Punisher Actor Jon Bernthal Walked the Brooklyn Bridge Until Sunrise

by | March 16, 2016 | Comments

(Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Netflix)


After the breakthrough first season of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, what could possibly make fans more excited than just the promise of a second? For starters, adding more Marvel heavyweights into the mix. For Season 2, starting March 18, Jon Bernthal joins the cast as Frank Castle, who comic book readers (and a few Dolph Lundgren fans) know as the Punisher.

This is a fitting reintroduction for Castle, since the character originally appeared as a guest star in The Amazing Spider-Man comic book. Now he appears in Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox)’s world to bring more definitive, deadly vigilante justice to the crooks of Hell’s Kitchen. Bernthal spoke to reporters after the Television Critics Association panel for Daredevil and Rotten Tomatoes was there.

Q: How much awareness did you have of the Punisher prior to getting the gig?

Bernthal: You always have to learn, right? That’s been one of the joys of doing the job. I think what was sort of to me like a tidal wave was not just how much is out there, but how it important it is to so many people. People care deeply about this character. Again, that just makes my responsibility even bigger. I will tell you one of the real joys for me about this process was to go into comic book shop after comic book shop all across this country and just sell them out of Punisher stuff. That was a real joy for me. I’m a fan for life now.

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: What was one thing you got from the comic books that really clued you into Frank Castle?

Bernthal: For this character, and I think what makes it such a such a wonderful fit for the world they so successfully created last season, is they presented this world that was so authentic and so gritty. And I really feel it’s the perfect world to reintroduce this character. I think, for me, since so much of Season One was about Matt sort of dealing with this decision to be a hero, I think here comes this guy who, you know, he’s really not concerned with that. I think, if I got one thing from the comics, as far as superpowers, his superpower is his rage. His superpower is that he is not going to quit, and he is going to go forward no matter what. And that’s as human and grounded a quality as I think this sort of genre could have.

Q: Do you and Charlie ever pause to go, “Wow, we’re playing Punisher and Daredevil fighting each other?”

 Bernthal: Look, I wish I was a little less serious, man. I’m a pretty serious guy when it comes to that stuff. There might be moments of that, but what’s so wonderful about Phil Silvera, the stunt coordinator and fight choreographer, there’s no fighting just for the sake of fighting. I dare anybody to say that there’s any stunt work or fight work on television that even comes close to comparing to this. I’ve been in big features with great fight teams where we have six months of rehearsal to do one fight. This is television. We’re racing the clock. We’ve got to get this in. It’s so ambitious. They never scale back. They go for it and they get it done. The best thing, I think, about the choreography of the show is it’s all story-driven. It’s character-driven, story-driven. Every punch, every kick, every way in which you deal with the weapon is character-based and story-based. So it’s not as simple as just, “I’ve got to fight this guy.” There’s a reason. What’s my goal? What am I after? What am I going through and what’s behind me? What a pleasure.

RT: Could you have asked for a better introduction?

 Bernthal: You guys have seen it. I haven’t seen it. Again, for me, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that it’s a dream job, but I just keep going back to it’s just an honor for me. I don’t really allow myself to say, “Wow, this is great.” I just really want to get it right. I just really want to get it right.

Q: Is it difficult to pull yourself out of the dark space you go to?

Bernthal: Yeah. It’s part of the deal. Everybody works differently. I respect everybody’s way of working. Unfortunately, I don’t trust my skill enough to go to work, be the Punisher, and then go have a latte or go out to a nightclub. It’s just not who I am. It’s not what I’m about. A lot of it just means, for me, really having the discipline to adhere to a certain lifestyle which means the first few weeks, putting on a 60 pound backpack and walking over the Brooklyn Bridge all night long until the sun came up. I don’t know why I did it. I just did it. It’s weird. It’s actor crap. It’s what I do. I think for me, the big thing is I have three young children. They’re my life. The only thing, aside from my work, that I care about in this world is my family. I have to separate from them. I have to lock them out for a few months to really dive in. Then you transition. Your kid doesn’t care that you’re the Punisher. Your three-year-old could care less.


RT: Is the military a very specific take on the Punisher? Other Frank Castles have been cops.

 Bernthal: I don’t know what I’m allowed to share with that. To me, it’s incredibly important not only that he’s military, but the specificity of what his military background is — where he served, what he did, who he served with, what were the circumstances of his service? And more importantly, I think, who he was before he was in combat and after.

RT: I didn’t mean a spoiler. I just meant if PTSD or special skills made him more than a cop.

Bernthal: Look, man, again you’re going to have to wait and see. I will say that it’s quite specific. It’s quite specific.

RT: Talk already started of a Punisher series. Do you enter something like this knowing it could spin off?

Bernthal: I really don’t. I really go into this just looking at the job at hand. I’ll tell you that, again, this whole company is shrouded in secrecy. At first, it was frustrating. I look at it now, I love it. I love it. I don’t have to concern myself with it. It’s not my business. My business is the task at hand. I will say this is a character that resonates deeply with me. Like Frank Castle, I stand ready at attention.

Q: What intrigues you about possibly carrying him forward as an antihero, and popping into different corners of the Marvel universe?

Bernthal: Again, for me, my concern here is what did we do this season? You watch Season One and it is just a kick-ass television show. I got the opportunity to play this character on Season Two of this television show, and that’s the Frank Castle that I’m concentrating on now. That’s the deal.

  • jtedesign

    I think he’s a good fit. I wonder if they’ll at all connect the Punisher to Nick Fury…

    I’m starting to think there may be no MCU connection in these Netflix series aside from the occasional mention of “that thing that happened that one time.” I personally love the (probably far fetched) fan theory that he’s who saves Nick Fury’s ass in The Winter Soldier.

