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Jon Bernthal Talks ‘The Punisher’ and His Future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Would Frank Castle ever join the MCU?

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle in the Punisher.

It’s been nearly 3 years since Netflix canceled The Punisher, along with its entire Marvel slate of programming. And while some Netflix characters, like Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, are being reincorporated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, others are unlikely to join the family-friendly Disney/Marvel brand.

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Chief among those is Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, a violent and merciless vigilante on a quest to avenge the death of his family. Castle has always been a dark character with a high body body count, and his grim characterization would be challenging to square with say, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.

Bernthal discussed the role in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying “That character, in particular, has real, real, real deep, deep meaning for me and resonance in me. He’s really in my heart, man. He’s really in my bones. I’m enormously protective of that character.”

Bernthal played Castle for two seasons of The Punisher and a season of Daredevil. And while The Punisher petered out in season 2, Bernthal’s performance was always a highlight. For my money, he’s the best onscreen Frank Castle we’ve ever had. But Bernthal’s Punisher just doesn’t belong in the MCU, and I’d rather have no Punisher than have to see his performance watered down or softened for a new audience.

And Bernthal seems to agree, noting

“That’s a road and a darkness and a rage that really, really scares me and brings me to places that I’ve worked the last 20 years to get away from. So I was really grateful, respectful and weary of the places where that role took me and the world in which I had to live in. That being said, that’s where that character needs to be. It needs to be a level of darkness. I think if there’s any let up on that character, you do a disservice to the character, to every iteration of the character, to every comic book that’s come before, and to all of the unbelievable fans of the character. This character means so much to people in the military. So like I said before, it’s not about whether you do the character; it’s about whether you can do it right, and I’m only interested in doing it right.”

Bernthal’s comments make me question whether we’ll ever see that kind of darkness from Marvel. Of course, series like WandaVision and Loki deal with heavy themes like grief and redemption, but they haven’t tackled the more mature content of Punisher or Jessica Jones. There’s no doubt that there is an audience for this kind of content, but will Marvel/Disney court it or leave it behind entirely?

We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight and Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk (which is rumored to have a Jessica Jones cameo). Will these be the series to push the MCU envelope, or will Disney+ find a different outlet for Marvel’s dark content?

(via THR, image: Netflix/Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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