Interview with Christos Gage
(May 2018)

Writer Christos Gage has worked on many comics titles for a variety of companies, and has worked on many TV shows, co-writing with his wife Ruth Gage.

Here we chat about their work on the first season of DAREDEVIL on Netflix, and also the back-up story about Foggy Nelson in the recent milestone comic DAREDEVIL #600. Many thanks to Mr. Gage!

Kuljit Mithra: It's a pleasure to finally interview you. I wanted to discuss your work on the Daredevil show and your story in DAREDEVIL 600 that came out recently. I know of you mainly through your comics work and I'm a big fan of the HOUSE OF M: AVENGERS mini you did with Mike Perkins (who also did DD600 with you). Can you briefly recount how you got involved with the Netflix show?

Christos Gage: Well, Ruth and I have been screenwriters for a long time... we met at AFI film school and started out working in features (movies) for about ten years, but we realized that, even though we worked steadily, the scripts we wrote hardly ever got produced, and that was frustrating. So we moved into TV and wrote episodes of LAW & ORDER: SVU and NUMBERS. With DAREDEVIL, our manager had set up a meeting with Megan Bradner, an executive at Marvel TV, and we hit it off, so when Drew Goddard was looking for writers for the first season of DD, she set up a meeting with him. And we really clicked with him. He's brilliant, and such a great guy. And he hired us!

Mithra: I don't know how much you can share about the behind-the-scenes process, so if there's anything you can't answer that's fine. With your wife, Ruth, the both of you were staff writers for Season One and co-wrote episode nine "Speak of the Devil". We often hear about a "writer's room" for TV shows, so was this the case with DD? Did you work with the other writers and showrunner Steven DeKnight to have a general outline of where the story would go, and then you all went off to write your episodes separately?

Gage: Yes, there was a writer's room. When we were hired, Drew Goddard was the showrunner. He had already written the first episode. When the writers were hired, we all spent some time as a room working out the big beats of the series... i.e. Episode 8 is Fisk's backstory, Episode 10 is Foggy finding out Matt is Daredevil. Then Drew went off to write Episode 2, with the famous hallway fight, and the room settled into the cycle that continued for the rest of the show: we'd break an episode as a room, and once its basic beats were outlined, the writer or writers would go off and write the script while the others broke the next episode. Around the time we were breaking Episode 4, Drew left when a movie he was slated to direct got greenlit unexpectedly soon, and his friend Steven DeKnight took over as showrunner. That was before filming started, around the time the show was being cast. Steven, of course, is terrific as well, and we continued with him running the show throughout the season. He did an amazing job coming into a show that was already going and bringing it to life. Of course it helped that he and Drew are friends and kept in touch.

Mithra: Generally how much time was given to write each episode? And were all the episodes written before filming began?

Gage: No, I think when shooting began we had maybe five scripts done? I don't remember exactly. We broke each episode - which is when the entire writers room works out the outline of the episode, figuring out the scenes and briefly what happens in each, over the course of a week or two. Then I think we had, what, ten days to write the script? Two weeks? Something like that.

Mithra: How did you divide up the writing tasks for the episode with Ruth? And how is it co-writing? I can imagine some aspects make it easier, but do you step on each other's toes with what you want to include?

Gage: We've been co-writing a long time, so we're used to it. We talk about the story, then I write the first draft, getting the basic stuff in there, and she writes the second draft, adding great stuff like Nobu hooking DD with the kyoketsu-shoge and the specific Bible verse and story Father Lantom discusses with Matt. Then we polish it together and hand it in.

Mithra: With "Speak of the Devil" you had quite a bit happen... fight with Nobu, scenes with Father Lantom, death of Mrs. Cardenas and Foggy finding out his friend is a vigilante. I know it's been a few years now, but can you remember any details or have any comments about some of the following:

The jumping ahead with the Nobu fight, and then coming back

Gage: That was Ruth's idea... she was inspired by the Firefly episode "Out of Gas" and its jumping back and forth in time. Part of the reason was so it wasn't all talk at the beginning and all fighting at the end, and to keep the tension up. The funny thing is, the Netflix executive found it confusing in outline form (he hadn't seen Firefly yet) and suggested we put it all in linear time, but Steven liked cutting back and forth so we stuck with that, and when it was finished the executive said he loved it.