    • ANDS!

      They’re clearly same universe and that’s how they want it. It makes sense. If the viewing public buys an alien invasion, a mystical ninja clan that drinks the milk of a demon is an easy sell.
      A lot of people are going to go “Why don’t the Avengers jump in here. . .” and it’s the same answer it’s always been – 5/6 people can’t solve ALL the problems.

    • hotrod2001

      Stark Tower is clearly visible in the original Daredevil trailer…giant “A” and all. So there is a connection but a much lower key.

  • john in denver

    This generation’s Fred Ward.

  • optimistic4thefuture

    Jesus stop badgering the guy, he obviously doesn’t give a damn about “popping into the marvel universe”.. You embarrassed yourself here

    • jtedesign

      I’m guessing an interviewer (at this point) assumes that an actor taking a role in the MCU has more insight than they actually have so are just using this tactic to try and pry out information on a Punisher series, etc. Bernthal does a good job keeping his mouth closed. 🙂

    • ANDS!

      That’s not how that reads. It comes off as “Let’s focus on what we’ve done right here right now.” Jay obviously knows this is a big deal, and no one is ever going to question his genre chops. Just let the work speak for itself right now, and see what happens in the future is what I take from all of this.

      • optimistic4thefuture

        That’s fair.. I’m not saying he has no interest in playing the character in the future. But “popping into the marvel universe” isn’t why he would like to play the character in the future. For him, it’s not about that, and the interviewer ought to have realized that from his answers. They could have gotten more of the great answers the interview pulled from him in the earlier questions but instead tried to pander to fans of Marvel when it was obvious no answers were coming in that regard.

  • Kevin Pawlowski

    The scene in Goodfellas where they introduce the “gang” comes to mind. It’s funny, but the character “Johnny Two Times” or whatever his name was… the way he said “I’m gonna go get the Papers, Get the Papers” was so funny to me…

    Bernthal does that a couple times in this interview, and I think it’s hilariously wonderful! I’m excited for him and the future of the MCU! I have faith this will make all of us comic fans/nerds very proud!

  • Jon Langevin

    This reads to me as “Look man, I don’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’. I played Punisher this season, hopefully it turned out good, I don’t know. Maybe there’s some secrets going on, I just know I played the Punisher. Cross-over into other movies? I don’t know nuthin’ about that, I just played Punisher this season, that’s all I know. Oh, and some weird ass shit about walking across a bridge with a backpack at night. Apparently I like to pretend I’m an aimless homeless person.”

    • Shazam

      He’s focused. And at the time of the interview forbidden from telling people too much about the season. If he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know. He’s very to the point, most actors would just answer with a maybe, sorta, would be cool possibility just to appease the interviewer, Bernthal is just “this is what I know, that’s it.” I like his style.

  • nomad

    hmmm punisher spinoff… take my money. Hell, i might buy into a foggy spinoff if they keep creating interesting stories that service the source material. GIve me twice the mature mcu and charge me double netflix. Ghost rider, Moon knight.

  • Brian Hull

    Daredevil season 2 is like a super badass well written action detective movie for grown ups. I don’t know how they do it, Netflix finds some incredible writers with a kung fu grasp of how real people talk and behave. Throw super heroes in there and they come off that much more authentic.


    The new axis of evil. All hail

  • Joe Eoj

    I’d wished they’d gone with Frank Shamrock for Punisher, but after watching Daredevil S2 I must say Jon Bernthal knocked it out of the park. For sure the bench mark of Punisher going forward in film. Sorry Dolph.

  • oblivion328

    Frank Castle actually is a war veteran in the comics.

  • sc0rch3d

    The turning point in Season 2 for me was the long talk between Murdock and Castle in the cemetery. That really cemented Frank as a multi dimensional character that will take time to unfurl.

  • Wandering Scout

    “Is the military a very specific take on the Punisher? Other Frank Castles have been cops.”

    He’s almost always been a former U.S. Marine Corps special operations officer who became a cop or FBI agent after he left the Marines. Usually a decorated Vietnam War veteran, although that’s been changed to fit the actor’s age or the story’s timeline.

    • oblivion328

      I’m guessing all the interviewer knows of the character comes from the movies.

  • Infra Green

    Jon was awesome as the Punisher. I thought Ray Stephenson was awesome too in War Zone, it’s just that the rest movie sucked. I didn’t care for Thomas Jane, but thought the movie as a whole was decent. Dolph sucked. The movie and his portrayal.

  • Troy Soldier

    Question: What is going on with Frank Castle and Karen Page? I just finished Season 2 and Jon rocked it! I still want him darker though, a bit more extreme. I wanted more rage! I really relate to the no compromise flip the switch aspects of human beings trying to overcome true injustice. Hopefully that comes in subsequent Seasons or spinoffs. A darker Marvel is handled with aplomb by Netflix. It was needed. I love the rage of Fisk as well. Vincent is so great in the role. Such a powder keg. I love that he isn’t some ivory tower gangster. He is a pretty good scene stealer.

  • SunnySkyNL

    He and the actor who plays Wilson Fisk are what really stands out for me in the Daredevil series. I wasn’t even planning to watch it until I heard that the Punisher was going to be in season 2. And am I glad I did. Amazing series, sure hope season 3 won’t take to long to come out so I can see more of the Punisher and the Kingpin.

  • Bryan A

    I’m only three episodes in, and I’m sold on Bernthal. Easily the most nuanced and thoughtfully-developed portrayal of the Punisher outside of the comics. Also, the fight scenes are so, so badass.

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