Originally published on iDigitalTimes April 25, 2016.
You may remember Stephen Rider with Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters or Safe House, but I’m a Marvel fan, and I know him as District Attorney Blake Tower. Rider’s live adaption of Tower transformed the 40-year-old comic book character from blonde hair to brown skin in the hit Netflix series, Daredevil.
“It was a dream come true because it was my favorite show last year,” Rider said. “I’ve seen most of the [ Marvel ] movies, if not all of them. It just so happened I watched the first season [Daredevil] in a week,” Rider exclaimed. “[When I auditioned for it]…I was literally telling everyone I know, ‘You’ve gotta watch this new show.’”
Before Rider claimed his spot in the MCU, he worked alongside Denzel Washington in theGreat Debaters, which follows the debate team at historically black Wiley College in Texas during the 1930’s in the height of Jim Crow. It was the acclaimed actor’s inspirational advice many years earlier that lit a fire under Rider’s acting career. He auditioned for Washington’s 2002 biopic, Antwone Fisher, before he knew he really wanted to be an actor.
“Denzel thought I did a really good job. He just said, ‘Listen, if I can give you any advice, the advice I’m going to give you is the same that somebody gave me. Take your ass to school because ultimately if you learn your craft nobody can take it away from you.’”
Fast forward five years later, Rider got an opportunity to audition for the Great Debaters. Needless to say, he got the part.
“He remembered me. He said, ‘I guess the advice I gave you years ago is finally paying off,’” Rider recalled.
Rider isn’t under the impression Washington was simply hooking him up with the role.
“At the end of the day he knows I’m going to come to work and approach my work a certain type of way. I thought I worked hard until I met him, then I realized how much harder I had to learn how to work.”
Rider’s hard work paid off, and years later he landed a role in Safe House, another film starring Washington in 2012.
“He’s a man that believes you have to work to get what you desire and he saw that I was able to take it and run with it,,” he said. “When you get the opportunity to be around whoever is considered great at your job or my job, you realize they are approaching their work differently.”
Rider appeared in 7 episodes of Daredevil Season 2, his first major TV role. Blake Tower wasn’t only a breakthrough opportunity for Rider, but the MCU as a whole as the comic world is one of the few entertainment mediums to recast traditionally non-black roles.
Netflix’s next installment, Luke Cage, expands on African-American influence in the MCU. Luke Cage was created specifically as a Black character based in Harlem.
“I can’t wait because we know the style of Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones. For Marvel’sLuke Cage , it’s going to be exciting because I don’t know what that style is going to be. But, we know it’s going to be different than its predecessors, so that’s exciting to me. And I live in Harlem, so I’m biased,” Rider said.
The timing of The Defenders, Jessica Jones Season 2, and Daredevil Season 3 are all still up in the air. The latest season of Daredevil ended with more questions than answers. The most burning question is whether Daredevil will assemble The Defenders. Rider explains that at this point, there’s no way to tell. He may be the most ready, but that doesn’t mean Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones won’t be interested in getting a group together.
“We don’t know the worlds of Luke Cage and Iron Fist. We’ll figure things out based on what’s going to be revealed in those shows. I don’t know if it’s Daredevil, or if it’s all of them getting to that point. In the next 6-7 months, I think we’ll have that answer.”
Rider points out that we’ve seen the evolution of Daredevil’s character because of the fact there has been two seasons compared to just one of Jessica Jones. In terms of maturity, Daredevil’s in a different place.
“Daredevil has gotten to the point where he is seeking help from other people because he’s been trying to do everything by himself. The world of Hell’s Kitchen, and New York City at large, is becoming huge. You can tell that it seems like he doesn’t know all the answers,” Rider said.
Even though Daredevil’s relationship with Foggy and Karen is complicated, he opened up to Elektra, and reached the point when fighting against Nobu where concealing his identity was no longer a priority.
“Technically, he would have died if it wasn’t for The Punisher shooting the ninja,” Rider added.
Daredevil actor Charlie Cox told press last week, “We needed to see him be broken individually so that he can – he’s willing to form a team.” His statement suggested that Daredevil will assemble The Defenders himself, but Rider says fans may be taking his statement too seriously.
“It didn’t seem like Charlie was saying that, it seemed like that’s what people were saying about it,” Rider said.
The late Samantha Reyes also appeared in Jessica Jones. Since Tower has assumed her role as D.A., there’s potential for an open crossover spot. It’s also worth pointing out that in the comics, Tower was associated with Heroes for Hire. At one point, Luke Cage and Iron Fist even saved his life. However, The Defenders series is still a ways out. Filming is expected late 2016.
“Based on what I’ve read, there’s not even a script for it. Right now they are still casting for Iron Fist, so I think that’s where they’re at right now. I’m in the guessing game like you,” Rider said.
Blake Tower was in an awkward position at the beginning of Season 2. He quietly tossed Karen and Foggy a bone when he gave them the D.A. office’s entire Punisher case file after he learned the extent to which Reyes would use Frank Castle to further her career. Considering his role in the comics, all evidence suggests Tower will be an ally to Daredevil moving forward to Season 3 and through to The Defenders .
Rider couldn’t spill on Daredevil Season 3. Like Charlie Cox, Rider hasn’t heard anything from Marvel. “I would imagine you will find out around the same time I find out about Season 3, but I would love to be a part of it.”
Catch Rider on the Discovery Channel’s upcoming miniseries, Harley & The Davidsons this fall where he plays William Johnson, the first African American Harley Davidson dealer.