Kevin Feige may have admitted that any previous TV shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are no longer canon, with the upcoming slate of Disney Plus projects set to mark the franchise’s official expansion onto the small screen, but that doesn’t mean that certain characters that first appeared elsewhere won’t be involved.
Several members of the Defenders that were first introduced on Netflix have been heavily rumored to be rebooted into the MCU with the same actors in their respective roles, although there seems to be no place for either Mike Colter’s Luke Cage or Finn Jones’ Iron Fist. Charlie Cox’s Daredevil has been frequently linked with both a feature-length and small screen return though, while Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones and Jon Bernthal’s Punisher are also reported to be coming back.
However, we’ve now heard from our sources – the same ones that told us that both She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel shows were in development for Disney Plus, and that Han is returning in Fast & Furious 9, all of which were correct – that a potentially tricky contractual situation could see Marvel forced to recast all of the Defenders, regardless of whether they want to keep the same actors or not.
From what we understand, while Marvel may have recently re-acquired the rights to the characters, the contracts of the actors themselves with Netflix are yet to expire. We don’t have any specifics as to when that might be, but until these options expire, the studio can’t officially tie down Cox, Ritter or Bernthal for any MCU projects. It’s unclear if the same situation applies to the supporting actors from the Netflix shows, too, like Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, etc., but the lead stars are definitely under contract still.
Although Marvel could obviously just wait it out until they’re able to get the actors that they want, if they’ve got concrete plans to introduce the Defenders into the movies or TV shows in the near future before these contracts expire that they’re unwilling to budge from, then they’d be forced into recasting the entire roster. So, while New York’s street-level heroes are definitely on their way to the MCU, and the studio would indeed like to bring back Bernthal, Cox, etc., it might end up being an entirely different set of actors from the ones that we last saw thanks to the legal and political minefield of contract negotiations between rival studios.
Then again, given the vast amounts of money and resources that Marvel have at their disposal, maybe they can work something out with Netflix as like we just said, they definitely want to keep some of these actors in place. But for now, all we can do is sit back and wait to see how things ultimately shake out here.