Daredevil Season 3 had no shortage of memorable moments involving new and old characters alike. One returning character we’re particularly fond of is Karen Page’s editor-in-chief, Mitchell Ellison. Like Karen, Ellison has been a steadfast crusader for truth in the face of dishonesty and disinformation. We at MCUExchange recently had the pleasure of interviewing the man behind Mitchell Ellison, Geoff Cantor, and got to ask him questions about journalism in the MCU, Ellison’s rocky relationship with Karen Page, and the big New York Bulletin fight with Bullseye.
Daredevil Season 3 isn’t your first rodeo with Marvel. Has your experience working with them changed in the four seasons you’ve done with them? Is there a professional intimacy working under such a high-profile company?
They made no promises to me when I started this job. During season one, I remember feeling that every episode I filmed was a bit of a gift. That they have shown such loyalty means a great deal. That is the best compliment an actor can get. Over the four years (three Daredevils and one Punisher) the changes I’ve seen are really based on the larger story arc that they have created for Karen. They have integrated Ellison into her story as a mentor, parent, friend, and safe haven. But by doing this, they have also given Ellison an arc. He has grown. Before Urich’s death, he was an editor and an administrator. But following season one, Ellison has had to reevaluate and recalculate. The writers have given Ellison (Geoffrey) a journey that is grounded and trackable, and I love that. Working with this creative team has been fantastic on every level. They trust me, and give me a voice at the table. And I also get to work with Deborah Ann, who is one of the most dedicated professional actors I know, and brilliant. She is smart, insightful, and, like me, a real actor geek, deep-diving into the minutiae of the role and the scene. I love to play opposite her. And she is a real friend too. Actually, I’ve made a number of friends over the past four years as a result of working on these shows. From writers to directors, actors, and crew. That is very cool.
A big thing that makes Daredevil and these Netflix show so great is that we get a look at a portion of the MCU we never get to see in the films: journalism and a grounded perspective on things. Has your experience playing Ellison all these years affected your perspective on real-life journalism with all the manipulative “fake news” and controversy plaguing our lives?
Ellison and I share a great deal in terms of perspective and beliefs. Like him, I see that the world isn’t binary. There are always myriad factors at work, factors that impact outcomes in ways we can’t imagine. I’ve always respected the 4th Estate, especially that of Walter Cronkite journalism, and Ellison is at least trying to maintain that integrity and objectivity. I also love that Ellison and the Bulletin offer the audience a window into the landscape of Daredevil that reflects their perspective. Ellison sees things play out as the audience does, and has many of the same questions. His cynical view of the nature — the existence— of a superhero adds to the sense of realism that this particular genre often lacks.
Journalism and press have been the subject of many successful Hollywood films and shows. Is there any specific film about journalism that you draw inspiration from? What are some characters and people that inspired your portrayal of Ellison?
There have been some great film/TV journalists and newspapermen/women: House of Cards, All the President’s Men, The Newsroom. But I was inspired most of all by the writing of Steve DeKnight, Doug Petrie, Marco Ramirez, of course, this season’s brilliant Erik Oleson, and all of the other amazing creatives in the room (too many to name, but all deserving of a shout out). They never wanted a J. Jonah Jameson or Perry White. They keep the show living in a real space, providing dialogue and behavior that was motivated and story driven.
This season, we finally get to see Ellison in what I hope isn’t his FIRST & LAST action scene when he gets seemingly killed by Bullseye. It might be the first major shock of the season so far. What was it like learning about Ellison’s fate upon receiving the script? What was the discussion with the writers like? How was that scene filmed? Were there any special effects involved in you getting impaled by the billy club?
I hope next time, I fight back a little (if only TNT’s Civil ever makes it to the screen…). I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. My primary concern was the kind of injury it would be as that would inform the scene in the hospital. Things are often shot out of sequence, so that was really important to me. But there was no actual conversation about it. In terms of staging the moment, the director and stunt team kind of worked backwards, or at least sideways. They knew where they wanted me to end up, so it was a matter of how to make that happen. Other than that, I will not divulge any secrets. It’s all magic.
I gotta admit that seeing Ellison make it to the next episode was a surprise and a welcome one at that. But what really got me was your powerful moment and performance with Karen Page in the hospital. What was it like filming such an emotional scene and what do you think that moment meant for Ellison as a character? If that was in real life and someone close to you knew Daredevil, would you ask them to do the same thing Ellison asked Karen to do?
What a great question. And thank you. We work our way through it as a team. As I mentioned earlier, I get to play opposite Deborah Ann. She is just so good – always fully present. The writer for that episode gave us excellent dialogue, and the director gave us space as much as guidance. I didn’t really think about it too much in terms of what’s at stake. That’s not my job. My job is to do the scene. We just did our thing and trusted the process. Then the director, editor, writers, etc. choose the take that they like best.
I think that the scene, and perhaps the entire season, reflected Ellison’s complicated relationship with Karen, his intense desire to know the truth, his feelings about loyalty, and his ability, with a little time, to be flexible and open — willing to reconsider his position if given enough information, especially when it involves someone about whom he cares deeply.
I think I would behave very much as Ellison were I faced with the same situation. I’m all about loyalty and integrity. As Ellison, the only thing that justifies putting my staff and myself in harm’s way is knowing that we stand for the truth. It’s a risk that we, (both as journalists and actors) have to take. That she chooses to withhold the information means that her priority is not the paper, her colleagues, the truth, or me. It’s about betrayal.
What is your favorite thing about playing Ellison?
Be sure to follow Geoffrey Cantor in his social media accounts!