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Jon Bernthal played a tough-talking drug dealer in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a hardened soldier in David Ayer’s “Fury” and the deadly Shane Walsh on “The Walking Dead.” Now the actor has gone cowboy cop for director Denis Villeneuve’s gritty thriller “Sicario.”
Bernthal plays Ted, a Phoenix police officer who meets Emily Blunt’s FBI Agent Kate Macer when she’s blowing off steam at a cowboy bar. The night turns steamy when Kate takes Ted home, but from there things get a bit complicated.
SPINOFF spoke with Bernthal about his pivotal role in “Sicario,” and how he’s preparing to play The Punisher in the second season of Netflix’s “Daredevil.” Plus, we asked him to address a seemingly crazy Internet rumor that turns out to be painfully true.
Spinoff: What drew you to “Sicario?”
Jon Bernthal: I thought Denis Villeneuve’s film “Prisoners” was amazing. When that came out I was blown away by that film. I got to read the script [for “Sicario”], and I just thought he’d make it in such an interesting, dynamic way. I think more than any other director, he’s one I wanted to work with. So that was originally what drew me to it. I think [screenwriter] Taylor Sheridan is one of the most exciting writers working today. He’s an unbelievable writer. [His writing is] so rich in atmosphere and characters. And he’s an actor — a great actor — which I think helps a lot too, because the dialogue is so rich. His script blew me away.
And then Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are two of my favorite actors. Out there [making the film] was great, and now walking away from it I think Emily Blunt is my favorite actor. Definitely. She’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with. It was one of those jobs that just got better and better as it went. It was a real honor to be a part of it.
And Emily’s already getting Oscar buzz. What are your thoughts on that?
I think that’s awesome. As far as I’m concerned not only is hers a dynamic and beautiful performance, but a bold performance, a courageous performance. I think what she was able to do is she helped create an atmosphere on set where anything is possible. And I know for me, coming into a job like this — which is ultimately a pretty small part — for her to put me at ease and let me do the takes that I did, with Kate and Ted’s encounter — she’s an unbelievable game and strong and bold. She’s a real special actress. And I think she deserves anything that’s coming to her.
As you hinted, you two share a pivotal scene in the movie. How much do you want to tell us about Ted?
I don’t want to give much away to those that haven’t seen it. But oftentimes a role like that is just sort of used as a set piece, just to further the story. But I think what great directors do, and Denis would do a lot is let these (small) characters have a three-dimensionality to them, and let’s them have a pronounced backstory, let them to be a real person. That’s how I come at it, taking this small character and using it as an opportunity to enhance the texture of the film. I was really grateful that they gave me permission to go to the places that I went [with Ted].
Well, in this movie you take a lot of punishment, but we know coming up you’ll deliver it as The Punisher. What can you tell us about your “Daredevil” role?
I pretty much can’t tell you anything at all, to be honest with you. I can say it’s a responsibility that I take really seriously and I’m honored to be on “Daredevil.” I love the script. There’s great actors, great writers. And if I can just say that I’m grateful and honored to have this opportunity and I’m going to give it my best.
Have you watched any of The Punisher movies to get a sense of what’s happened before with the character onscreen?
I’ve seen some. I’ve seen Thomas Jane’s, and I’ve seen Dolph Lungren’s.
Watching those, was there anything that you picked up that you want to bring to your character?
Uuuuuuuuuh. I can’t say. They’re so strict about this stuff, like what you can talk about and what you can’t. I know that sucks. But it’s just the way it is. That’s all I can really say about it.
— Jon Bernthal (@jonnybernthal) September 3, 2015
It’s been exciting that you’ve been sharing some things on Twitter, like the wall of weapons and that Punisher basketball jersey.
I mean — uh — whether you think that has anything to do with the show or not, that’s up to you. That jersey wasn’t anything to do with the show. That was just a guy on the streets of New York that I took a picture of. That’s all that was.
I read that you’ve broken your nose 14 times. That’s not true, is it?
That’s very true.
Your nose has been broken 14 times! How? How do you break your nose 14 times?
[Laughs.] You know, I boxed for a long time. A big chunk of my life involved boxing. Broke it a few times playing baseball, a few times doing action scenes, you know, out on the street. Yeah. Unfortunately, the thing is once you’ve broken your nose a bunch of times, breaking it again just gets easier and easier. So, yeah, 14 times that I know about. But yeah, I was a boxer. I just wasn’t very good, so …
[Laughs] I read that, and thought there was no way that that could be true. But OK! That’s one the Internet gets on me today.
That’s true. Definitely true.
“The Walking Dead” earned you a strong fan following. What show do you geek out over?
I love “Game of Thrones.” I’m still a “Walking Dead” fan. I’m trying to think of some other shows I really like. There’s a lot of stuff I’m just dying to get into. I’ve heard great things about “Narcos,” so I really want to see that. I want to see Kurt Sutter’s new show [“The Bastard Executioner”]. I’ve been so busy. I know I’m missing so much great stuff that I’m starting to get overwhelmed by all the things that I got to catch up on.
So, you’ve played a soldier, a cowboy, a cop, a gangster, a drug dealer. What’s a character type you haven’t yet tackled that you’d like to?
I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure there is a bunch that I’d like to do. But for me I’m just looking for the best material and the best people. I know that’s kind of like a stock answer, but I’m just so lucky and grateful for the movie and TV shows that I have gotten to be a part of, and the people that I’ve gotten to work with. So for me, it’s really not about what the character is. It’s about the material. What’s the script like? Who am I going to be working for? That’s what’s really important to me.
So basically you’re rolling with the punches, even if it means getting punched in the nose?
Exactly. Whatever it takes! Whatever it takes.