Prior to Netflix canceling Daredevil last week after three seasons, Charlie Cox opened up for Playboy's 20Q in what may be one of his final interviews before moving on from the role for good. The 35-year-old English-born actor chats about falling in love with his co-stars, why Al Pacino implored him to change up his wardrobe and where things might have been headed for his superhero character in future seasons.
Do you find it’s a struggle to be on a popular Marvel show and at the same time try to maintain your private life?
I think I’ve managed to keep my private life very private. That wasn’t born out of any intense feelings toward privacy, though I think it’s quite normal and natural to want to be able to have a private life. I think it’s partly due to the fact that I don’t engage in social media. I also don’t think I entirely trust myself with social media. I wouldn’t want to have a bad day and end up tweeting something without having really thought it through. You can’t take that back.
What else don’t you like about social media?
It’s just not in my DNA. Occasionally someone will show me Ryan Reynolds’ handle. He maintains his privacy, but he’s very funny, and he says some interesting stuff. I guess he kind of gets it right; he knows exactly how to manage it. I read an interview years ago—I think it was with Matt Damon, who said that he doesn’t like doing interviews. He tries to do as few interviews as possible, because he doesn’t really want people to get to know who he is as a person; it might make it harder for them to believe him as his character. I remember thinking, That’s a really good point.
You’ve worked with some superb actors over the years—women in particular, including Claire Danes, Kate Mara and Krysten Ritter. Have you ever fallen in love with a co-star?
Yeah, many times.
Can you tell us about that?
No! [laughs] Look, that was probably one of the humbling experiences of my 20s—beautiful actresses I’d fallen in love with. Spend enough time googling me and you’ll probably find a list of a few of them.
Is it complicated to be involved with someone who is also an actor on-set with you?
Yes. You’re in some weird location where you don’t know anyone else. You’re all there, you’re making this movie, and if you’re co-stars, you’re pretending to be in love during the day. It’s not surprising that people confuse reality. Often, I think, when you do have these on-set romances and then you get back to the real world, suddenly you begin to see it wasn’t quite what you thought it was. I think that’s why you get so many actors dating one another: It’s nice to be with somebody who understands what the job is like.
Your fiancée, Samantha Thomas, is a producer on Iron Fist and Jessica Jones but not Daredevil. How did you guys meet?
Yeah, so she’s a producer. I’m not going to talk about her at all, because one thing I’m very careful about is keeping my family out of it. That’s one of the reasons I’m not on social media. I really don’t think people need to know about my family.
We’re not going to ask about your sex life, because you’re not going to tell us. So what’s something no one has ever asked you that you wish people would?
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that question before. The truth is, for someone like me, I don’t feel comfortable talking about myself in any way that’s going to then be put on camera or in print or something. But I recognize that part of my job is to publicize the stuff that I do. I also know that no one is going to read an interview where all I talk about is what it was like to play the character. It’s a balance, and you have to try to figure out what is appropriate and what isn’t.
Do you imagine sacrificing your career for your family?
Oh, 100 percent. My career is not more important than my family. No, there’s nothing more important than family. Go to any hospital or old people’s home and find me someone who will answer the question “What would you do differently?” with “I wish I’d worked harder.” No. Everyone would say, “I wish I’d made more time for my family.”
What were you like as a kid?
I’m the youngest of five by 10 years; the closest sibling to me is 10 years older. So I’m a total mistake, effectively. I was an only child and I wasn’t, if that makes sense. My dad was a publisher and my mom worked for him, in London. I was obsessed with sport—football.
Which team do you root for?
I’m an Arsenal fan. There’s a great line in one of my favorite films, an Argentinean film called The Secret in Their Eyes. They’re looking for a criminal and they say something like “When you’re on the run, you can change everything about you. You can change your look, you can change the way you live, you can change the people you hang out with, you can change anything you need to. The one thing you can never change is your passions.” And they end up finding this guy because they look for him at his football team’s stadium. You can’t choose what you’re passionate about. Sometimes I think, How am I wasting this time and energy and suffering these devastating losses that ruin days—over a game? But you just can’t help it. For my bachelor party, my best friend was like, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I just want to go to the park with my best mates, put sweaters down and play.”
If you were obsessed with sports when you were growing up, when did your artistic side come out?
If I think about it, it was always there. I always enjoyed engaging in the theater. We did a play at one of my schools when I was seven or eight years old. It was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I played Charlie. I don’t know if we’ve lost the tape, but if you watch it, as well as knowing my own lines, I’m mouthing everyone else’s lines.
Many people say your breakout role was in Stardust, but we remember you in Casanova with Heath Ledger, which came before Stardust, right?
