Marvel's First TV-MA Series Is 'Not For Kids,' Says Vincent D'Onofrio: 'Some Scenes Are Batsh*t Crazy'

Vincent D’Onofrio aka Kingpin sat down with Complex to talk about Echo and Daredevil: Born Again

Marvel Studios / Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin in Marvel Studios' ECHO. © 2023 MARVEL.

When it comes to villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t new to this—he’s true to this. 

The seasoned vet made his debut as Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) in the 2015 Netflix series Daredevil, but he knew that wasn’t the end of his journey playing the infamous mafia crime lord.

“I always felt like it was something that we should keep doing,” D’Onofrio tells Complex. 

And it’s clear executives at Marvel felt the same way. Nearly a decade later, D’Onofrio is set to continue Kingpin’s story in two highly-anticipated series: Echo and Daredevil: Born Again.

His return coincides with an interesting time at Marvel, as the studio looks to reinvigorate its original content offerings following a year of lackluster success. With Echo, the first TV-MA project in the MCU, the studio may have found its silver bullet. 

The story of Echo takes place after the events of Hawkeye (2021), with Maya Lopez, played by Alaqua Cox, on the run from Kingpin’s criminal empire. But what exactly goes down in the series? Violence. Lots and lots of violence. “It’s for sure not for kids,” D’Onofrio explains. “Some scenes are going to be batshit crazy.”

Though a stark departure from the typical toned-down approach Marvel has had in depicting graphic scenes, Echo signals the studio’s commitment to spicing things up. And D’Onofrio has found himself squarely in the middle of all these changes.

Complex caught up with D’Onofrio to talk about his experience playing Kingpin, how Echo is setting a new standard for Marvel projects, what fans can expect from Daredevil: Born Again, and much more. 

Check out this exclusive Kingpin featurette from Echo before it hits Disney+ and Hulu on January 9. 

(This interview has been edited in length for clarity.)

So you made your debut as Wilson Fisk in 2015. Nearly a decade later, you’re back again for two more MCU projects. What’s your secret? It seems like you’re a fan favorite at Marvel.

VINCENT D’ONOFRIO: I guess I'm lucky. I don't know. I'm very happy to do it. I like playing the character and the big bosses over there know that I do. So you know, I guess as long as they keep coming up with good stories to put me into, I'll just keep doing it. 

But I don't know, it's an awesome job to have. It’s one of those that will go down as one of my favorite characters for sure. 

Did you ever anticipate this kind of longevity with the character?

Not at first. None of us on the original show knew it was going to be a hit like it was. So when we stopped doing it, when they started Disney+, I kind of knew that we would do it again. I didn't know when, but I thought Charlie [Cox] and the rest of the cast, everybody just knocked it out of the park.

So I thought, “Why wouldn't they bring it back?” And several years later, they did it. So it wasn't a surprise. I always felt like it was something that we should keep doing.

"I always felt like it was something that we should keep doing."

Marvel is officially launching its new Spotlight banner with this series. How does it feel to be part of the first project under that focus? 

I just heard this term for the first time when I started doing press for Echo, I’ve never even heard of that term before.

But I think it's awesome. I do know that this particular story of Echo, it has to be told the way it's told. It is a mature story. It's for sure not for kids. It's for teenagers and adults. The main character, Maya Lopez, who Alaqua Cox plays, she is not a good person when it starts, and her journey takes you through this violence. And I think Maya's story is that: it is violent.

"It is a mature story. It's for sure not for kids."

Without spoiling anything, can you elaborate on the connection between Echo and Daredevil: Born Again? Because I know they’re all linked now. 

Yeah, it took a while to get there, but we’ve figured it out now and we're starting back up very soon. And so they're all linked in a really good way now. 

The tone of Daredevil is going to be much like the old series. It's going to be darker. I don't know if they're going to give it this Spotlight banner, but it is definitely for a mature audience.

"We're starting back up very soon."

What creative opportunities were you able to enjoy with the TV-MA rating, and what were some of the challenges you faced creating this more mature show? 

It's harder to play a darker story than it is a lighter story. It requires a lot more emotion and a lot more bringing things right to the edge emotionally. So it can be fun and more exhausting.

You know, Hawkeye wasn't as exhausting because there was less of it. So with Echo, Alaqua and I, there are some scenes that are quite emotional and intense, and before the actors strike, we already started doing stuff like that on Born Again before we had to stop. 

So I would say if there's adjustments, it's getting ready to get back into that intense mode and knowing that some scenes are going to be batshit crazy, and you have to be ready for that as an actor.

Were there any scenes or any moments that were particularly difficult to capture?

Well, I'll tell you, there's one particular scene, I won't give away too much, but there's a scene towards the end where she's trying to get something out of me. We're face-to-face in a room together, and the context has a lot to do with my character's past and our relationship.

And during that scene, I think we only did maybe two wide shots, and then we did coverage. We did it only a few times because the intensity of the scene was so powerful. It was Alaqua just being so impressive.

It was the two of us. We just brought the whole room into this intensity and we were literally face to face. And I remember this happens to a lot of actors, but it doesn't happen often in your career, where the cameras are rolling and you actually experience something that you've never experienced before.

Sometimes you can get to places for the first time in even a long career like mine, you know, I think it's just over 40 years of acting and during this one particular scene, we got to this place that was pretty intense. My actual body and my mind and everything went to a place that I'd never gone before. Not that it was more or less intense, just completely different than anything I'd experienced before. 

"My actual body and my mind and everything went to a place that I'd never gone before."

And a lot of that has to do with Alaqua’s performance in that moment and the script and how incredible our director, the executive producer, Sydney Freeland was.

Alaqua Cox is a newcomer, but when you watch onscreen, she doesn’t give that at all. What was it like working with her on this project?

Well, I mean, just as a person, she's really impressive. She's just a really good actress, and the idea of Hawkeye being her first performance is pretty crazy. She's also deaf. She's an amputee. And she's just completely impressive. 

It was really something to experience watching her occasionally. If I was there earlier, I had the chance to actually watch her do something that I wasn't in. It was fantastic.

I mean, the way she handles herself on set and stuff, she's just a very impressive actress. I think she's going to have quite a career.

Looking back at the series now, what are you personally most proud of to see onscreen?

When I look back at Echo, it’s going to have to be the whole cast’s performance. The fact that this story works, the whole Indigenous part of it, and Alaqua being an Indigenous actor and most of the cast being Indigenous, and to see it unfold the way [director] Sydney Freeland wanted it to.

It's just fascinating. It's wonderful to watch. The experience of dealing with diverse actors, whether they're Indigenous or wherever they're from, it's like seeing brand-new performances for the first time. It's an amazing thing to be part of. I'm glad that I'm still working during all of this because it's really quite something.

What are some similarities and differences between Echo and Born Again that fans can expect? 

The main difference would be that Echo is Maya's story. It's Alaqua Cox's story, for sure. It follows her from the first frame to the last, and that alone makes it significantly different than Daredevil.

This new Daredevil, we did it a lot in the original Netflix series, but we've taken it to another level now where we're really just examining these two men, Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk. 

I'm not really allowed to say too much, obviously, but it is really an examination of these two people, these two men and everybody in their lives who they care about. They're both broken human beings, and I guess you’ll have to tune in to see if they ever get mended or not.

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