Iron Fist introduces the last remaining members of some important superhero team-ups, and I'm not just talking about Danny Rand. Is Colleen Wing in Marvel comics? You better believe she is. In an interview with Bustle, actor Jessica Henwick discussed Colleen Wing's backstory on Iron Fist, and how not all heroes wear capes — or masks, or have aliases, or any powers at all.
"I really liked the idea of playing someone without superpowers in a superhero show," says Henwick. "I think that says a lot about her." This is true of Colleen in the comics as well. Everything that makes her special comes from human strength and intellect. "To have someone who doesn't have any abilities to fall back on, but is living in a world where there are people who can fly, stop trains from moving, and [were] bitten by radioactive animals... I think it takes a lot of guts to go out and try to help people in that kind of world when you don't have those powers."
Henwick was also drawn to the fact that Colleen isn't the best known Marvel hero, providing her with a bit of a blank slate as an actor. She also plays the Dornish sister Nymeria Sand on Game of Thrones, and became a Star Wars favorite as x-wing pilot Jess Pava in The Force Awakens. Fandom expectations are Henwick's wheelhouse.
That isn't to say that, in the comics and on Iron Fist, Colleen has had it any easier than her super powered colleagues. "She's had a pretty awful upbringing," Henwick says, "in that her mother died, and her Dad abandoned her and sent her to live in Japan." Her father was an Asian studies professor at Columbia University in the comic, and she was raised and trained by her grandfather until he too was murdered, just like her mother.
Henwick did her own research as well. "I've read some of the original source material," she says, "and some of it holds up amazingly well. For example, Colleen in the comic books is this dry, no bullsh*t, witty, wonderful female character — so for me it was very easy to say 'oh, I'm going to include this and draw from that.'" Both Colleen Wing and Danny Rand were introduced to the comics in 1974. "I think we've tread the balance," Henwick says, "between honoring the original source material and being sensible in today's... sensibilities."
When we meet up with her in Iron Fist, Colleen is definitely a New Yorker. "She's so acclimatized," Henwick says, "she's such a chameleon that you would never know [that she grew up in Japan]. She fits in perfectly. That's the closest thing to her superpower."
Colleen is also delightfully independent and kinda rude, but not in a way that's abrasive, snarky, or off-putting. Her emotional armor doesn't manifest in quips and threats like Jessica Jones, but it's there.
In the comics, Colleen teams up with Misty Knight, who Netflix fans met in Luke Cage. They become business partners, solving crimes and hunting bounties. Both characters will appear in The Defenders, which is not surprising, as Danny, Colleen, Misty, and Luke form Marvel's Heroes for Hire. Her weapon of choice, both in the comics and on the Netflix series, is a katana. The show also references her all-white look in a few costume choices.
While Marvel fans have known for a while that Colleen Wing is one of the best characters, Iron Fist will give plenty of folks the chance to get to know and love her. She's no sidekick, and the show doesn't treat her that way at all.
"She's got such a good moral foundation," says Henwick. "She runs this dojo, and she's doing a lot of outreach programs to try and get kids off the street because she's had such a horrible upbringing herself. She wants to try and help others, and make sure that the same thing doesn't happen to other people. That they're not abandoned and left and helpless."