“Something unexpected happened on Netflix last year. Daredevil, the gritty Marvel entry about a blind hero in Hell’s Kitchen, became, at least according to one report, the most-watched original series on the streaming service. Thanks to overwhelmingly positive word of mouth and strong performances, the gritty show gained traction outside the usual cape-loving crowd. But one of the most intriguing elements of Season 1—Vincent D’Onofrio’snuanced, villainous Kingpin—is out of commission in Season 2. Marvel drafted two classic Daredevil comic book characters, Punisher and Elektra, to take his place. And it’s the latter—a dangerous, nimble ninja/assassin played by French Cambodian actress Élodie Yung—who steals the entire show. In advance of the second season’s premiere, Yung spoke with VF.com about tackling the explosive legacy of Daredevil’s femme fatale.
Elektra Natchios has had many incarnations—including the leather-clad version played by Jennifer Garner in 2003—over the years but the most important thing for non-comic-book fans to know is that she’s a dangerous, risk-taking, rich Greek girl who is forever getting our hero, Matt Murdock, into trouble. If there’s such thing as a triple threat in the realm of superheroes, Yung is it. Obviously and elegantly beautiful, the LAMDA-educated actress with a law degree from the University of Paris is also brimming with the requisite brains to play a worldly, educated woman like Elektra. And when it comes to playing the action scenes, Yung can rely on her black belt in karate to get her through Daredevil’s trickier maneuvers.
Suffice it to say that if anyone could be ready to take on Elektra, it would be Yung. But Elektra’s loaded 35-year comic history was already something of a burden for the actress before a single second of Daredevil hit the air. Speaking at an event last December, Elektra’s notoriously cranky creator, comic book writer/artist Frank Miller, dismissed Yung’s performance sight unseen. “They can call it whatever they want,” he told the crowd, “but it won’t be the real Elektra.”
But Yung, who says she devoured the comic books once she landed the role, has the opposite attitude towards Miller. Giving him credit for creating “such a complex and interesting character,” Yung said she has “a lot of respect for Elektra’s creator” and referred to the comics as her “bible.” And when boiling Elektra down to essentials, Yung prefers to quote Miller directly saying, “Elektra isn’t a villain and isn’t a good girl but as Frank Miller said, she is one of the villains with a weak streak in them and that’s a failure that I tried to explore…”