The Punisher season two picks up right where the blood-soaked first season quietly left off, with human war machine Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) suddenly finding himself without a war to fight and all out of people to shotgun in the face as vengeance for his family’s death. Earlier this year, Netflix invited Collider and a few other journalists to the show’s Brooklyn set to get a look at a sophomore season that is—if you can believe it—darker, more violent, and more bullet-riddled than before. In addition to getting a glimpse of Frank’s junkyard trailer hideout he shares with a new teenage sidekick of sorts, Amy (Giorgia Whigham), we got the chance to speak to Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Jason R. Moore, Josh Stewart—who plays this season’s creepy antagonist, John Pilgrim—who all confirmed that Frank Castle will never be able to hang up the old black-and-white skull vest for long.
In the following roundtable interview, Ben Barnes and Floriana Lima (Supergirl)—who plays Billy Russo’s psychotherapist, Krista—discuss Billy’s recovery from his devastating fight with Frank Castle, piecing his memories (and face) back together, the threat Billy poses in season 2, and much more.
Question: So, tell us about Billy’s face.
BEN BARNES: The repercussions of the fight at the end of the first season are very much marked on his face. They tried quite carefully to figure out all the specific injuries from exactly what happened to him designated to leave a scar. He gets shot in the cheek, a ricochet into the cheek, so there’s a bullet wound hole in the cheek. We hear the doctor saying he’s undergone many surgeries, obviously for the stab wound in his stomach but also on his face. He’s had a plastic surgeon try and fix him. With all these stories, they’ve gone for a more grounded version of what that imagery would be. But there’s also a couple interesting facets of that, one of them which is obviously, we’re talking about a deeply narcissistic character in the first season. His mask of appeal, in terms of doing his hair and his nice suits and all that stuff, has been stripped away from him. It’s about what he sees when he looks in the mirror as opposed to what others see. They didn’t necessarily want it to be a horror show, it’s more internal. We don’t refer to the character, in the series, as Jigsaw. But he very much has a jigsaw puzzle in his brain. It’s not necessarily about his face, it’s about the psychological, which is how they try and approach everything. Particularly this season, even more than last season. It’s about what’s in his head.
How does the fractured-ness of his mind manifest itself?
BARNES: It’s not just about the physical. He’s had his head very much traumatized, in the same way that veterans recieve these head traumas. And psychological trauma as well. So he’s dealing with those things very much in a similar way that veterans deal with coming back from war. That’s what he sort of believes he’s gone through. He’s got brain damage. Severe issues with his memory. I won’t go into specifically what he can and cannot remember, but he’s trying to piece together what happened to him and who he is. There is the metaphor at one point that his brain is the jigsaw that he’s trying put the pieces back together of. It’s not necessarily about the lines joining up on his face, which I think is a much more interesting thing. After reading the first few episodes, I saw where it was going and that was something that was really exciting to me. Because it was almost like playing a different character from the first season without putting a cape and mask on and saying, “I’m bad now.” It’s more so literally waking up and only knowing some things about yourself. That gives him this chance to really reinvent who he is but he has no control over what he’s thinking or feeling. That was interesting, because as I said this is a character whose core drive was to succeed; narcissism, I’m going to put across my most charismatic, attractive qualities to the forefront and hope that people respond to them in the way they always have. Hope that people want to do things for me and with me because of what I put out there. That is gone for him. He doesn’t believe he’s not that person anymore. So I came in on the first day and said, “Right, shave my head, then.”
Did you interact with veterans at all to enhance your performance?
BARNES: We did have some veterans in the first season who we stayed in contact with so we had them available to us to ask questions to. There’s definitely something that, obviously with having Flo playing Krista, who is my psychotherapist in the story, that was the interesting thing where we looked at some interesting things that I know I’m not allowed to talk about. But there are some specific sort of veteran stuff that I talked about with psychotherapists and psychiatrists and read a lot about to learn why we were doing this thing. It was cool, too, to have it grounded in something very specific and modern, too, in terms of how we encourage veterans to talk about their experiences now.
Who is Krista, what should we know about her for season 2?
FLORIANA LIMA: Krista is Billy’s psychotherapist. She’s worked with veterans before, she’s dealt with PTSD. She comes in the second episode, we see her with Billy, who she’s been working with for months. She’s been coaching him through all the things that Ben just mentioned, all of his putting together of puzzles. She has specific techniques and some insights into how to pull out everything he is struggling with.
The costume designer told us about [Krista’s] costume being very closed and covered up. How does that inform your character?
LIMA: That was definitely something that Lorraine [Calvert] and I talked about and what we really wanted to do. I pull from my wardrobe a lot, usually. I did feel like she was very put together. Very…not so much covered up but just professional. She has a reason why she wants to be that way. Portrayed that way.
Coming from a show like Supergirl, can you tell us about the differences between that show and this show beyond just the differences between network television and streaming?
BARNES: It’s better here, right?
LIMA: Yeah, totally. [laughs] This seems very real to me here. Of course, Supergirl there’s lots of people with special powers and aliens and stuff going on. To me, it’s more of a make-believe with me playing my character, Maggie Sawyer. On this show, it seems like we’re telling a story about how people live. Veterans. I’m dealing with veterans, this is based in reality. It’s definitely a different world. I love it. I don’t want to say one is better than the other, they’re so different.
As a psychotherapist, what is Krista’s take on Frank Castle?
LIMA: She just learns about Frank through Billy, so she’s jotting down every little bit and piecing together her own opinion. I guess we will see what she thinks this season.
At any point does she begin to suspect there is a villain inside of Billy?
LIMA: I think she deals with a lot of different types of personalities. In the beginning, we’re seeing her just learning about Billy, I don’t think she’s coming up with an opinion. She’s thinking most of it is PTSD. I don’t think she’s judging in any way. She’s just thinking it’s another patient, he has his own trauma, his own mess to deal with. She’s helping him with the puzzle, I guess.