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Warning: spoilers ahead for The Punisher! Read on at your own risk!
Frank Castle is back with a (literal) vengeance in The Punisher, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has never looked meaner. That is partly due to the inclusion of Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, who has already turned into one of Marvel's most intense and downright fascinating villains. Barnes recently sat down with CinemaBlend's own Nick Venable to discuss his preparation for the role, and the process of getting into character sounds just as crazy as Billy himself. Specifically, it involved roaming around New York in the middle of the night after his workouts. Barnes explained:
So I started veering away from comics and looking more at Special Forces training videos, and just walking around very late at night around the streets of Brooklyn, because that's a world that I didn't [know]. I'm from southwest London and live in Los Angeles now, so that's really not a world that I'd spent very much time in. So literally just to walk around those streets at night, after you've had a bit of training, and you've got your endorphins flowing from doing a boxing session or a knife-fighting session with some of the stunt guys, and you're feeling kind of semi-invincible, even though your toe hurts a bit from when you kicked something. And then you sort of walk around the streets of Brooklyn at one o'clock in the morning, and I felt like that was a very useful thing for me to try to walk around in that scenario and feel powerful and capable. Just to feel like this is your town and so that was kind of a very simple, but useful, tool for me.
I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure people who go wandering around Brooklyn at 1 a.m. are either going to be rescued by Frank Castle or become his prey at some point. Nevertheless, Ben Barnes would simply walk around New York in the middle of the night after his intense training sessions to help him inhabit the mind space of someone who feels powerful and at home in a dark, urban environment. He could've just looked to the comics to get into Jigsaw's head, but it was more a matter of trying to craft something realistic.
So it was less about trying to become one of Frank's absurd and outlandish villains (although he does eventually become Jigsaw in brutal fashion) than it was about becoming a down-to-earth badass/psychopath. Elsewhere in his conversation with CinemaBlend, Barnes explained that choice by highlighting The Punisher's more realistic and grounded sensibilities in which fights are won by skill and weapons, rather than by superpowers. The actor told us:
It already smelled to me, even from just the tiny scenes that I'd seen, that we were making something very different from that, and hopefully a bit more grounded in today's world. It was very much described that in our show, if somebody was to overcome another character, it was because they have a history of military experience, or Homeland experience, or they were stronger or bigger or better armed.
That emphasis on a grounded and gritty corner of the Netflix Defenders universe is something that many people associated with The Punisher have focused on while talking about the series. In fact, Karen Page actress Deborah Ann Woll opened up about the series to CinemaBlend and similarly highlighted the lack of superpowers or supernatural storytelling devices as a significant asset for the show. It has helped set the series apart, and that has led to some serious praise from critics.