SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the second season of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones.”
The titular character in “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” isn’t the only one dealing with trauma and vulnerability. In the second season of the Netflix drama, Jeri Horgath (Carrie-Anne Moss) receives an ALS diagnosis, and it causes her to react in some surprising ways.
“The first season we really got to spend a lot of time with her in that shark mode — that mode of talking in that rhythm and always sort of driving the scenes. This season, for me, just to be able to play the vulnerability of her desperation and her fear, that was really fun. I still got to play the powerful side of her but also got to play that human side and see where she comes from and why she is the way she is,” Moss tells Variety.
Here, Moss talks about the evolution of Jeri with this new arc, season 2’s new dynamic with Jessica, and the conversations she hopes the show sparks.
What was your reaction to first learning Jeri would be diagnosed with ALS?
They brought everybody in, which was new — they didn’t do that the first season — and they asked if we wanted to know the whole arc this season. Sometimes it’s fun to just find out along the way, but I wanted to know, so they sat me down and told me, and I was surprised. I was like, “Wow. OK cool, bring it on.”
What was most challenging about embarking upon this story for you?
The diagnosis — imagining that, reading about that, and as a human just putting myself in those shoes was intense. And then finding the truth of her because she still is who she is but we see new sides to her, and I hope that she still seems true to who she is.
How did you strike the balance of when to show how deeply it was affecting her versus when she wanted to be business as usual so no one found out what was going on with her?
I think it’s always best to try and cover it up as much as possible because I think that’s what we do. Even though you might want to really feel a lot, I think it’s important to kind of cover up as much as you can.
Yet she does ultimately confide in Jessica (Krysten Ritter), despite how distant they have been.
I was really happy with that. When I read that scene I was really thrilled because up until that Jessica wanted nothing to do with her because she was mad at her about what happened with Kilgrave. I tried to reach her in “The Defenders,” and she just didn’t want to have anything to do with me — with Jeri. But I always thought she opened the door here, she let Jeri in. It was the first time she saw her house! When she goes to Jessica and tells Jessica, that was hard for her! But what was interesting to me was she really has no one. That line where she says all she has is that name on that door — “That’s all I’ll leave behind” — she was going to fight for that. She’s not going to give up and go live on an island. She’s a fighter.
At one point Jeri tells her doctor she wants to end her life and will do it with or without medical help, though.
I’m really interested in that larger conversation, and we don’t really go there, but I think for her, she’s just so controlling. She’s such a controlled person, and she’s never had to rely on anyone, ever, so that’s the only thing she can think of. She’s not going to lose. And so I don’t think that she’s deeply thinking of it yet [in that moment] but it’s more of a reaction to the diagnosis and the situation she’s in.
Were you able to develop some of her reactionary behavior with the writers and directors, or was it all already there on the page for you to just play?
They’re very open to any suggestions you have. I try to be really respectful of the writing process. I gave a few notes first season, but I’m a little less of a note-giver because I really grew up in that idea of serving the writing. I kind of am a tradesman in a way. [I think] my job is to make it work — and to elevate it. But they also really entrust me, and I’m sure everybody, to find your way with it. There’s always someone on the set who’s the voice of Melissa if she’s not there, but there’s a lot of respect for how you’re going to do it. So I felt like it was unfolding right there in the moment a lot of times, but if ever I needed to call or text with questions, I could.
To look more closely at her relationship with Jessica this season, do you see Jeri confiding in her as a turning point?
I think so. I think it was a real turning point because Jeri was open to her telling her this very big information that she hasn’t disclosed or shared. She’s in a very vulnerable situation, and she doesn’t want to rely on anyone for anything, and here she is, going to Jessica and saying, “I know you’re pissed at me — I know you hate me — but this is what’s happening in my life. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, but I need help.” I think this season changes her. And I think it does start there.
How does it feel to finally have the season available after such a long time since the first season?
It’s funny, you do this dance where you’re living it, you’re breathing it, and you’re in it, but then time passes and I can barely remember my storylines. Once I started working again, that sort of lifted, and hopefully now when people are watching it, they’ll have that same feeling of being right back in it.
Do you feel like it’s better to be able to let go in that way, especially with such a heavy storyline this season?
Honestly every day when I work I totally let go of that day. You just have to move on. Even when I was auditioning a ton when I was younger, my mom said I had this incredible ability to deal with rejection — I would just move on, I wouldn’t sit in it. Sitting it in gets you nowhere. I am kind of always moving forward as a person, so it will be interesting for me to see [these] episodes.
What have you observed about the response to the show and the characters after all this time, and how do you hope the conversation continues after the audience sees season 2?
I think it’s amazing. I think women have really responded to her character and the plight she went through with PTSD, and I think we can all relate on some way to her and the manipulation. Although it’s extreme, there’s a subtlety to it that we’ve all experienced on some level. So I’m excited that it’s being so well-received — not only the character but also Krysten Ritter. To me, she’s such an incredible role model for women because she has this incredible confidence that is not egotistical but lies in her self-worth. And I think it can be easy to think you’re not enough, but she just unapologetically knows she’s enough, and I love being around that, and I want everyone to see that.