As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting runs June 13 to June 27 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances, writing, and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.
It all started with the walk. As Jessica Jones — the eponymous leading lady of the acclaimed Netflix series based on one of Marvel’s most provocative comics — Krysten Ritter found her way into the role of the reluctant superhero and amateur private eye via the character’s world-weary stride. “I build my characters with their walk first,” the actress tells Yahoo TV. “Finding the physicality is key. Also finding the voice: In real life, I’m more spazzy and zestful. I wanted Jessica to come from a lower register. She’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and wants to disappear; but she also has to hold her ground.”
The dichotomy between Jessica’s physical strength and emotional turmoil, brought on by her trauma-inducing stint as the mental prisoner of master mind-controller Kilgrave (David Tennant), is explored throughout the show’s Peabody-award winning first season. And it’s front and center in this intense scene between Jessica and Luke Cage (Mike Colter), another super-strong hero for hire who shares an unwitting connection with Ms. Jones. While still under Kilgrave’s command, Jessica killed Luke’s wife, Reva, plunging him into a grief spiral from which he’s only tentatively emerged, thanks in part to their sexually charged relationship.
She’s able to keep this particular detail a secret for a time. But in the sixth episode, “AKA You’re a Winner!”, a shared investigation into a missing person’s case leaves Luke seeing red when he learns new information about the New York City bus driver he mistakenly believes is responsible for Reva’s murder. Boarding the man’s bus, Cage seems wholly set on following the “eye for an eye” school of vengeance when Jessica races onto the scene and finally confesses to her crime. “She just has to give it up,” Ritter says. She also gives up any instinct for self-preservation, absorbing the brunt of Cage’s fury without raising one of her own powerful fists. “She doesn’t know if Luke is going to kill her! [Mike] punches the bus right next to my head, and I tried so hard to just stand there and take it. Because she deserves it — that’s how she feels.”
Ritter remembers the entire sequence — filmed on location on a New York City street in the middle of the night — required roughly 20 takes. “Living in that dark space for six or seven hours, you get a little exhausted and heart heavy,” she says. “Sometimes after they call ‘cut,’ you have to go into the corner and sob for a second because you have to get it out. Actors are so weird — we get off on exploring that emotional cocktail that’s on the page.”
And Colter gave her the space to cry; the two actors, who were otherwise fast friends while shooting the series, kept their distance from each other as the evening unfolded. “We wanted to stay really focused and just bring it. After the scene was over, he gave me a big bear hug,” she says. “It was like, ‘Okay, we’re friends again. Let’s go to craft services and get some chips.’”
Jessica Jones is currently streaming on Netflix.