This article contains Daredevil season 3 spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here if you prefer.
Fans have been waiting for Bullseye to appear on Marvel’s Daredevil Netflix series since the first season. While season one had its hands full with a dual origin for Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, and season two was already overstuffed with the introductions of both The Punisher and Elektra, Daredevil season 3 finally brought fans the the physical threat they’ve been waiting for, in the form of Wilson Bethel as Benjamin Poindexter.
Bullseye’s comic book history has always been vague, with some conflicting elements thrown in. But Daredevil season 3 spends nearly its entire first half exploring Benjamin Poindexter as an FBI agent rather than a villain, and similarly takes its time with his descent into madness and supervillainy as the season progresses. Key to all of this is Wilson Bethel, who plays Poindexter not as the sadistic maniac Bullseye is often portrayed as in the comics, but as a deeply flawed man with serious issues, who finds himself even more vulnerable to manipulation at the hand of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin.
We spoke with Wilson Bethel shortly after the veil of secrecy surrounding his role as Bullseye in Daredevil season 3 had been lifted, and he offered a look into the preparation for such challenging role.
Den of Geek: Were you expecting that kind of fan response when you were officially revealed as Bullseye at New York Comic Con?
Wilson Bethel: I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it. I mean, just in terms of the visceral feeling or the fan response. Keep in mind that we hadn’t seen any of that footage until that moment. So, I was watching those scenes up on that giant screen behind us for the very first time, and my heart was beating out of my chest. It was just so exciting. And then to have the character revealed in that way, and people gasping and cheering, that was truly one of the highlights of my professional career.
Is this the first time you’ve had to handle that kind of physicality on screen?
This type of it, definitely. I did an HBO miniseries early in my career called Generation Kill, that takes place in the Iraq war, so there were some pretty amazing sequences in that show. But that’s a war show. You’re firing weaponry, and it’s just a whole different kind of action.
But doing this kind of intricate choreography with fight scenes, at the level that this show does it…I’m not sure that action on this scale exists in that many other places in television or film right now. This is a whole different echelon for sure.
Did you have any background in martial arts? Or did they train you in any specific styles before you started blocking out of these fight scenes?
For most of my adult, in fact for my entire adult life basically I’ve messed around with gymnastics. So, that’s just been kind of like a lay pursuit of mine, something that I have enjoyed. It’s a good way to stay in shape and have fun. I feel fairly physically adept, I guess.
This stunt team is without a doubt operating at one of the highest levels of probably any stunt team on planet Earth. So, however savvy you think you are in terms of your physical aptitude, these guys are pushing you to your absolute limits. And yeah, then specific training skills are important. As you get into specific choreography, or individual fight sequences, that’s incredibly fun but also really challenging.
I guess the closest thing that I could equate it to, which I don’t have any background in is probably dance. Just because the moves are so specific, and so much of it is about spatial awareness. It was really a very, a very new world for me. But a really welcome challenge.
Everything builds to that first crazy fight with you and Charlie Cox in episode six. What was that like? How early did the two of you start talking about that scene since you both knew it was coming?
We didn’t know that scene in particular was coming. I mean, obviously I think we had an idea that of course we were gonna meet at some point in the season, but we didn’t know it would be that scene. Certainly having seen that scene now, we didn’t know it’d be so badass.
Basically, as soon as I got the role, Charlie welcomed me onboard. Before we even started shooting, Charlie reached out to me to welcome me into the family, and has just been absolutely nothing but gracious to me the entire time. So, even though we didn’t work together until we had already been shooting for a number of months, I felt very comfortable with Charlie, and really felt like in good hands with him onset.
Charlie has obviously been doing the role of Daredevil and Matt Murdock now across four seasons, including The Defenders. So, this is a guy who’s fucking good at what he does. He’s incredibly talented, both as an actor, but also physically in these fight scenes. But he was really gracious. And I think a mentor to me in some ways kind of getting me up to speed for these scenes, and I felt very lucky to be able to do them opposite him.
As taxing as this must be physically for you, Dex is kind of a tricky character in terms of how many different sides there are to him. Were any of those moments uncomfortable to film? There is some stuff where the audience starts to feel bad for him, and then he turns. What was that like for you to get into somebody like thats head?
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the experience of being Ben Poindexter is an uncomfortable one. And in that regard this was a very challenging role. A lot of the experience of my career has been in very different kind of roles that feel honestly, very comfortable to me in some ways, in that it taps into one aspect or another of who I am as a person, and I’m able to kind of lean into that in a way that feels natural.
