Vincent D’Onofrio was blindsided by the end of Marvel’s Daredevil. The first show of the Marvel-Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil launched Marvel Television‘s own TV-verse of interconnected series Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and crossover miniseries The Defenders. In 2018, after three critically acclaimed seasons pitting Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) against Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio) in a fight for the soul of Hell’s Kitchen, Netflix unilaterally decided to cancel Daredevil — leaving the Man Without Fear in purgatory until at least two years post-cancellation. For D’Onofrio, the abrupt cancellation of Daredevil was as unexpected as his Kingpin return in the Disney+ series Hawkeye.
“I didn’t know that Daredevil was going to end when it did. I thought it was going to continue for a few more years,” D’Onofrio told Deadline. “There was a lot to explore there, there were many facets of my character to explore.”
As for getting a phone call from Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige, who personally phoned D’Onofrio to ask him to play Kingpin in the MCU earlier in 2021, the Hawkeye star said, “I wasn’t expecting it.”
Amy Rutberg, who played Marci Stahl on Daredevil and The Defenders, also wasn’t expecting Daredevil to be canceled just weeks after the release of its acclaimed third season. According to Rutberg, Marvel TV was “surprised” by what she called “purely a Netflix decision” to end Daredevil.
“We are tremendously proud of the show’s last and final season and although it’s painful for the fans, we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note,” Netflix said in a statement at the time. It was reportedly “creative differences,” a clash over downsizing from 13 episodes to 10, and a hefty price tag that played a part in killing Daredevil as Marvel parent company Disney prepared to launch its own streaming service in 2019: Netflix competitor Disney+.
“A lot of us really expected to keep going and I certainly did. The truth is, I felt like we had a lot of stories to tell, and although I understand [the cancelation] I’m very saddened by that,” Cox told Entertainment Weekly in the fallout of what would be Daredevil‘s final season.
Before Netflix handed the popular series a pink slip, Jeph Loeb, then the head of the now-defunct Marvel Television, revealed Marvel had loose ideas for future seasons of Daredevil.
“Does Marvel have an idea as to what Daredevil 4, 5, or 6 could be? Sure. But ultimately those things will be shifted and talked about by the two other important parties that are involved: the network — Netflix — and our showrunner,” Loeb told EW at the time, adding Marvel TV approached episode orders “on a season-by-season basis, with a general idea as to where we want to be for all of our characters.”
Showrunner Erik Oleson pitched a fourth season that would have pit Daredevil against the paralyzed Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter (Wilson Bethel), who would have emerged from an experimental surgery as the villain Bullseye, as promised by a coda ending Season 3.
When Netflix canceled Daredevil, the streamer assured fans “the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.” That was confirmed in Marvel’s statement, which said: “We look forward to more adventures with the Man Without Fear in the future.”
Cox makes a cameo as attorney-at-law Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home, providing legal aid to an unmasked Peter Parker (Tom Holland), and will return to the MCU. D’Onofrio reprised Kingpin as the “big guy” behind the criminal conspiracy unraveled by Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) over six episodes of Disney+’s Hawkeye.
All three seasons of Daredevil are streaming on Netflix. All six episodes of Hawkeye are streaming on Disney+.