The Defenders’ big bad could be the hero of the narrative, not the antagonist, if the angle was slightly adjusted.

Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver, runs a corporation, has an appreciation for fine arts and when you see her wield her power – both physically and metaphorically – there is no doubt that this woman holds her own in every situation. “In her story she is a heroine, because she doesn’t see things as black and white,” says Weaver.

Frankly, neither should the viewers. Alexandra – much like former villains Wilson Fisk, Cottonmouth and Kildare – is a three-dimensional character who believes the ends justify the means.

“She’s in business,” Weaver says. “I don’t think business people, especially on her scale, care about these niceties of things. If it’s a fossil fuel company, they want to just keep going, regardless of all these people whimpering about the Earth. So, I based her on real people I knew, who think like that.”

For the actress, who has headed up the Alien and Avatar franchises, the appeal of joining the Marvel Universe was in the complexity of the role. “[The producers] approached me about creating a new character. I was very excited because often when they create an older woman they have an idea that she’s an ice queen,” Weaver says. “We all wanted her to be a very believable person, who had a real New York life, something of a kingdom, if not an empire.”

To Weaver, the fact that even the bad guys (and ladies) have their own storylines was a welcome surprise. She was particularly taken by the first season of Daredevil, which featured a heartbroken villain you almost (almost!) rooted for.

“I could see they weren’t just making us into people twirling their mustaches,” she says. “Whatever we do seems to come out of a real place. I think these villains, if you call them that, they’re people, and they’re very complex. I think that’s actually pretty accurate, when people go bad. Often the things that drive them are very deep subterranean forces.”

The Defenders themselves describe going up against Weaver as a game-changer. “I don’t really even know how to begin to talk about Sigourney without gushing,” Charlie Cox, who plays Daredevil, says. “She’s a hero of mine and an icon. She elevates everything she’s in tremendously and I think knowing she was going to be on set, meant that all of us, if we weren’t already, had to be on our game more than we ever had been.”

While she is the hero of her own story, she’s definitely the villain of New York’s. Four heroes – Daredevil (Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones), with their pesky shared idealism – have to spring into action against her and criminal organization The Hand. To combat The Defenders, Alexandra resurrects Electra/Black Sky (Elodie Yung), and trains her into a weapon that melds unparalleled fighting skills with convenient post-resurrection amnesia.

“I think [the writers] were really inspired by the comics,” says Yung, whose character met her end in Daredevil’s second season. “Elektra dies and comes back in a new outfit, and she’s changed. She doesn’t remember anything. Alexandra takes over this new Elektra, and forges her as she wants her to be.”

A bonus for Alexandra is that Electra’s return catches Matt Murdoch off guard.

“I don’t think Matt in his right mind believes for a second that Elektra is there. It’s not really her. But that small glimmer of hope is so tempting,” Cox says. “Not just because he loves her, but because I think, the alleviation of the guilt that he feels would just be the answer to all of his problems in that moment in time. As the show progresses, we get to see how far he’s willing to take that delusion, and what the consequences of his delusion are, both to himself and the others.”

But Murdoch and his super senses may be onto something. If he’s right it would certainly complicate Alexandra’s mission.

“I’m a weapon first, and I’m just doing what I’m told. And then, memory would come back progressively,” Yung says. “I didn’t say she’d come back. I didn’t say it. Don’t quote me on that! But she’s such a free spirit. You would not think that she would completely disappear.”

As the series progresses, the mission of the Defenders’ common enemy unfolds slowly, which Luke Cage star Mike Colter believes is the strength of the Marvel villain.

“In some ways, that’s kind of how villains work: The less you see them, the more ominous they are,” he says. “It’s like Jaws, – the shark, you never saw until the end. You don’t want to see villains too often, or they might become pedestrian. [Alexandra], has a very specific color that’s very different from all the other characters. Hers was a very calming effect, yet still very powerful and very rich.”

Whoever ends up taking the reins in Marvel’s New York, fans should be prepared for some epic battles along the way.

“In this, honestly, we just knew the fight scenes needed to be different,” says showrunner Marco Ramirez. “We’ve never seen shows where four super-powered people are in a fight scene together, so it felt like it would demand a certain amount of spectacle. It’s incredible.”

May the best (wo)man win.