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daredevil's deborah ann woll tackles her fears


"I'm a real nerd," explains Deborah Ann Woll from her cellphone. It’s a sunny Los Angeles morning, far from any paparazzi flashes, and the 30-year-old star is tucked away in her backyard with her year-old Labrador puppy, Banner (as in Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk). Woll is enjoying some chill time after a stint in New York filming the Netflix Marvel series Daredevil (she plays Karen Page, the brave and brainy secretary-turned-love interest of blind lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock). A self-proclaimed homebody, Woll is soaking up her version of paradise, which includes an anti-glamour It list of sweatpants, Cheers reruns and her comic-book-loving boyfriend, E.J. Scott, whom she met on match.com. It’s not exactly what you’d expect the striking five-foot-ten actor—best known for her seven-year stint as ginger bombshell Jessica Hamby in True Blood—to rhyme off. But, just like the characters she’s drawn to onscreen, this is a woman intent on casting her own mold.

A theatre-loving girl from Brooklyn, N.Y., Woll took the safe route to Tinseltown by pursuing an acting degree at the University of Southern California. Her journey to stardom came quickly and without any turbulence—a few guest-starring roles in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, ER and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and bam, she landed the plum part in True Blood. “It was an incredible learning experience. Everything that I might encounter in my career, from working with animals to prosthetics to stunts to blood to children, I got to do in some small way on True Blood,” she says, reflecting on the role that put her on Hollywood’s radar. “There’s nothing someone can throw at me that I haven’t experienced in some capacity, so I feel very well prepared for whatever comes, and that’s an incredible feeling.”

Unlike most actors, she has yet to face any “So, now what?” anxieties, because within 48 hours of wrapping her last scene in True Blood, she was on a plane headed to New York to shoot Daredevil. Hard work and good fortune? For sure. But Woll’s modus operandi shines through when she describes her attraction to characters like Hamby and Page. “A strong woman isn’t a woman who is flawless and has no weakness,” she says. “It’s just about a woman who, despite those weaknesses, pushes forward or confronts them at some point.”
Ironically, Woll describes herself as a risk-averse person, claiming that part of the appeal of acting is that she gets to hide behind her characters. “Things that I would find scary in my own life I can do when I’m in character or when it’s in a story. So in a way, that is how I fight my own fears,” she confesses.

She adds that her Daredevil character is wonderfully headstrong and doesn’t let her fears hold her back. The same can be said of Woll. “I don’t know if it’s too personal,” she says somewhat sheepishly, “but the blindness of my boyfriend is a major challenge, and scary.” She’s referring to the fact that Scott has choroideremia, a rare inherited disorder that is causing him to lose his eyesight. Woll knew about his condition from the get-go. “He was very open about his choroideremia and those challenges,” she says. “The fact that he was very brave and open was impressive to me.” The parallels between Woll’s personal and professional lives are getting a lot of play lately, considering that Daredevil is based on a blind superhero. Her response? “E.J. isn’t a superhero, he’s not a ninja and he doesn’t have superpowers. But I think any time we show people who are capable and strong who also happen to have physical disabilities, that is positive,” she says. “I don’t go to work thinking I’m going to exorcise those personal demons or do something for our foundation. I go to work as an actor. But I would definitely say that it’s something that interests me extra specially because I have a personal experience with it.”

There is no denying that going to work as an actor has helped Woll raise funds and awareness for the Choroideremia Research Foundation (curechm.org). “It’s been a great vehicle. I had a platform from which I could help,” she says, referring to the fact that once True Blood took off, she could wrangle big-ticket auction items like authentic costumes from the show and increase awareness of the disease via interviews. Woll has also leveraged her celebrity power to help combat bullying. Having experienced her share of schoolyard torment, she’s done some public service announcements on the topic. “People will always say things like, ‘Oh, so people bullied you and you’re a success now, that’s such great revenge.’ I don’t like to think of it in those terms. I don’t think more hate makes those old hurts better. My goal in doing that PSA, and any time I talk about bullying, is more about forgiveness and understanding. Can we look at kids now and say, ‘OK, you’re hurting, so why are you hurting other people? Can we talk about that?’”

And then, in case we still aren’t convinced of Woll’s “stars, they’re just like us” status, she hammers the point home one last time. Sitting in her backyard, she’s in her sloppy comfies, wearing no product other than her go-to unscented Lubriderm cream and some sunscreen. Her hair is back to its natural shade of blonde (yep, those famous red tresses were the result of a high-school dye job sparked by feelings of being invisible as a fair-skinned blonde). She checks in with Banner, and then offers this: “There are days when I feel very confident and then the very next day I might struggle with insecurity. It obviously has to come from within and it has to be something that you believe about yourself, and that is a lifetime pursuit. I think we all hope that we sort of accept what we’ve been given and love it for what it is. That is the work.”
– Alexandra Breen / Photography by Max Abadian

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Fashion Credits
Photo 1: Coat and dress, Josie Natori, natori.com. Necklace, Stefano Poletti at Rue Pigalle, ruepigalle.ca. Gold and pearl ring, Aimee Aimer at Archives, archivesltd.com. Gold and diamond honeycomb ring, Lara Melchior at Archives, archivesltd.com.

Photo 2: Dress, Mikael D, mikaeld.com. Fur stole, Pink Tartan, pinktartan.com. Earrings, Tataborello at Rue Pigalle, ruepigalle.ca.

Photo 3: Dress, Zuhair Murad at Holt Renfrew, holtrenfrew.com. Earrings, Rita Tesolin, ritatesolin.com. Gold and diamond honeycomb ring, Lara Melchior at Archives, archivesltd.com.

FASHION STYLIST: Juliana Schiavinatto FOR P1M.ca
MAKEUP ARTIST: Simone Otis using NARS/P1M.ca
HAIR ARTIST: Justin German for Pantene/BANG Salon/P1m.ca
FASHION ASSISTANTS: Elaine Regio and Cherry Wang

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