Why Jon Bernthal Took New Role As Sex Worker, Despite Thinking Of Himself As A 'Weird-Looking Guy'

Wayne Jenkins walking out of prison on We Own This City
(Image credit: HBO)

As fans have spent the past couple of years waiting and wondering whether or not Jon Bernthal will ever return to the world of Marvel to reprise some form of an MCU-official Frank Castle, the actor has certainly kept busy with his upcoming non-Punisher roles. Having starred in Lena Dunham’s Sundance dramedy Sharp Stick this year, the actor also has a pair of TV shows on the way in the form of HBO’s crime drama We Own This City and Showtime’s episodic remake of Richard Gere’s 1980 hit American Gigolo. But just because Bernthal is going to look the part of a sex worker in the latter series doesn’t mean he feels inherently sexy while doing so.

Currently in the midst of filming American Gigolo, in which he’s taking on the flashy dressing lead role of Julian Kaye, Jon Bernthal talked to GQ about the here and now of his career, including the way his most recent roles play into the sexuality and/or machismo of each character. And even though he’s been something of a sex symbol since his time on The Walking Dead and Eastwick more than a decade ago, Bernthal hasn’t really embraced that concept, saying:

I do not believe that I possess any kind of natural sex appeal. I’ve always looked at myself as this weird-looking guy.

Plenty within his fandom would likely beg to differ (not to mention plenty outside of that fanbase), but it doesn’t sound like Jon Bernthal will ever be truly convinced. To that end, one may very well wonder why in the world the actor chose to take on roles in Sharp Stick and American Gigolo, especially since his character in the latter is a male escort. But where most people would turn away from feelings of fear or discomfort, the former stage actor uses those emotions as an impetus to dive into the unfamiliar.

Saying that he fully understood the sense that he may very well have been the wrong person to take on those roles, Bernthal sounds as if he’d be okay with whatever outcome, so long as he felt comfortable knowing that he at least gave the challenge his all. He continued, saying:

Maybe these things will come out and people will say, ‘Well, he tried this, and he couldn’t do it.’ . . . I just really fundamentally believe you’ve gotta pursue the things you’re scared of. If you’re scared of swimming in the ocean, you’ve gotta get in there. If you’re scared of being assaulted in the street, you’ve gotta learn how to fight. You’ve gotta run headfirst toward the fear.

To that end, Jon Bernthal also discussed the fact that he never wears shoes that would hinder him from either standing his ground or running away, should the situation call for either option. And he’ll certainly be wearing some uncomfortable, fashion-forward clothing in American Gigolo that would probably make running away a painful chore. But perhaps "getting used to crappy shoes" is all part of leaning into the fear of the unfamiliar.

The long-gestating American Gigolo remake will debut on Showtime later this year, after which Jon Bernthal is potentially heading off to film The Accountant 2, which was announced last summer. Until then, be sure to check out all the awesome movies and shows you can stream now starring the actor, and keep those hopes going strong for Frank Castle to reemerge anew. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.