Marvel mastermind Stan Lee died in November, but his legacy lives on in the hundreds of comic book storylines he wrote and inspired, as well as the countless multimedia adaptations of his celebrated work.
And whenThe Punisher premiered its second season on Friday, the Marvel Netflix series did so with a special tribute to Lee, in the form of an end title card that read “In Loving Memory of Stan Lee.”
“When you look at a life, and you look at a contribution to art and to culture, I don’t know if you can find somebody that parallels him,” series star Jon Bernthal told ET’s Ash Crossan of Lee’s legacy.
“The thing that I was always blown away by, with Stan, is he was just so unbelievably human and accessible and kind, and he just made me feel so good,” continued the actor, who took on the titular role of The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, back in 2016 in the second season of Daredevil. “The first time we met after I had started playing the role and he had seen some of the stuff, he just made me feel so good, and I genuinely felt that, if Stan’s in my corner and he’s behind me, I can’t fail. There’s not that many people that can have that effect on me, I’m pretty hard on myself. But he always went out of his way.”
“He was just enormously generous; generous with the fans, generous with his art, a beautiful, beautiful man,” Bernthal added. “I’m lucky that I got to know him a little bit.”
As for continuing The Punisher’s story on Netflix, a third season of the show seems somewhat unlikely, given the fate of its fellow Marvel series. (Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist were all unceremoniously canceled last year, leaving Jessica Jones as the only Defenders ‘verse series with episodes still in the works.) But the cast is remaining optimistic for the time being.
“The truth is we don’t know,” said Ben Barnes — who plays Billy Russo, Frank’s former brother-in-arms who becomes one of his most menacing adversaries — of a possible season three. “I’ve been buddies with Charlie Cox for a long time. I binged the third season of Daredevil and thought it was terrific, so it’s obviously got nothing to do with the quality of a show. I don’t know what it does have to do with… I will say I think there’s a satisfying conclusion to the season.”
“But I think that we made this show not knowing about any of this stuff, and we wanted to make a really satisfying, interesting, fresh show, that was not season one,” he added. “But [there was] no concept that it is the end of anything.”
Even though (SPOILER ALERT) Barnes’ character ultimately met his bloody end at the conclusion of the second season, he was adamant that there’s more to The Punisher story than may initially meet the eye, additional layers that could make for interesting follow-up seasons, should they be granted by the powers that be.
“All of these characters are connected in the same way. They have all suffered traumas, they are all finding ways to deal with those traumas, to get to where they want to go,” Barnes noted. “They recognize each other’s physical and emotional and mental scarring, which is what kind of connects them all. And there’s a very fine line between intimacy with somebody and love or hatred and vengeance and justice. These themes are kind of quite intricately sewn together.”
“You could almost take the Punisher and the Marvel and the superhero element out of it, and it would be a show about broken people seeking justice in whatever ways and how their lives interconnect. I think that’s like the second layer down of our show.”
See more in the video below. The Punisher season two is now streaming on Netflix.