Yeah, but I don’t think anyone would refer to that as a breakout role. [laughs] What you don’t even remember is that I did a Shakespeare movie, The Merchant of Venice, with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons before that. I’ll tell you something: In the first part of the movie, we were all in Luxembourg, and Pacino—I can’t remember how he phrased it, but he said to me, “Do you have a leather jacket?” And I was like, “No.” He was like, “If you’re an actor, you have to have a leather jacket.” Later, my mom and dad asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” And I said, “A leather jacket.” I still have it. A bunch of my friends are still really jealous of it.
And who are your friends? Who do you hang out with?
My dear, dear, dear friends aren’t actors. My dear friends are my friends from school. The guy who is going to be my best man, my best friend—our parents were friends before we were born. I’ve become friends with people like Eddie Redmayne, but you know, I don’t see them regularly at all. They’re out doing something, or I’m doing something. Ben Barnes is in Stardust, so we met on that. He’s one of the loveliest humans I’ve ever met—and he’s also been in my life a huge amount because he’s now on one of the Netflix shows that shoot in New York. I found him an apartment in my building, because he lives in Los Angeles. So for two years, he’s been living underneath us.
What was it like working with Krysten Ritter on The Defenders?
I love Krysten. I can’t say enough good things about her. And she and I, in particular, got along really well. She’s unapologetically who she is, and I learned a lot from that. Not in any way does she apologize for being successful and talented.
Do you apologize for those things?
I think I do. Maybe it’s being English, but I become horrified by a compliment. You know that feeling when someone says something wonderful to you—“Oh my God, you’re great,” or something like that? My instinct is to say, “No, I’m not.” It’s very difficult for me. I think I was brought up to not be boastful or a show-off, and what I’m learning from people like Krysten is that being authentic and being proud of who you are and what you do is not the same thing as being boastful. So one of my practices as a human is to try and be right-sized, if that makes sense.
Is it difficult dealing with fans at conventions like Comic-Con, knowing that compliments make you uncomfortable?
I have to say, one of the great things about playing this character is that I’ve had the opportunity to go to loads of conventions and meet loads of fans, and I love that. The fans are so respectful. I haven’t had a bad experience to date. You get to hear what people have to say about the show—people who have no agenda in telling you that they like something. And again, I still manage to lead a very private life. In my day-to-day life I seem to be anonymous.
The new season of Daredevil keeps getting darker and darker. There are a lot of rumors about the Born Again Daredevil story arcs for the coming seasons. How do you feel about playing Daredevil in an arc that compares him to Jesus?
I guess what your question makes me think of is that this character has his faith: He has a very strong attachment to his God, to his Catholicism. And yet what he engages in as a superhero runs in direct conflict with those ideas. One of the great gifts of playing this character is to enjoy that feeling of being torn in different directions. We play on the idea that the character gives up the Matt Murdock element of his life and starts to engage with the idea that it’s make-believe—that Matt Murdock is the character he’s invented, and the true him, his true authentic self, is Daredevil, which is a dangerous path to tread.
Often, I think, when you do have these on-set romances and then you get back to the real world, suddenly you begin to see it wasn’t quite what you thought it was.
Do you ever feel as though you’re losing yourself in the role?
No. I know that Sam jokes about when she has to live with Matt Murdock for six months. I know that it can affect your moods, but some of that is because of fatigue and your body aching 24/7. I’ve played this character for so many hours now—it’s not like a movie.
Daredevil seems to be a very vulnerable character. Do you consider yourself to be a vulnerable person?
The short answer is yes. The truth is in real life, in my heart—and this may sound naive—but I don’t believe violence is the answer to anything. I don’t think there needs to be, or should be in an ideal world, any level of violence to try to solve any problems. One of the things you commented on, which we try to do with the show and I try to do with Matt, is really highlight the moments when the answer is not violence but vulnerability, forgiveness and kindness—characteristics that really, ultimately, hopefully should be what make a superhero a superhero. What makes a superhero is the ability to make the right judgment call in the right moment, the ability to not engage in violence when it’s not absolutely necessary.
In what ways do you think playing Daredevil has changed you?
One of the things I like about Matt Murdock is that he doesn’t worry about what other people think. He doesn’t feel people’s feelings for them. He’s very comfortable telling them exactly how it is, and he lets other people have their own feelings around it. And that’s something that, at times, makes him seem quite cold. But actually, a very respectful way to live is to not try to influence how people experience a conversation or a challenging difference you might have. I’m trying to take that onboard a little bit as myself, as Charlie—to speak my truth and let people have their experience around that.