From showrunner Steve Lightfoot (Hannibal), the Marvel/Netflix series The Punisher follows Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), who mistakenly thought he’d be able to disappear into a quiet life, now that he was finished exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children. But when he uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld, The Punisher must discover just how far and deep the injustices run.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Amber Rose Revah (who plays Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani) talked about the secretive audition process for this role, wanting to make her character as authentic as possible, finding the balance in the story’s real-life hard-hitting concepts while maintaining that it’s a Marvel series, the dynamic between Dinah Madani and Billy Russo, how her character is both an asset and a liability, how Madani’s view of Frank Castle changes by the end of the season, and her curiosity about a possible Season 2. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: How did you come to The Punisher, and when you auditioned for this role, did you know what you were actually auditioning for?
AMBER ROSE REVAH: I was sent some scenes, but they weren’t scenes from the actual show. They were scenes that the showrunner had mocked up for the character. I live in the UK, in London, so I was sent them over there, and there were three different scenes. They were all quite distinct and they showed very different sides to the character’s personalities. And then, I sent a tape in and we went from there. With Marvel and Netflix, everything is so secretive. I was given, bit by bit, pieces of information, as we were going along. It really wasn’t until I actually touched down in New York that I was given the script. You can imagine how mad that is. And then, as the show went on, we were only given the script just more than a week before we’d shoot them. It’s interesting because it means that you’re very present in the moment of what you’re doing then. So, it was slowly a revelation of what was going to come, but I was really happy with it. I think she’s a fantastic character and I’m very privileged to play her. She’s a really interesting woman and she has so many sides to her. They’ve given her a backstory and she’s very rounded, which I love. That’s very important to me. So, I was more than satisfied.
Because there isn’t source material that they had to stick to with Dinah Madani, were there specific things that you wanted to make sure were there and were there also things that you wanted to make sure weren’t present in the character?
REVAH: I wanted to make her as authentic as possible. I got in contact with Homeland agents and I went to the Homeland building in New York, which was this intimidating and terrifying place. I had three brilliant guys there that I asked questions, non-stop, and I got a sense of what she would do, on a daily basis. Even things like seeing the building and seeing how our production team recreated it and having that authenticity was great. I wanted to have an understanding of what they do and how they would approach corruption, and they were actually very open and honest with me. That was a big part of it for me. Also, the fact that she’s Iranian American, I have friends that are second generation Americans and I was able to talk to them about things. And then, there was the physical training. We had a stunt team and I learned to use the weapons correctly. The physical training for the stunts was really, really fun. That stuff is a dream, as an actress.
Before this show, were you a fan of comic books, or did you watch any of the superhero TV shows and movies?
REVAH: My sister is a huge fan of comics, but I didn’t grow up reading comics, a great deal. It was really interesting because everyone I know was like, “The Punisher is the best!,” and you have all of these people suddenly coming out. And apparently, I’ve been seeing The Punisher symbol for years and just never noticed it. It was great because, for me, it was starting from scratch. I’d watched the Netflix collaborations. I’d watched Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and I loved those. So, I just dove into it.
This story is a very realistic one about grief and trauma, and these are real people who don’t have superpowers. How do you think that affects and impacts the story that you’re telling this season?
REVAH: It’s interesting, with our show more than many of the others, it has a different groundedness to it, which originally is from the comics, and from the fact that Frank Castle doesn’t have superpowers, as well as his inner turmoil and history. It discusses PTSD and loss, and it sees concepts that are really hard-hitting, but it also maintains the fact that it’s a Marvel show. It’s about finding that balance. Everyone in their life deals with love or unrequited love, loss and deception. I think that has the power to reach people, and I hope it does.