The Punisher’s Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Showrunner Steve Lightfoot on Explicit Violence and Sidekicks

Actor who plays comic book fan-favorite character Micro talks likability, while executive producer Lightfoot discusses making killers relatable.

by and | November 17, 2017 | Comments

The latest Marvel superhero to get his own Netflix series is The Punisher, the hyper-violent vigilante introduced in Daredevil and played by The Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal. The titular character is a vet named Frank Castle, who seeks revenge after the murder of his wife and children. Among the many people he encounters along the way is David Lieberman, a.k.a. Micro (Girls‘ Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a CIA analyst on the run who proves useful in helping track down the bad guys who killed Castle’s family.

Moss-Bachrach and showrunner Steve Lightfoot spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about why Micro is much more than a sidekick, how closely the show hews to the Punisher comics, and how the violence in The Punisher compares to that in Lightfoot’s last series, Hannibal.


Ebon Moss-Bachrach | Steve Lightfoot

Moss-Bachrach on Making the Most of Micro

Marvel's The Punisher Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

Jean Bentley for Rotten Tomatoes: Your character on Girls, Desi, was a little bit controversial. Well, maybe not controversial, but he wasn’t the most liked character on that series.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: On a show about unlikeable people, he was the least liked, sure.

On Punisher, David is a little more understandable and likable of a character.

Moss-Bachrach: I try to understand every character I’m playing. Desi was, in many ways, a big baby with the motorcycles and guitars and stuff. David Lieberman’s a family man who’s trying to do the right thing as an NSA analyst and has lost his family. Implicitly, it seems like one is a lot more sympathetic than the other.

From your perspective, who is David?

Moss-Bachrach: To me, he’s a guy that is in an office looking at videos from [abroad], from soldiers on the ground, and seeing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of these things every single day. Something like that really doesn’t sit well with him. His conscience won’t let him just sit on it and pass it along. He feels compelled to do something at great risk. Probably a greater risk to him and his family than he thought. He seems like a man of very strong wills, and very intelligent, with an amazing ability to focus on something. What carries us through this season is him focusing on getting back to his family, and proving his innocence.

We know what Frank’s motivations are — he’s trying to get revenge for the death of his family. But in the first few episodes we see how your character’s fatherhood influences his actions. How does that play into his arc for the season?

Moss-Bachrach: It’s sort of explicit. I think he says he can’t look at his kids if he’s just toeing the line and not doing anything about this extra-legal activity going on. I think he’s a patriot and wants to raise kids in a country that he feels like is doing the right thing.

The show also brings up the discussion of what it means to be a patriot in this day and age.

Moss-Bachrach: I think one of the themes of this show is what is responsibility to an institution? What does real loyalty mean? What does real patriotism mean? When do you have to take accountability and not follow orders? I’m not saying these things as [judgments] — these are questions that are posed. I don’t think this is a political show. This is a comical show to me. This is escapism.

Marvel's The Punisher - Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

I read that you worked on the character to give him a little more dimension than just being the tech guy. I don’t know if you saw the new Spider-Man movie, but there was a joke about how his friend wanted to be the computer guy at the desk.

Moss-Bachrach: I didn’t see that.

Your character here is the perfect example. He’s definitely way more than just the guy with the headset at the desk. He’s a very intricate part of this story.

Moss-Bachrach: Yes. They promised me. When I signed up for this they said, “You won’t have to do that.” I said, “OK, good, ’cause I don’t want to do that.” You see that so much of the time. I’m sick of seeing the guy at the desk sucking on the milkshake, making his wisecrack, and sort of being a coward. That’s a boring and false kind of cliché to me.

Frank and David are both very much motivated by their families, but your character seems more likable and approachable. Do you think that was the way the character was written, or is that something you brought to the role?

Moss-Bachrach: You have to contend with my innate charm and likability, he jokes, he says through the smile of self-loathing and insecurity. No, yeah, I think that’s how he’s written. Once you see somebody’s family, and you see them longing for their family, that’s quick brushstrokes to make the character sympathetic. Not to be cynical. His goal is to get back to his family. That’s concrete and pretty understandable. Frank’s goal is revenge, which is a little more abstract and slippery.

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

The fourth episode has a big car chase. What was filming those stunt scenes like?

Moss-Bachrach: That was super fun. I got to drive around the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the middle of the night in a big car. Who doesn’t want to do that? The hardest stuff for me physically was in episode three when we did all the stuff where I’m tied to the chair. Getting pushed over and punched, then cold water thrown on me. I’m so the wrong person to talk to about the stunts, because the week would start with me and Jon, two days in the basement, doing intense scene work. Then I would go home and hang out with my family, then for the rest of the week getting [he was] punched as hard as you possibly get punched, and getting thrown off of stuff and getting blown up. I would come back in on Monday rested, and he would just be covered in bruises. I really wasn’t doing all that much of that stuff. Hopefully if we do some more [episodes], I’ll get to do some more. I like that. It’s a completely different, head space. It’s a completely different skill set, which I’d like to develop.

