What makes a great fight scene stand out? Jon Bernthal has a long history of performing fight scenes as Shane on The Walking Dead and then as Frank Castle on The Punisher. According to the actor, a great fight scene requires bringing a character to life. Technical fighting skills aren’t the most important thing. Emotional matters more than an actor’s fighting skill. Bernthal shared his experience and viewpoint as an actor who loves fight scenes in a recent episode of Hot Ones on YouTube.
A fight scene without emotion is just watching actors jump around. Emotion from the actors brings the audience in and gives them stakes to care about. Jon Bernthal explained this by saying the following:
I don’t want it to be one note. I want to see when there’s fear. I love that, when they feel like maybe someone’s getting the better hand; desperation. But I think, at the end of the day, what everybody’s really craving in those scenes is that you buy it. It’s the physicality of both delivering and selling the blows. Or, if you’re playing somebody who doesn’t have those kinds of skills, you just gotta play the emotionality of it. You gotta kinda meld all those things together. When you get a group of guys that trust you and that you trust, you can take it to a higher and higher level.Jon Bernthal
As Jon Bernthal explained above, he doesn’t believe an actor needs all the physicality or the technical fighting skills to make something great. While he’s done a lot of fight scenes as Frank Castle, which has given him more practice and skill, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. The most important part is giving the audience a reason to invest, and that comes from emotions. He also added that this makes things like comedic moments and believability in a fight scene possible. The star added that he loves working with the stunt guys. He enjoys working to elevate what he’s doing in fight scenes on shows like The Punisher.
Daredevil introduced Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle for Netflix audiences. The star then went on to play the character in his own show, The Punisher, for two seasons, ending in 2019. The series left Netflix when Disney-owned Marvel reacquired their characters. Now, we’ve learned that the studio is working to reboot the series, something that fans have been waiting to see, hopefully with the actor back in the role.
He’s said that he would love to play Frank Castle again, but he is adamant that the Marvel Cinematic Universe shouldn’t water down the violent anti-hero. Fans would tend to agree. The Punisher wouldn’t be the same without the violence and tough decisions Frank Castle makes. It definitely wouldn’t be as great without Jon Bernthal’s fight scenes. While there are plenty of compilation videos that show some of what he can do off, it’s usually best to watch one of his scenes in full to show off what he can do as Frank Castle. In the two-and-a-half-minute scene shown below, Punisher takes on multiple opponents. The scene is from the opening of season two, reminding audiences why they enjoyed catching up with Jon Bernthal’s series on Netflix.
Of course, Jon Bernthal also had a lot of experience with emotional fight scenes on The Walking Dead. The difference between the fight scenes in both series better shows off what the actor is capable of and his range when it comes to fight scenes. In one famous scene on The Walking Dead, Rick and Shane fight over whether to kill a boy who has become a threat to their safety on the farm. The scene isn’t just the two actors hitting each other. The characters are best friends, but they’re fighting over a matter of life and death for a lot of other people. They yell, they argue their points, and these two men who love each other beat each other bloody. It’s a ten-minute scene and it shows the finer notes of the relationship between the pair and where they’re both eventually headed.
Whether it’s a fight scene, a conversation, or both, it seems like great acting is always going to circle back to character development. Jon Bernthal is a better actor for his passion for it.