Elden Hensen is an actor with three major film franchises under his belt. You might know him as the mute avox Pollux in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. His first role in a major Disney franchise was as Fulton Reed in The Mighty Ducks. His second is in Marvel's Daredevil, where he portrays Matt Murdock's oldest friend and business partner, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson.
Since the '80s, Foggy has been used as the brighter contrast to his partner's noir adventures, often straying into the territory of full-on comic relief. Hensen talked to Polygon about how Netflix's Daredevil gives us the best of Foggy: A man with a quick wit, to be sure, but also a lawyer as talented as he is caring, which he credits to the talent of series creator Drew Goddard and writer/director Steve DeKnight.
"They just created these incredible characters. I think a lot of people share the same thought, or at least the feedback that I've been getting is that they're happy that Foggy's not just a guy who pops in every now and says a one-liner and he's gone. [...] He has his own journey and I think the beautiful thing that they did with all of these characters in the show is brought a real sense of humanity to each one of them. Even the Wilson Fisk [Vincent D'Onofrio] character, which makes him even more scary. They really set up each character so they have their own journey their own goals and aspirations."
Hensen says that, as someone who's had the same core group of friends for decades, his best point of connection with Foggy was "his love for his friends and the people around him in his neighborhood [...] His real love for the people around him." That appreciation for the character is a recent development for Hensen, who was not overly familiar with Daredevil before joining the production. He was on the Hunger Games set in Berlin when he auditioned for Daredevil over Skype.
"And after I got done butchering the audition scenes [laughs], I had a conversation with Jeph Loeb from Marvel, and he asked how much I knew about the comic. And, you know — I started acting as a kid — when you're young, your agents and managers always tells you 'Just lie! Yeah, you can ride a horse, yeah, you can play the guitar!' But I knew if I tried to lie in this situation I'd get called out immediately. So I was honest and I said 'I know of the comics but I'm not well versed in it,' and he said 'That's OK, because we're not just trying to make a comic book show, we're trying to make a crime show.'
Thinking of Daredevil as a crime drama helped him to understand the tone of the show from the start, and, he says, made jumping into the comic book world less daunting. Especially after his daughter was born two weeks before shooting began, eliminating a lot of his personal prep time for the role — not to mention hours of sleep. "I'm not kidding, I was literally sleeping one or two hours a night through the first five or six episodes. So they were all kind of a blur."
We're trying to make a crime show.
For certain aspects of Foggy's character, particularly his interactions with Matt Murdock's blindness, Hensen depending on co-star Charlie Cox.
"Charlie [...] did an incredible amount of research [into blindness], and an incredible amount of work, and he had so much information for me. I really relied quite heavily on him especially in the first half of the season. To work with an actor like Charlie makes my life so much easier, because you're not really thinking about acting so much as you are just being in the moment and working with a guy like that. He did such a good job, I was so blown away on set, and even more blown away now that I've seen the first two episodes."
Matt Murdock's disability gave Hensen one of his favorite aspects of playing Foggy. "I think Foggy did get a kick out of people forgetting that Matt's blind. He gets some sort of pleasure out of poking at it a little bit, and it was a fun thing to play."
Ultimately, Foggy and Matt are trying to do the same thing: provide relief to the downtrodden and oppressed citizens of Hell's Kitchen. And that gives Daredevil a unique focus for a Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in.