It is August of last year when I find myself in a makeshift prison in the middle of Brooklyn, New York. It is for an exclusive press visit to the set of Marvel’s Jessica Jones—perhaps the best thing to come out of Netflix’s partnership with the comic book company. Just a few miles away from where The Avengers saved Manhattan, I witness the battle for Jessica Jones’s soul.
It’s an intense and heartbreaking moment, to say the least. The scene centers around Rachael Taylor’s Trish Walker and the season’s breakout star, Alisa, played by Janet McTeer. It’s a collision of Jessica Jones’s past and present: two opposing forces whose lives have been pulled together by the titular character. The scene has everything the show has been praised for: terrific character development and a gripping, tense plot with emotional stakes, all driven by powerful female performances.
“What a formidable actress,” says Taylor on Janet McTeer. After shooting several takes of their scene together, the actress sits down with a group of international writers to talk about what just happened and how proud she is to be working on the series. “We’re so lucky to have her on the show, and I think it speaks to how wonderful these scripts are and the world that Melissa Rosenberg and Raelle Tucker have created that we can get someone like Janet here. It’s a huge compliment to the writers, to the scripts, and the directors as well. Certainly for me as an actress, it’s a joy just to be in the same room as her. She’s extraordinary.”
Without spoiling too much, the latest season centers on McTeer’s character and the connections she shares with Jessica, played by the dynamic Krysten Ritter. And while the two bear the show’s central conflict, the rest of the cast brings added tension and danger to how everything plays out.
“One of the things I love about Jessica Jones is that there’s really a lot of fun action sequences here and there, but it’s actually more of a psychologically motivated show than maybe some of the other Marvel-Netflix shows,” says Taylor. She gives much of the credit to the show’s creator and executive producer, Melissa Rosenberg. “Melissa has a way of tackling big social issues that’s never moralizing or obvious; the story is always first. She writes great characters and great plots and reasons to want to dig into Jessica Jones. It’s a testament to her as a writer that those everyday issues and realities that are out there prop up as a result of the stories she’s writing.”
Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor
Whereas the first season dealt heavily with sexual abuse, trauma, and rape culture, this latest season focuses more on the people closest to Jones and how each one forms and breaks her. Speaking about her character’s relationship with the lead, Taylor praises the dimensions of their friendship and the show’s emphasis on a more progressive, realistic take on female roles. “It’s not the perfect portrait of female friendship. It’s not just that they’re best friends and they never have conflict or they never have arguments. We’re allowed to have shades of jealousy, shades of anger and hurt, shades of betrayal are allowed to percolate to the surface,” she says. “I think that kind of in itself is enormously refreshing for television. Sometimes it’s easy to gloss over the complexities of what female relationships are and can be, and our show is one that really, really digs in. I think it kind of speaks to a lot of what television shows and movies are doing at the moment. We’ve got more of a breadth of female characters. We got female characters doing more things, having a wider range of emotional experiences, and to see that cross over into the superhero genre is really exciting.”
“I think having the female perspective to help us breathe life into those stories has led to some really interesting conversations that we’ve had on set”
Jessica Jones is a show that practices what it preaches when it comes to female empowerment. As the second season began production, it was announced that all 13 episodes would be directed by women. “It’s incredibly exciting,” says Taylor. “I think balance in terms of gender on screen is a really important thing and also, these are intricate, complicated female characters, which is not to say that a male director is unable to understand those things. But I think having the female perspective to help us breathe life into those stories has led to some really interesting conversations that we’ve had on set, and some really interesting points of view… I think we’re at a time in television where more and more female voices are at the table. We have more and more female directors. I’m so proud and moved to be a part of that in any way.”
The second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.