What was it like filming scenes where you’re supposed to be trapped in a chair, naked?

Moss-Bachrach: It’s hard. The first day I showed up, and went to my dressing room, I was like, this is a tiny little flesh-colored tiny little thong with a baggy on the front that I used to wear for sex scenes during Girls. So it’s like, “Hey old buddy. Here we are again.” In a very different context this time. It was hard. The water was really cold. It was one of those things where, I don’t feel for me so much, I feel for the camera department, all the crew that’s there, seeing way more of me than they probably ever want to see. I just make a point at the end of the day, going around, shaking everybody[‘s hand], saying “OK, are we good? Are we sill friends? Hey Greg, we still friends?” Everyone was very professional and kind.

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

Also, an office chair is not the most comfortable place to be trapped nude.

Moss-Bachrach: Oh, it was horrible. Legs, back, kind of back behind. Zip ties. I tried to be really serious about it, so I wanted the zip ties tied tight. “This really sucks.” I hope it came out well!

Your character has a long, storied history in the comics. Did you do any research ahead of time? Is there anything that you guys didn’t get to do that you’d like to do in a season 2? Any fun story lines or winks to your character’s comic history?

Moss-Bachrach: Yeah, I would love to go back more to the comic books. We learn a lot about David in the course of the season. I love the mystery surrounding him in the comic book. It might just be my haphazard reading of The Punisher. Micro always seemed like such a mystery to me, and a real lone wolf kind of guy. I would like to explore some more of that.

This doesn’t have to do with The Punisher, but before we got on the phone I browsed your credits and noticed that you were on three different Law & Orders, which is amazing. That’s the New York actor trifecta.

Moss-Bachrach: Yeah. That’s the New York acting school right there. The MSA of the streets. I was on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the first episode. I didn’t make it past the teaser. I think I play a college kid who’s going home to his girlfriend’s apartment with her to get busy, unbeknownst to them there’s a burglar lying in the wait, slash killer. Played by the great actor Jake Weber. Then I was on Law & Order: SVU, where I played a owner of a political bookstore [involved] in an explosion in front of a state building. Turned out to be my girlfriend. We shot a lot of that stuff a block from where I was living at the time, in Brooklyn. I was humiliated and felt like I had to move, because I could never go back to my coffee shop again. I was also on the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury with another great, Bebe Neuwirth. I don’t think I’ve ever done the mothership. The original.

The one that got away.

Moss-Bachrach: I’m good with it. I have a lot of regrets, that’s not one.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach | Steve Lightfoot

Marvel’s The Punisher is available to stream on Netflix.

