’ Supergirl, Rosenberg’s Jessica Jones has had a long ride to the small screen. First developed at ABC in 2010 by the ex-Dexter lead writer and Twilight Saga adapter, the series moved to Netflix a couple of years later as Marvel’s inked its ambitious deal for four series plus The Defenders miniseries. From teases, trailers, a sneak peek at NYC Comic-Con in early October and more trailers, the relatively minor Marvel character has unleashed a fan frenzy of anticipation. The facts that Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, is in the show before heading to his own series set to debut in 2016, and the 10th Doctor Who David Tennant is playing villain Kilgrave, has only served to crank up the volume.
Still, as Rosenberg told me in a recent chat, this is Marvel’s Jessica Jones and she remains the heart and hero of the series, flaws and all. In our talk, the EP discussed the role of the greater Marvel Universe in Jessica Jones, those other Netflix series, what a second season could entail, Supergirl, and Hollywood and superhero gender issues.
DEADLINE: If Daredevil was the darkest thing we’d seen from Marvel so far, Marvel’s Jessica Jones can be really dark, not just in tone but in confronting issues like sexual assault and drug addiction. Why is this the direction for Marvel on Netflix?
ROSENBERG: Well, the comic book was the first comic book Marvel had ever put out that was an adult R-rated book, so I started with that. When I was creating the series, I just started with that tone, and that edge, and it just kept going.
We’re also are obviously very aware this is the first female superhero Marvel’s ever introduced as a lead. Bur there was never the intention of, “this is an issue series, we’re dealing with issues.” While issues of sexual assault and women in power are all issues that I certainly feel very passionately about taking on, the show’s all about exploring the inner workings of Jessica Jones and her ensemble. Their relationships, and Jessica’s examination of her own trauma and healing, in a way.
DEADLINE: To that, how is the Jessica Jones that going up on Netflix this week different than the Jessica Jones you were developing at ABC?
ROSENBERG: It’s very different, in terms of the mythology and the Marvel Universe. Back when I was developing the idea, we were really doing something closer to what was in the comic book. By that, I mean in terms of civilians in the street knew that superpowers were an everyday matter of fact. There was a lot of back and forth with people who were prejudice against people with powers, and vice versa. When it finally ended up at Netflix, they really decided to land it in the Marvel Universe that exists in the cinematic universe. That changes the story entirely. It was no longer about the other, which is what that metaphor was. It’s really more about the character herself, which I love.
DEADLINE: Looking at that greater Marvel Universe, and the fact that Jessica Jones is the second of several Marvel series on Netflix, how much connection are we going to see?
ROSENBERG: Jessica Jones is its own animal, I think each one of these series is its own animal. There is some connective tissue, in terms of referencing the Marvel Universe, but it glances off of the other stories.
DEADLINE: Well, not entirely. You have Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, as a part of Jessica Jones and a setup for his own series. How much are you going to be involved with that series?
ROSENBERG: Not at all. I just got the great privilege of introducing him and sent him on his way.
DEADLINE: What about The Defenders series, what kind of seeds are we seeing planted in Jessica Jones for that forthcoming team-up?
ROSENBERG: Truthfully, no one knows where it was going to end up, and we certainly didn’t putting together Jessica Jones. It’s funny because it didn’t play in at all, except that occasionally us writers in the room would go, “Gosh, I wonder if the story we just came up for that there’s no room for in our series, maybe The Defenders can use it.” But there are no Defenders yet. There is a plan for it, what the story is going to be, but I’m not a part of it. I’ve really been very focused on Jessica Jones. Our series was well on its way to being created by the time we even saw scripts from Daredevil, and Luke Cage didn’t even have a showrunner hired then. Jeph Loeb (Marvel TV boss) is the master of the connective tissue, but each series exists in its own world.
DEADLINE: Yes, but you spent years developing this show, so are you going to hang around as showrunner for a Season 2?
ROSENBERG: God willing, yeah. I’d love to do a Season 2 of this. I would love to do a Season 2.
