Success, Charlie Cox is learning, doesn’t beget a chance to relax.
Instead, the hit status of his Marvel/Netflix show “Daredevil” only increases expectation.
“It’s almost like because of the response from the first season, the pressure is on to maintain a quality and keep the show as interesting and as unique as it was in the first season. Which, of course, is a tough challenge,” Cox said ahead of Friday’s second-season release.
“Obviously I’m thrilled that we’ve been given this opportunity, and hopefully we can live up to all the expectations that we now have.”
Season 2 brought other changes, as well.
Steven DeKnight, who produced the first season, left to work on the “Transformers” film franchise. And the first season was allowed to develop gradually over 13 episodes, as Cox’s character, Matt Murdock, evolved into becoming the title crimefighter in the horned, red-and-black suit.
Cox said he was impressed with the new producers, Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie, and how they handled the second season’s accelerated pace.
“I was very impressed that Marco and Doug were willing to try something different,” Cox said.
“Rather than try to re-create something from last year because it proved to be a success, they recognized that the second season(s) of television shows are difficult anyway, and (that) the best thing to do was to try to reinvent it in its own way, while keeping all the elements that had made it successful. I did think it was smart that they didn’t try to stick to the same format.”
Part of that new, faster approach involved giving Daredevil a formidable adversary in this season’s first episode. Enter Frank Castle, aka the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), who stages a heavily armed, one-man war against the mobsters he feels are responsible for taking away his family.
This season will include Daredevil’s internal battle over the Punisher’s actions. Daredevil wants the Punisher to be put away over his willingness to kill bad guys. But as we’ll see, the Punisher isn’t the clear-cut enemy Daredevil thinks he is.
“I think initially, Matt would like to believe that there is another guy in town (the Punisher) and if he can bring him to justice, everything can return to normal again,” Cox told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “However, he discovers pretty quickly that Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and Frank Castle (The Punisher) aren’t as dissimilar as he would like to believe that they are.
“So really, the second season isn’t about bringing a big bad (guy) to justice,” the London-born actor continued. “It’s more (about) asking kind of a more pertinent question: What is a hero? What is heroic behavior? What is vigilante justice all about, and what makes it valid and what makes it invalid?
“Frank Castle presents the perfect problem for Matt Murdock, because on the one hand, he is everything that Matt hates. But at the same time, it’s undeniable that Matt can recognize himself in Frank.”
In the new season’s early episodes, Daredevil and the Punisher spend much time in attack mode: Daredevil constantly aims to take down his enemy, and the Punisher always seems to have a counter move. And those scenes rely on Cox and Bernthal pushing each other as performers.
“The screen just eats him up as soon as he comes on camera,” Cox said of Bernthal. “And so when (the producers) told me that they wanted to cast him, I remember thinking: ‘That’s a show that I want to be a part of.’ Because I think he’s such an extraordinary actor, and he’s so bold and brave and full. ... You can’t turn up and wing it with Jon -- you really have to know what you’re doing. I think he’s one of the great actors of our generation.”
Cox also believes the battle between Daredevil and the Punisher will be compelling enough that viewers might have trouble deciding whom to root for.
“The line is so blurry. On the one hand, you can sympathize with Matt Murdock and say, ‘Well, he’s got boundaries.’ He’s working outside of the law, but he’s doing it in a way that’s beneficial to society and he’s helping people,” Cox said. “He doesn’t play God in so far as he doesn’t kill people.
“But then along comes Frank Castle, and he’s asking questions ... ,” Cox continued. “It’s what the Punisher describes as a half-measure. If you’re giving yourself permission to judge people (as Daredevil does), and to form an opinion on whether they are good or bad people, why not do the whole job and rid them from our society?”
This season, other characters will complicate Daredevil’s life, as well, as he also battles his emotions. The producers said that the hero will have three loves this season: Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Elektra (Elodie Yung) and New York City.
Cox sees Daredevil’s love life within the context of his ongoing struggles.
“I don’t know if being smart can really inform a decision when matters of the heart are concerned. I think we have centuries of evidence to prove that point,” Cox said. “I think that when you feel a particular way towards someone -- and you feel a bond and a connection as intense as Matt feels for Karen and Elektra in different ways -- I think in vulnerable moments, you allow yourself to believe that there is a future for you” in a relationship.
However, “For the most part, Matt recognizes that (love) is going to be very complicated with him, based on who he is and what he does.”
Given the success of Marvel/Netflix’s “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” Cox said that it’s not too early to get excited about the eventual team-up of all of Netflix’s superheroes. (“Luke Cage” debuts in September, and Finn Jones was recently cast as the Marvel martial artist Iron Fist.)
“I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I think it’s going to be (great) ... ,” Cox said of the eventual Avengers-like teaming of the heroic Hell’s Kitchen’s streetfighters. “It’s going to be really interesting to see how the four worlds come together and exist within the same show. I’m fascinated to see how that happens.”