‘Daredevil’ actress uses karate skills to play tough TV character

Elodie Yung plays Elektra in Marvel's “Daredevil,” streaming now on Netflix.
Elodie Yung plays Elektra in Marvel's “Daredevil,” streaming now on Netflix. Netflix

“If you get in my way, I’m going to kill you.”

These are the words spoken by French actress Elodie Yung, in character as Elektra in the latest trailer for Netflix/Marvel’s second season of “Daredevil,” which began streaming last week.

That dialogue is meant as a warning from Elektra to Daredevil (Charlie Cox) that things are about to get intense for them, even more so than their nightly vigilante adventures that the new season provides.

The trailer, though, includes other words from Elektra – such as: “I fear ... the path you have chosen ... isn’t going to be an easy one” – that could readily describe Yung’s six-stage audition process to win the role, one of the most recognizable figures in Daredevil’s comic book inspired world, and one of Daredevil alter ego Matt Murdock’s great loves.

“It was crazy. I didn’t even know what I was auditioning for, because Marvel is very secretive. They didn’t say which project it was. They didn’t release the character’s name. They didn’t even give me a lot of details about the character,” Yung told The Washington Post. “So I auditioned and auditioned and auditioned and carried on auditioning and tested with Charlie (Cox) and eventually they offered me the part.”

Yung’s years of martial-arts training no doubt helped. Elektra is a master of hand-to-hand combat who’s at least the equal of Daredevil, let alone most any ninja who comes her way.

Yung said she grew up in a somewhat “rough” suburb in Paris, and at age 9, her father enrolled her in karate classes. She was a dedicated student for 10 years, becoming a black belt.

“I really enjoyed (karate) at the time. And when I went to (college), I stopped,” the 35-year-old actress recounted. “But having this under my belt, it really helped on this show.”

Yung applauds the 13 hours of storytelling that a Netflix season can provide, allowing for deeper character development than a two-hour movie typically can. “Daredevil” producers Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez have said that the addition of such characters as Elektra and the Punisher this season might not have been possible in a movie.

In preparing for the role, Yung decided against watching any previous adaptations, including the 2005 “Elektra” movie by Jennifer Garner; instead, she turned to the creative source material.

“I needed to go to the source and really try to figure out what Frank Miller created,” Yung said, referring to the legendary writer-artist who dreamed up Elektra. “What (Miller) saw in Elektra, I tried to capture. I wanted to be respectful of that.”

In the new season, Elektra, an ex-girlfriend from Daredevil’s school days, returns into his life just as he’s finally found a sliver of romance with his legal assistant, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).

Matt is drawn to Elektra, Yung said, “because he kind of sees something in her that he probably has in him. I think that’s the dynamic of their relationship really.”

Part of Yung’s transformation into Elektra required the use of the sai, a trademark weapon of Elektra’s that no live-action adaptation could be without. Despite her years of martial arts, Yung had never picked up a pair of the blades. She had to become a quick study.

“I had to learn how to manipulate the sais. It was very tricky, because it’s a weird shape,” Yung said. “It’s like a big fork. There’s a lot of ways that you can use them, but it’s not like a sword. You can’t really slash people with it. It’s more like stabbing.

“It wasn’t like the rest of the choreography, when you have to throw a punch and a kick, and I (say to myself): I can handle this. I asked them really to train, so we made time for me to rehearse and get familiar with the sais.”

Beyond the physical skills, Yung had to be able to execute her stunts comfortably and practically while wearing Elektra’s classic suit.

And, of course, the performance is all about delivering the emotion. Yung said that the complexity of the relationship between Daredevil and Elektra stems from one major component: first love.

“It’s a bit of a love and hate relationship,” Yung said. “A first love is something that lasts forever in your heart. It’s something that marks you.