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From Avenger to Mentor: An Inside Look at ‘Hawkeye’

November 23, 2021Ben MK

As one sixth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's original Avengers roster, Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has been there from almost the very beginning. Whether it's saving New York City from a Chitauri invasion or protecting the world from a megalomaniacal artificial intelligence, the character has seen his share of victories and losses in battle. However, it was the sacrifice his best friend, Natasha Romanoff, made to help her fellow Avengers restore life to half the universe that affected Clint the most profoundly.

Now, in the new Disney+ series Hawkeye, Clint is taking on what could be one of the most daunting challenges of his superhero career — assuming the role of mentor to new and up-and-coming hero Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). Best known to comic book readers for her involvement with the Young Avengers and from Matt Fraction and David Aja's 22-issue Hawkeye comic series that hit shelves back in 2012, Kate has long been a fan-favorite for joining the MCU. And thanks to the extremely watchable on-screen dynamic between Renner and Steinfeld, audiences are finally getting the opportunity to see that wish fulfilled, as Clint and Kate embark on a holiday-themed adventure in the Big Apple, where they must team up for a mission unlike anything either of them have ever faced.

"I've always loved films or shows or specials that take place over the holiday season," says Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. "There's a heightened amount of emotion and a heightened amount of conflict and tension that can occur in this glorious season. And this is fun because it's a Christmas story that is taking place during the holidays, and it also is a [six-episode] series [set] essentially [during] a six-day period. Will Clint make it home for Christmas? [It] was a breath of fresh air after world-ending stakes and celestials bursting out of planets and multiverse shenanigans. This is Hawkeye himself, [in] a grounded, family-based show."

Achieving that more realistic tone for the show required more than just shooting on a soundstage, though. And so the cast and crew hit the ground running in New York City, where key scenes were filmed on location. "New York's very special to me," explains series director Rhys Thomas. "Nothing bugs me more than fake geography in movies, [so] we had to go there. You want that real texture. Plus, we've got very human characters in the show as well, so anywhere that real-world feel can breathe through the show, we had to take [the opportunity]."

Of course, it wasn't long ago that Black Widow kicked off the MCU's Phase Four feature film lineup. Is it simply a coincidence that Hawkeye is getting his own series mere months later? "It was always the intention to explore much more [of] the character's vast history," remarks Feige. "There are moments within all of Jeremy's appearances where you see this reluctant mentor under the surface. One of my favorite scenes in all of our films is the scene with Clint and Wanda in Sokovia, when he basically says, 'You go out that door, you're an Avenger.' And [he] motivates [her] to join the fight. That was the kernel of how we could connect our MCU incarnation of Clint Barton into the Matt Fraction storyline, and the relationship with Kate Bishop."

"That specific tone that that Fraction run has was a real linchpin," adds Thomas. "Cuz it's funny and it's also intimate [as] this amazing character study. It just handles those elements so well that there were lots of moments that felt too good not to reference and touch on. It really defines these guys and this relationship. You're lucky when you've got amazing source material to lean on. And, obviously, the MCU has already set the highest of bars. You're inheriting such a deep well of backstory. So, really, the endeavor is essentially to try and do it justice."

As for how the series connects to where moviegoers last saw Hawkeye in Avengers: Endgame, Renner promises that Hawkeye the series won't leave viewers disappointed. "There's an emotional through line that ties in from [the] Endgame stuff," notes Renner. "And it's a lot of healing and these kind of things. It ultimately comes from just the weight and the horrors and the tragedies and losses that come with the game. Managing losses is [what being a] superhero [is all about], and the lightness and brightness that Hailee's character brings in counteracts that and gets it to level out some[what]. So it's pretty cathartic, and I think quite beautiful."

“There's a true friendship and an understanding," adds Steinfeld, referring to the relationship between her character and Renner's. "Kate sees Clint as someone who wants to do good and wants to help people, and that's all she wants to do in life. And she's inspired by him and motivated by him and wants to be at his level. [She] is very overeager, and he puts up with a lot. But she really delivers at the end of the day."

It was an on-screen camaraderie that also translated off-screen as well, with Renner offering his support and guidance as a seasoned MCU player to his character's new protégé. "I just wanted to communicate [to] her that I had her back, and that there's gonna be a lot of strange things that go on," comments Renner about the nature of working on a Marvel project. "It's different than other types of filmmaking. I just wanted to let her know that she wasn't alone, and I had her back and I'll give her the answers if she needed them."

Ultimately, however, the confidence that Kate exudes was all Steinfeld. "I feel like playing this character forced me to find a confidence and a determination and discipline that's always been inside of me," recalls the actress. "I always love that the characters I have played have [been] these young women who are strong-minded, have a point of view, and have an idea of who they are in this world. And they really stop at nothing to get what they want to achieve. Kate Bishop [is] proof that if you set your mind to something, you can really achieve great things."

Hawkeye begins streaming November 24th, exclusively on Disney Plus.

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