Mithra: The Rwanda story that Father Lantom relates about Satan the adversary

Gage: The Rwanda story is based on an actual story from that conflict that Ruth read in the newspaper. The stuff about Satan/the adversary, how the concept of Satan as a single figure is relatively recent, is factual and something we came across in research.

Mithra: Matt comparing Fisk to Satan, and the line "another man's evil does not make you good"

Gage: Ruth found that great Bible verse about "like a muddied river or polluted fountain is the righteous man who gives way to evil" and it worked perfectly, because it can be interpreted in more than one way. Matt thinks it means he should stop Fisk at any cost or his community will be poisoned. Father Lantom points out that it could also mean that a righteous man who gives way to the evil in himself - i.e. Matt crossing the line, giving in to his anger and killing Fisk - is what really pollutes the community.

Mithra: Matt's struggle with his faith and what he must do with Fisk

Gage: Faith has been a huge part of Matt Murdock's character since the Frank Miller comics, and Drew wanted to keep that, which we thought was really cool. Drew also wanted religion to be a positive force in Matt's life, since that's how it is in the comics, and we've all seen negative depictions of religion already. So we definitely wanted to make that a big part of Matt's struggle in this episode. We were gratified by how many members of the clergy and people of faith - from many different denominations - said they found that incredibly compelling and real. In fact, a Mormon newspaper called it the most accurate depiction of a priest ministering to a parishioner they'd ever seen on TV!

Mithra: Matt, Foggy and Karen's relationship and Foggy's discovery at the end of the episode

Gage: That was something that we knew would happen from very early on, when we worked out the season structure with Drew. Episode 10 was going to be the fallout of Foggy discovering Matt is Daredevil, so the discovery had to happen at the end of Episode 9. Not a bad cliffhanger to end on!

Mithra: Speaking of Foggy, for DAREDEVIL 600 you focused on Matt's best friend, and I believe this is something you had originally wanted to put on the show. There was a lot of comics history there, and Perkins' artwork matched the era he was drawing. I'm a big Foggy Nelson fan, and he does put up with a lot of "stuff" with Matt Murdock. Was it difficult to get all the highlights in there?

Gage: Obviously, there's a ton of Foggy history we didn't have room for, but I wanted to get across an overview of Foggy and Matt's friendship, and I think Mike and I did a pretty good job of touching on the highs and lows. The main point was to show the highs and lows between them, and there have been a lot of both, and their enduring friendship. The thing I wanted to put on the show was the scene where Foggy gets a tattoo on his stomach that says "FOG LIFE" (like Tupac's "Thug Life"). Once on the show when we were coming up with fun, silly things the characters could do I pitched that, and everyone liked it, but it didn't make it in. So I used it here!

Mithra: Thank you for your time, I know you are busy... I could ask many more questions about the show... it was a big gamble for Marvel and Netflix when it premiered, so I'm glad it has been successful. Seems DD is always the under appreciated character. What's next in comics for you, and in movies/TV with you and Ruth? Thanks again.

Gage: My pleasure! In comics, my announced projects right now include INCREDIBLES comics and BUFFY SEASON 12 from Dark Horse, NINJAK from Valiant, and BATMAN: SINS OF THE FATHER (based on the Telltale game) for DC. In other media, since Daredevil, I've been working on the big Spider-Man video game for the Playstation 4 that Insomniac Games is developing. They just announced the release date, September 7. I've been on that for three years, so it's gratifying everyone seems so excited for it! I've still got a few months of work left on that. As to what comes after, Ruth and I have some irons in the fire, but nothing we can discuss.

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(c) 2018 Kuljit Mithra & Christos Gage
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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