DEADLINE: We all know Marvel holds future plans closer to the chest than Iron Man does his Arc Reactor, but what would you change from Season 1 to Season 2?
ROSENBERG: I think one of the things I would be able to do now, that’s harder to do in the first season, is to really expand on the ensemble. Poor Krysten Ritter, she was in every scene that we shot, we beat the crap out of her. She was a shell of a human being by the time we ended, and that is not sustainable. But when you have a show that’s called Jessica Jones, if Jessica Jones isn’t in a scene the rest of it become almost irrelevant until you earn other character storylines. You’ve got to flesh out those characters enough that you can travel.
So, I would hope to further expand on the ensemble, and on Jessica’s world. She ends in a very different place than she started off. She’s still going to be Jessica Jones — that is not going to change. She will continue to drink and make mistakes, and accidentally drop people onto train tracks, but something has changed for her by the end of this season, and I’d just love to explore that in the second season.
DEADLINE: Last month saw the first season of Supergirl debut on CBS, and now Jessica Jones will double the number of female-hero-led shows out there. How’s that shift look from your perspective?
ROSENBERG: Well, in in some ways Jessica Jones and Supergirl are the opposite of one another, they both happen to have superpowers. But, in terms of the lack of parity, I think it is a good start and this is just the beginning I hope.
Women, in film and television, have been so limited in terms of what audiences will accept. They have to be the wife, the noble wife, or the happy cop, or the Madonna, or the whore. You have one dimension and that’s what you can play in. It’s not reflective of our experiences as women. We’re watching these characters going, “Who is this. I have no idea” So it’s wonderful to begin to see that there’s so many great actresses out there finally really being given such juicy roles to play now, I mean, Krysten Ritter, man, she blows my mind in our show. But it’s very slow in coming, and we’ll see if it has any legs, but God willing it is a continuation of something that has begun.
DEADLINE: You don’t sound overly optimistic…
ROSENBERG: I’m a little jaded about change actually happening, I’ll admit. The numbers are exactly the same as they were two decades ago, in terms of the number of female leads, or people behind the camera, all of that. I’ll certainly do my part, and I feel like Jessica Jones is a great step.
I will say though that I don’t know that Jessica Jones would have gotten on the air and got this positive response several years ago. Without the introduction of other characters, for instance like Mary Louis Parker in Weeds, or Nurse Jackie and Scandal. They really begin to slowly introduce the idea of a female character that is flawed, and morally ambiguous. Audiences are becoming a little more accepting of women in those roles. I think we’ve benefited from that.
DEADLINE: And you have another female hero within the ranks of Jessica Jones with Rachel Taylor playing Trish “Patsy” Walker, who becomes Hellcat in the comic world and is Jessica’s best friend in your world. How is the TV character mirroring the comic character?
ROSENBERG: Patsy is just one of my favorite characters and she was a big comic character in the ’40s. So, it was interesting how many elements we could actually take from that original character, the child stardom, and the overbearing mother, and all of that stuff. She’s one of the characters that I’m looking forward to exploring, and pushing to new territory, and the world is our oyster on that one. We can go anywhere we want with it and there’s a lot of mythology behind her …so, that’s my way of avoiding answering the question.
DEADLINE: More like sidestepped, I say. Here’s one: On your own moves from writing for Dexter to adapting the Twilight books for the big screen to now showrunning — first the short-lived Red Widow and now Jessica Jones — what have you learned?
ROSENBERG: Showrunning is not a one-man job; it’s literally impossible to do for one person. I have learned the hard way now from two seasons, one with Red Widow, and this, I can’t control everything. I certainly have tried, but having an incredibly strong team around you, surrounding yourself with incredibly talented people, that is the trick, and I certainly had that for the first season here of Jessica Jones. The thing is allowing them to do what they do, and not trying to control every element. That’s really hard to shake loose from. I just want to be there for every frame and every moment, but you can’t.
DEADLINE: Here’s one frame that intrigues me. Are we ever going to see Jessica in the Jewel costume?
ROSENBERG: I can’t answer that. (Laughs) I can’t do that one.