Pages: 1 2 Next

Tag Cloud

movies black 72 Emmy Awards Acorn TV basketball mission: impossible Pacific Islander golden globe awards See It Skip It BET Awards cinemax nbcuniversal satire Pride Month DGA ABC Signature Netflix asian-american comic book movies political drama Cartoon Network 1990s hidden camera Tarantino Toys festivals directors japanese ABC art house dexter popular Comic Book chucky Hallmark joker comic books Grammys series WGN stand-up comedy Travel Channel 71st Emmy Awards supernatural stop motion 21st Century Fox pirates of the caribbean Showtime concert robots diversity PlayStation Schedule boxing Spike Nat Geo 73rd Emmy Awards Masterpiece trailers scene in color serial killer SDCC Baby Yoda HBO scary First Look Fall TV Britbox game show japan Neflix TV One casting australia doctor who A&E Quiz Warner Bros. fast and furious versus Animation travel cults USA Network Elton John ratings spain hispanic TV renewals venice parents jamie lee curtis Lucasfilm IFC Films IMDb TV Sci-Fi independent cooking The CW slasher Crunchyroll foreign Christmas game of thrones posters disaster Hulu monster movies Hear Us Out The Walt Disney Company Disney streaming service dc Chernobyl gangster crime thriller based on movie theme song Spectrum Originals comics politics RT21 award winner television halloween Universal Podcast psychological thriller Rock Lifetime sequels SXSW Tumblr Esquire vampires NBA Fantasy rt labs laika Sundance TV YA Mindy Kaling composers Amazon Prime Video dragons 99% die hard sequel animated 007 Tomatazos hollywood mockumentary Pixar cancelled TV shows french Extras sports fresh TCA Winter 2020 technology deadpool stoner Emmy Nominations Vudu comic Crackle MSNBC sitcom teaser TV movies Pop breaking bad docudrama king kong Wes Anderson james bond spider-verse Action best Mary Tyler Moore Turner 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards The Witch action-comedy rom-coms Country Amazon Prime boxoffice First Reviews Cannes comiccon Binge Guide genre revenge Bravo Winners rotten Holiday dark Superheroes binge Chilling Adventures of Sabrina marvel comics BBC America Martial Arts Family Musicals YouTube Red Comics on TV royal family Columbia Pictures Syfy kong spider-man 24 frames women Fox News Hallmark Christmas movies Legendary vs. adaptation news science fiction Freeform FOX rotten movies we love spanish language Lifetime Christmas movies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt National Geographic Comic-Con@Home 2021 Starz ABC Family Film Discovery Channel Anna Paquin TruTV latino wonder woman CBS DC Comics 2020 2015 Rocketman debate 90s tv talk NYCC TBS Logo Infographic justice league biography toy story screen actors guild Marvel Television Holidays toronto comic book movie TV Land Pop TV A24 Western rt labs critics edition Biopics Interview finale suspense VH1 Winter TV 2016 franchise true crime spy thriller documentaries Shondaland GLAAD Disney+ Disney Plus 45 Awards DC streaming service live event 2021 adenture indiana jones VOD sopranos strong female leads crime drama emmy awards historical drama streaming movies blockbuster Horror Television Academy critic resources critics what to watch saw harry potter medical drama Sony Pictures criterion anime Kids & Family quibi worst godzilla Mary poppins GIFs lord of the rings WarnerMedia Drama all-time Rom-Com 2018 Nominations Emmys Ellie Kemper italian international witnail Video Games classics halloween tv obituary transformers Marvel FX Tokyo Olympics rt archives spanish universal monsters OWN Character Guide nature Walt Disney Pictures Sundance Cosplay dramedy Nickelodeon Mystery TV Pet Sematary Classic Film Black Mirror a nightmare on elm street Tubi book live action Summer renewed TV shows Awards Tour LGBT AMC golden globes Paramount christmas movies YouTube facebook heist movie young adult psycho The Walking Dead child's play DirecTV 2017 Adult Swim know your critic Academy Awards unscripted crossover Comedy Arrowverse cats 93rd Oscars MTV MCU TNT BET Disney Channel RT History period drama TCA 2017 spinoff Amazon Studios streaming Countdown Trophy Talk cancelled TV series screenings LGBTQ Spring TV X-Men cancelled television police drama cars hispanic heritage month romance Reality Competition BAFTA aapi superhero zero dark thirty elevated horror Marvel Studios olympics archives green book El Rey Film Festival CNN The Arrangement mob prank dogs Music dceu name the review President kids FXX Lionsgate Exclusive Video Paramount Plus Endgame reviews discovery CMT Amazon Turner Classic Movies thriller high school American Society of Cinematographers OneApp worst movies APB slashers indie Mudbound GoT Avengers cops HBO Go biopic Super Bowl festival SundanceTV PaleyFest 20th Century Fox remakes reboot New York Comic Con Sneak Peek Star Wars Superheroe ID BBC PBS legend adventure Polls and Games Song of Ice and Fire Red Carpet scary movies new york Thanksgiving TCM Brie Larson ghosts NBC ITV Captain marvel Apple TV Plus free movies Comedy Central Photos book adaptation Image Comics Mary Poppins Returns Year in Review mutant space crime feel good ESPN USA Broadway Set visit 2019 BBC One Oscars E3 Writers Guild of America Alien The Purge Creative Arts Emmys natural history aliens Peacock children's TV Food Network Instagram Live canceled TV shows romantic comedy Disney docuseries ViacomCBS AMC Plus Dark Horse Comics Epix kaiju singing competition DC Universe blockbusters Apple Pirates FX on Hulu cartoon zombie films CW Seed YouTube Premium Trailer Apple TV+ Best and Worst CBS All Access 4/20 VICE scorecard documentary nfl The Academy blaxploitation Trivia San Diego Comic-Con Watching Series dreamworks Television Critics Association IFC social media movie comedies Fox Searchlight twilight Certified Fresh Box Office batman marvel cinematic universe cancelled mcc video on demand Ghostbusters Valentine's Day richard e. Grant miniseries zombies Star Trek Calendar new zealand football video TIFF Musical Rocky Women's History Month Netflix Christmas movies TLC Disney Plus king arthur TCA Awards Sundance Now target war new star wars movies Black History Month Funimation Paramount Network Shudder E! Ovation werewolf Marathons Premiere Dates HBO Max telelvision History Teen black comedy jurassic park anthology TCA hist Heroines superman Election Stephen King Universal Pictures Reality razzies sag awards Opinion canceled south america talk show