Co-star of The Punisher, Ben Barnes, says the Marvel Netflix series doesn't glorify violence despite the titular character's propensity for automatic weapons. Netflix launched their corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe early in 2015 with the premiere of Daredevil season 1, which has since been followed up by debut seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the team-up miniseries The Defenders. Netflix also debuted the second season of Daredevil last year, which introduced fan-favorite comic book character Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal).
Since The Punisher was so well received in Daredevil season 2, Marvel and Netflix announced a spinoff series that would focus on the character. Now, the show is set to premiere on the streaming service in just a few short weeks, but Marvel has already been teasing Frank Castle's corner of the MCU where he'll be joined by a whole cast of new characters. One key player in The Punisher season 1 is Billy Russo (Barnes), Frank's best friend who served with him in the U.S. Special Forces. Now, Barnes reveals what to expect from The Punisher in terms of the show's violent anti-hero.
In an interview with Screen Rant about his upcoming turn in The Punisher, Barnes discussed how the show will be perceived at a time when the debate about gun control and gun violence in the United States persists, as well as how showrunner Steve Lightfoot addressed the topic with the cast on set. Barnes said:
I think these characters, even more so than in other superhero shows - which is why you don’t see a lot of guns in other superhero shows unless it’s a gun being kicked out of a nameless bad guy’s hand by a hero that would rather be nonviolent - but I think our characters are complex, particularly the character of the Punisher. He’s very much an anti-hero. He’s almost a villain character in some of the comics and the Daredevil series.
I think it was always laid out for us that the violence in our show was supposed to make you uncomfortable and you’re supposed to see the wear and tear on characters if they are violent. Nobody, I think, in our show is violent and lauded for it, especially if they’re using weapons. So that’s definitely not a message that’s being put out there, and that was something that was talked about. But obviously the conversation gets hugely heightened when things happen in the world - the tragic events in Las Vegas and everything - when the conversation escalates, but it was certainly something that wasn’t taken lightly. The violence on our show was never something that was meant to be glorified.
In fact, real world events have already impacted the promotional lead up and marketing for The Punisher. Earlier this fall, Marvel was set to bring The Punisher to New York Comic Con with a panel and appearances by the cast and creative team on the series. However, in the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, Marvel cancelled The Punisher's NYCC appearance and didn't promote the series at the fan convention at all. For his part, Barnes fully supports the decision made by Marvel:
They decided between themselves that it wasn’t an appropriate time. I fully supported that. I mean, you have to be very careful what imagery you push into the public consciousness and the timing of when you do that and they decided that that was not the right time to air a show which has guns in it and I think that’s absolutely the right, responsible thing to do.
The nature of The Punisher character means the show will of course feature violence and since, as Barnes points out, Frank Castle doesn't have superpowers, he relies on man-made weapons to battle against those he believes to be evil. Frank Castle is a comic book character who is more grounded in reality than many other Marvel superheroes, but his status as an anti-hero means he's not the most moral or righteous of characters. So, whether the violence of The Punisher Marvel series is ultimately well received by viewers remains to be seen until the show hits Netflix later this month.
The Punisher season 1 premieres Friday, November 17 on Netflix. Premiere dates for the new seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have yet to be announced.