WARNING: The following contains spoilers for season 2 of Daredevil. Read at your own risk!
The Kingpin may have traded his throne for a jail cell, but he’s still pulling the strings — by having others pull the trigger. In Daredevil‘s second season, the imprisoned mob boss (and “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” fan) makes a surprising return by manipulating Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), who was incarcerated for his murders as The Punisher, into killing a rival inmate. Sure, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is now “The Man in the Box” without a city to control, but his showdown with The Punisher — and later, Matt Murdock himself (Charlie Cox) — sets up a new wave of challenges for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen to overcome.
D’Onofrio spoke to EW in an exclusive interview about the villain’s return, how he tapped into Fisk’s mindset for a second round, and what his final moments in season 2 could mean for the future of Hell’s Kitchen:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you learn you would be back, and how did you feel about that?
VINCENT D’ONOFRIO: Well, it was always the plan to use me. I knew that I was going to come back in some form, but I didn’t know what we were going to do until [producer] Jeph Loeb told me. I loved the idea of keeping it quiet and not letting the fans know. It’s more fun for everybody. Once I realized what was happening story-wise, it was just exciting to revisit the role.
What was it like returning to the character, but not as the season’s Big Bad?
I just loved it. I loved being back in his head again.
Do you remember the first scene you had to shoot this season? What was that like, stepping back into this universe?
We shot three of the scenes with my lawyer [Donovan, played by Danny Johnson] through the glass on my first day, when I’m having the conversations about Vanessa and how she has to be taken good care of. Ayelet Zurer, the actress who played her, is so wonderful, and just to have Vanessa in the scenes with me, just in my mind, and thinking about the way we played Vanessa and Fisk was really nice. It was a good way to start.
Was it easy to get back into Wilson Fisk’s mindset, even though he’s wearing orange?
Yeah. Well, it was like putting on a pair of shoes, but they’re not that comfortable. [Laughs] They’re a little painful at times, you know? But for some reason, they’re still one of your favorites, so you wear them.
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What was it like keeping your return a secret? Did your family know?
No, it’s hard to keep it a secret from your family when you’re walking around with a shaved head. [Laughs] But [when I’m in public], I always wear a hat.
How did you interpret the Fisk we meet in season 2? Has he changed much?
I think he feels as if he’s misunderstood, and he needs to do some really hard-core explaining. That’s his journey now. He needs to straighten people’s point of view of him out however he can, however he needs to… In this portion, in the second season, he’s just been walking back and forth in a box, in a cage, like a lion or a tiger would. I think he just needs to get out. He doesn’t feel, nor do I feel like he belongs there.
Last season, you said that to get into character, you would find a quiet place and look at drawings of Fisk in comic books. Was this your method for capturing Fisk again this season, as he’s in prison?
Yes. David Mack, who’s a spectacular artist, sent me so many drawings of Fisk and tagged a bunch of stuff for me. I got boxes of cool David Mack stuff, which just alone is awesome to have, and the fact that he would even do it for me was amazing. I used a little bit of that… The other thing is, Fisk is really in a cage, in a box. It’s always a very quiet part to play, so I create a kind of quietness around me.
You have a brutal scene opposite Charlie when Matt arrives to find out if Fisk had a hand in freeing The Punisher. The two of you have worked together before, obviously, but this is the first time Fisk has a straightforward conversation with the guy who landed him in jail. How did you prepare for this showdown, and what was it like?
You know, Charlie’s such a good actor, you can really depend on him to come up with his half or even more of the scene, and when we were doing it, he was very in the moment. It’s basically just playing it back and forth with him. [The scene] is a slow burn, everything is fine until he mentions Vanessa.
Right, and then Fisk launches into a terrifying monologue promising to “dismantle the lives” of Matt and Foggy (Elden Henson). How do you capture that voice?
It just comes from deep down inside the stomach. It’s a very guttural sound. I don’t think of it as a voice, I think of it as the sound that just has to be raw. That’s the cool thing about playing Fisk, that it all comes from this emotional life, even his voice. [The rage] just comes from his tummy out.
From there, he also starts hurting Matt. What do you do to capture Fisk’s physicality and fighting style?
I just listen to the stunt guys and do what they tell me. [Laughs] We established in the first season that he has a way of fighting that’s really just tossing people around and slamming the heck out of stuff, and we continued that in the second season. He’s a pile driver, that’s how he fights.
Your final scene this season shows Fisk eating inside his cell and wincing at the swollen lip he received when he punched him in the face. He then asks for his lawyer to reexamine files on Matt. What does this mean for Fisk and Matt, and what’s running through Fisk’s mind? Is he starting to get a sense of who Daredevil might be?
Well, I could lie and tell you something that’s not true, but what was going on, I’m not allowed to talk about. [Laughs] It’s all about things to come.
So… you know at this point where Fisk is going?
A very very very little bit. They tell me little things to keep my interest so I don’t go away, you know? [Laughs] The little bit that I know, I can’t [share], and all I can say is that I’m lucky enough to be able to play this character that I know they really like over at Marvel Television. The little things that I do know are so exciting that for a character actor, it really makes me happy.
It’s not just Marvel Television that likes Fisk. Fans really took to him in the first season and found him a memorable antagonist. Why do you think fans reacted so positively to Fisk? They liked him, even though he’s the Big Bad.
Yeah, they like him and they really are liking him again. I was hoping that they would, it’s all for the fans. Doing Law & Order for so long, my fan base was, like, men and women my age, and then doing Daredevil, my whole audience has changed, it’s cool. I think [the reason fans like Fisk] has a lot to do with [executive producer] Steven DeKnight and Jeph and the way they wanted to make Fisk more of a man and to make him have this really emotional origin story. I think that’s the key. That original take on him is something that’s only going to get better and better, and that’s what fans are attracted to. I don’t think they expected that.
Daredevil season 2 is streaming on Netflix. For more postmortems, check out EW’s binge guide. (Pick up the next issue of Entertainment Weekly, out Thursday, for an additional postmortem with D’Onofrio about his scenes opposite Bernthal.)