British actor Charlie Cox has built up an enviable resume over the years, including films such as Stardust, The Merchant of Venice and The Theory of Everything, and hit series Boardwalk Empire.
But taking on the role of Marvel’s Daredevil, a blind lawyer who fights crime in Manhattan by night, presented the 33-year-old with his first superhero. And with that came fresh challenges.
For one, Cox, who had never so much as signed up to a gym, had to reach and maintain a superheroic level of fitness. He also had to master the art of playing a blind man, something he’s managed with award-winning accuracy.
As Daredevil returns for a second series, we speak to Cox about heroes, both on and off the small screen.
THE RED BULLETIN: What makes someone a hero? Is it a blind man fighting bad guys?
CHARLIE COX: Not being able to see does heighten your senses. I got my own small taste of that when I walked into the street with a blindfold on. But that doesn’t make you a hero. A real hero can be cruel to the people he cares about most. Daredevil does that.
What does that mean?
It means sometimes there are more important factors, higher reasons for your behavior. A hero shouldn’t be a people pleaser.
Can you give an example of when being cruel is the true hero response?
When you have children, which I don’t, you want to protect them so that they don’t hurt themselves. Or sometimes you let them make mistakes, so that they can learn from the negative experience. You’re being cruel to be kind.
What about adults? Are you cruel to them too?
You know that conundrum; you don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. You’re afraid they might feel bad if you’re honest with them. But don’t agonize over other people’s emotions. You need to tell them exactly how you feel.
Yes, it requires a lot of courage.
So blunt honesty is a must. Is there another essential hero characteristic?
I find it very heroic when, in the face of adversity, someone manages to operate from a place of kindness rather than aggression or anger. It may sound cheesy, but forgiveness is probably the best example of everyday heroism I can imagine.
What do you mean by that?
Imagine someone has caused you and your family unnecessary harm and you feel resentment towards them. Having the courage to forgive that whole-heartedly and move on from it is in many ways one of the most heroic actions you can display.
Do you manage to do that?
So it’s difficult situations that make the hero…
Has your strength been tested by adversity?
I had periods of unemployment, which are particularly difficult because you don’t know if they’re ever going to end. You wonder whether the door will ever open for you again and you start to question whether it’s all worth it.
How did you cope?
I didn’t lounge around in bed in a bad mood. I spent as much time as I could with my friends and family. And I stayed active mentally; I wrote plays and scripts and prepared even harder for any auditions. And if I did ever get stuck in a down mood, I would take my motorcycle out for a spin and ride off into the sunset.
So now you’re prepared if faced with that again.
Yes. Of course there are a lot of worse things than being unemployed. Your job is to enjoy the good times and not let the bad times get you down too much. Most of the best moments in my life had nothing to do with money or success.
Once I went via bus from Cape Town to Nairobi. By Lake Malawi I watched a football game between two local towns on a dirt pitch. Only three or four of the players had shoes, the goals didn’t have nets. To see that teaches you humility. And it was also a truly magical experience.