“Why am I an actor? Because there’s no other option,” says Wil Traval, the Australian actor most recently known for his role of Detective Will Simpson in Netflix’s ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones.’ “As a young man, I discovered that acting truly is my passion and it was something that I couldn’t live without. Since I can’t live without it, I have to be it.”
In August of 2014, Traval received a call for a highly secretive audition; he was told only that it was for a Marvel project. “The gave me a generic script, and I left the audition thinking I knocked it out of the park,” Traval recalls. “I didn’t hear anything until later on that year, in November, when I got called back to audition before the producers, Melissa Rosenberg, the show creator, and Marvel and Netflix, where I was told I’m auditioning for the role of Will Simpson.”
Traval left that audition again thinking it went well, and lo and behold, got a call just before Christmas that he was given the role on a Marvel show called Jessica Jones, but wouldn’t receive any details until the start of the project.
Upon discovering that his role was in Jessica Jones, the first thing Traval did was purchase the full saga of Alias (the comic-book name of Jessica Jones). “I spent that Christmas period sitting down between Christmas meals, reading Alias until I finished it. Then I read it again so I could really get my head into the world. That was when I discovered we were dealing with Brian Michael Bendis’s beautiful, tragic, and wholly adult content that is the world of Alias,” Traval explains.
“Then, before they had me on set I got to New York and had the opportunity to speak with a few New York City police officers who were great, and gave me fantastic insight into what it means to work on the force, and to protect and serve. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet with a few military servicemen, who described to me what it’s like to serve their country, and then to come home and deal with the aftermath of that.”
He continues, “I also hit the gym, and did some hand to hand combat training as well as get out to a gun range to increase my weapons proficiency.”
Jessica Jones is the second of four Netflix-exclusive Marvel properties leading up to a Netflix exclusive mini-series entitled ‘The Defenders.’ The four are: Daredevil (which aired in Spring 2015, and will have a second season in 2016), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. This is an ambitious project, and has thus far been quite successful.
“Netflix was always involved in and around the set, and in script reading,” Traval says, “They had a real love and affection and care for the show, and always wanted to ensure everyone involved in the show was happy and enjoying themselves. They’re always there, and they’re an amazingly supportive team, I can’t think of a better environment to work in.”
With Daredevil, Netflix and showrunner Steven DeKnight introduced a level of maturity to Marvel that the cinematic universe had not yet experienced. This trend continued in Jessica Jones with showrunner Melissa Rosenberg. “When we first started working with Mel Rosenberg, she said to us, ‘Look, don’t think of this as a super hero TV show. We’re putting together a sophisticated psychological thriller.’” Traval says.
“It’s almost like a film noir detective story,” he continues, “Mel implored us to concentrate on putting together a mature, sophisticated show about real problems and real people and real danger. I think she succeeded in the best way possible.”
* SPOLIERS AHEAD *
In Jessica Jones, Traval’s character, Detective Simpson, undergoes a massive transformation. From being forced to break into Trish’s home and try to kill her while under Kilgrave’s control, to using his police and special operations training to assist Jess and Trish, to desperately wanting to kill Kilgrave, to trying to kill Jess and Trish, Detective Simpson has seen and done it all.
Of this transformation, Traval says, “Just like any other role, you’ve got to tackle it as you need to tackle it. While approaching Simpson, I approached every script trying to service the script, you know? Whatever point in Simpson’s life it was, say my episode three, then that’s what I was playing.”
“I wasn’t concerning myself too much with where we were going, in particular because they didn’t tell us where we were going, they didn’t often let us on to the end of the season before we got there in the filming. So as an actor, your job is to only service the script you’re working on. I spent every moment as it came. So, as surprising as it was for the audience to watch that transformation, it was just as surprising for me.”
After the show’s official release, Traval sat down and watched the entirety of the show with his partner. In fact, in the vein of a true Netflix’er, they binge watched the show in three days. “If I’m honest, I love the show. I really enjoyed it. When I was reading the scripts, I thought, ‘This is going to be a phenomenal show.’” Traval says.
“Working with the other actors, I knew the acting would be fantastic, but what I didn’t know was how it was going to look and how it’s going to come together as a great piece of television. Stepping away from the show as an actor, and watching it as a viewer, I really enjoy it. I was so impressed by the fact that it was a super hero story that didn’t really focus on being the super hero. It focused on just being human, and in particular, on what it’s like to be a woman in the world and in New York City. I really, thoroughly enjoyed that.”
Traval continues, “I thought the cinematography was great, the look was great, the sound was fantastic, specifically Sean Callory’s brilliant score.”
Earlier this year, Daredevil was lauded for it’s flowing, realistic, and breathtaking fight sequences. In fact, you can read my interview with Charlie Cox’s stunt double, Chris Brewster, HERE. Jessica Jones, again, continued, and built upon this trend. In particular, Traval was involved in many of the show’s stunt sequences, and worked with stunt coordinator Chris Place and stunt double Airon Armstrong.
“Chris coordinated most of mine, Jessica, and Trish’s fights – anything that looks dangerous, he probably coordinated. My stunt double, Airon Armstrong did all of the intense scenes. So if Simpson looks like he could be killed, it’s Airon taking my place. I quite enjoy doing my own stunts, even the pain and injury that comes along with that, but obviously you can’t always do your own stunts and we had a fantastic stunt team behind us.”
As an actor or actress, one has to transform into their character, the way the character walks and talks may be different than how the person portraying them walks and talks. Each person approaches this differently; some stay in character even when off set, some leave their character’s persona on set when they leave. In both cases, the transition can sometimes be difficult.
“I don’t know whether it’s hard, but sometimes it sticks, you know?” Traval says. “Sometimes, for instance towards the end of the season, that manic quality that Simpson had, it stuck. I would find myself being fairly manic and a bit loose in my regular life. It’s not that I stayed in character as Simpson off set, but that I shared certain qualities of his, apart from being murderous.”
He continues, “The American accent and the Simpson’s manly persona, those are things that I left on set. In between takes I stayed in character, so as to create consistency until I finished shooting for the day.”
While on set, Traval’s method of working is to create a helpful environment. He prefers to have a jolly set and work with people in a kind and lighthearted way in between takes. On Jessica Jones, he was the jokester on set.
“Especially when you’re doing work that’s dark and heavy, it’s helpful to joke around and have fun with the people on set. However, there are occasionally exceptions, such as during episode 11 of Jessica Jones when there’s that intense fight with Jess and Trish in Jess’s apartment.”
“When we were shooting that episode, I didn’t talk to a lot of people or play around like usual because it was such an intense frame of mine to be in. During those scenes, I sort of kept to myself on set and stayed in a psychotic frame of mind. It was an intense time, and I think that episode came out great!”
Traval would love the opportunity to continue to work in the Marvel universe, be it in more television or in film, and many fans of Jessica Jones have likened his character to the Marvel Comics Universe’s Nuke. However, he hasn’t specifically been told that his character is Nuke, nor if his character is still alive and will return next season.
“I would love if they evolved my character into Nuke, that would be fantastic, but I don’t even know if I’m coming back. I’d hate to get my hopes up too early,” he says.
Traval has some unannounced projects in the works, and you can follow him on Twitter for updates. For now, catch him in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, currently streaming on Netflix.