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‘Jessica Jones’ Team on Genre Show’s Timeliness, Being Ahead of the Curve on #MeToo

“From the very beginning when we started this journey, Jessica has always been a character who has been very of its time,” Marvel’s Head of TV, Jeph Loeb, told Variety on Saturday.

Loeb appeared at Netflix’s FYSEE panel event, moderated by Variety’s own executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, in honor of the second season of Marvel’s “Jessica Jones.” Rachael Taylor, who plays Jessica’s best friend-cum-sister Trish Walker, praised how the series “always puts character first while diving into all these different social issues. It’s so unexpected for a genre show but such a joy for us to play.”

As “Jessica Jones” tackled female agency, consent, sexual assault, harassment, and PTSD in its first season alone, particularly through the lens of Jessica’s abuse at the hands of David Tennant’s villainous Kilgrave, showrunner and creator Melissa Rosenberg explained the surreal feeling that hit with the beginning of the #MeToo movement.

“We had already written and produced every episode of season 2 before [the #MeToo movement] even happened, and I think we just got a little bit ahead of the curve on that one. It felt extraordinary to come out at a time when it was such a big topic and very much a part of our season.”

But Loeb is first to insist that “this is what Melissa and I wanted to talk about on the show from the get-go. The #MeToo movement didn’t suddenly uncover something. It’s something we should’ve been talking about for a long time.”

He continued: “To be able to have a show that talks openly about how men treat women and how women feel about that and have a hero who can do something about it in a very wish fulfillment kind of way — that’s something we all aspire to and I think that’s one of the reasons why Marvel heroes do connect with people. They’re meant to be aspirational.”

Krysten Ritter, who said on the panel that playing Jessica is “the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” recalled how women have come up to her saying “that they’ve felt represented by her and empowered by her. That they’ve had their own Kilgrave and that Jessica’s changed their lives.”

The second season also had a female-centric point of view from onscreen to video village, as Rosenberg hired all female directors to helm the 13 episodes.

“I knew I wanted to have at least half our directors be women and people of color, and as we began to book them, it became clear there were so many of them. I wasn’t discovering anyone. There were all seasoned pros and it just kind of grew into this. But I’m glad this really made an impact of normalizing it,” Rosenberg told Variety.

Janet McTeer, who joined season 2 as Jessica’s long-lost mother Alisa with her own set of superpowers, added: “A lot of the story is about sisters, about mothers and daughters. That’s a female story. Female directors could reference that directly in the way that you don’t understand someone who would go see a male gynecologist. Why would you bother? It’s sort of the same.”

Ritter also likened the warmth and safety of a female-directed set to the experience of watching Frances McDormand‘s Oscars acceptance speech. “Remember that moment when she asks all the women to stand up? I just felt this amazing feeling in my heart when I was watching it, like this amazing sisterhood. That’s how I felt on set. It felt like we were doing something really special.”

As the show is truly about two sisters who have been trying to deal with the recurrent problem of “who is going to save who,” according to Loeb, both Ritter and Taylor are disappointed the season ends with the women at odds.

“I’ve built so much of my performance around that deep love Jessica has for Trish, so it sucks that they had to go their separate ways. But I think it’s going to be an amazing kind of challenge, and I’m dying to see what Jessica does next. So many times you have to look back and face some stuff in order to move forward in your life. She’s done that now,” Ritter told Variety.

Rosenberg teased that “seasons 1 and 2 were very much about digging into Jessica’s past, really peeling back the layer of what went into making her. I’d like to really explore the idea of: ‘Okay, so now I understand these things. What now?'”

Eka Darville, who plays Jessica’s pseudo-younger brother character and prospective PI himself, is keen to see the show lean into his character’s ambition come season 3 in terms of “how far he’s willing to go to achieve emotional and personal autonomy,” he said.

And while McTeer ultimately played coy as to whether or not she’d make a Kilgrave-like cameo in future seasons, Loeb stressed the evergreen nature of the series. “We could’ve done the show 10 years ago. We’re doing it now when it became part of the most topical conversation around. And while we could, hopefully, we don’t have to do it 10 years from now.”

After the panel, guests were invited to a special reception hosted by Netflix, which featured an aptly-themed bar highlighting Jessica Jones’ pastime of choice: drinking alcoholic beverages.

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