This role was a real stretch for me. It was both daunting in terms of approaching it as an actor, and then additionally daunting in terms of I didn’t have the experience of just being in those shoes, which is an uncomfortable one. This is a guy who had serious psychological problems. But of course I think that’s also what makes the role super interesting, and dynamic, and as you said even sympathetic, even as he is going increasingly off the rails.
I mean, it’s a dream role. Because it’s not just this iconic villain. It’s also a really intricately drawn, nuanced portrait of a deeply disturbed, damaged guy. So, you kind of get the best of both worlds. You get intense internal fights and also incredibly badass physical expression.
Because this character has both of those sides, what was the audition like for that? Obviously they wanted somebody who can handle the physicality. But then you also have to be the kind of guy who can display both elements of these characters.
Weirdly the entire audition process was just a darts game at a dive bar in Los Angeles between me and Charlie, and I won. (laughs)
I think interestingly with this kind of role, and by that I mean one of these roles that’s very physical, the producers, the casting people there, I think they kind of just have to go on a hunch that you’re up for the challenge of it. And then of course you have this incredible stunt team behind you, supporting you, and doing incredible work in their own right.
But there is really no way for them to know whether or not you’re up to the demands of the physical challenges of these roles. And then the other part of it obviously is, essentially what any audition process looks like. Are you able to convincingly portray this character? And I guess they felt like I was.
For me the key moment for Dex is the flashback to the suicide hotline. When he just says, “And what kind of gun is it?”
Yeah! Glad you reminded me of that. I had forgotten about that scene. What a fucked up scene that is.
And as you were reading these scripts, I imagine Marvel is only kind of piecing this stuff out to you guys one at a time, when do you kind of learn the arc of this character? Because I know secrecy is so important to Marvel.
[Daredevil showrunner] Erik Oleson was very gracious in terms of offering me as much information as I wanted to know in broad strokes, which I think was really important for me to kind of get a little bit of a fuller understanding of the character. I think different people have different approaches to character in that regard. I know Charlie for example, I think he doesn’t like to know where the character is going over the course of the season.
For me that was important, especially being the new guy, and really feeling like I’m getting to know this character. But even with that, even with a kind of rough sense of what the arc was, and who the character was, nothing could have prepared me for just how dynamic, and interesting these scripts were as I was getting them one by one. I just feel so incredibly lucky that the writing is of the caliber that it is. It was like every time we got a script, it was just a celebration of getting to understand the character better, and also looking at individual scenes as being wonderful opportunities to explore the character.
You spend so much time onscreen with Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. How much time did you guys spend together in terms of working out what that relationship was gonna be like?
A fair amount. And all credit to Vincent. This is a guy who is a legend, both in terms of like his larger career, and then also in this role. He is so gracious, so generous with his time, with his energy. For me coming on board as the new guy on the show, and also obviously a much younger actor, working with Vincent is the best experience you could possibly hope for. He gives you everything that you want as an actor, and is also just such a sweet generous guy.
I felt very supported and taken care of by Vincent. And when you’re stepping onto set with that kind of rapport with somebody, then it makes doing the scenes just so much fun. You get to play around. You get to try it different ways, and you just get to play off of the energy of this guy who has created a character that is fucking bananas. I think…that Vincent is a big part of what drives people to this show. So, to get to work with Vincent, and share screen time with him, and get to feed off that energy is pretty special.
Did you gravitate towards any specific comic stories? Did you go back and do a bunch of comics reading after you got the part? Or did you try and keep this fresh, just based on the pages you were getting?
We did go into the Bullseye mythology for sure. Aside from having seen the first two seasons of the show, I was a newbie to the comics themselves. So, it was important to me to read up on the comics, and get a sense of how Daredevil has existed over the span of decades now on the page. Specifically, I definitely really enjoyed both Born Again and Guardian Devil, which obviously informed certain aspects of this season.
But then in terms of Bullseye specifically, I think it’s just important to note that this is very much an origin story of Bullseye. So, what we see this season is not maybe Bullseye as fans have come to understand him over the course of decades of comic reading. This is very much a portrait in the arc of a human being, a man who is starting down that path toward becoming that iconic villain. But he is very much Benjamin Poindexter. The guy we see in season three of Daredevil is Dex not Bullseye.
Daredevil Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.
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