A few years before Jon Bernthal’s Punisher on Netflix and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin had crossed paths in the streaming platform. Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil, Vincent D’Onofrio encouraged Jon Bernthal in the actor’s first TV role. Jon Bernthal made his debut on television as guest-starring opposite Vincent D’Onofrio in Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoff Criminal Intent, playing the role of Lane Ruddock in the episode “Malignant” of the second season in 2002. On the journey to getting starring roles in The Walking Dead and later in Marvel’s The Punisher, Jon Bernthal had appeared as a supporting actor in a few episodes of CSI: Miami, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and also the popular sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.
While recounting the rejections early in his career in an interview with The New York Times, Jon Bernthal revealed the exchange with Vincent D’Onofrio that he remembers about 20 years later:
“I remember being so wide-eyed and so naïve,” Bernthal recalled of his start as a guest star on established television shows. “One of the first TV sets I walked into, they told me to go to hair and makeup, and I didn’t know what hair and makeup was. So I just went into a trailer, and the lead of the show was changing in that trailer and she yelled, ‘Get out,’ and threw a shoe right at my head. I had to do a scene with her that day!”
“It took a real long time for me to feel comfortable on-set. I remember Vincent D’Onofrio talked to me after a take when I did his show [Law & Order: Criminal Intent], and he said, ‘Hey, what you did there was pretty good,'” Bernthal said. “Something like that can carry you through months of rejection. I always try to remember that with young actors, because the littlest thing can keep you going.”
Vincent D’Onofrio’s words were a total contrast to the rejection that Jon Bernthal had to suffer as a young actor who was auditioning for casting directors.
“When you look at the entertainment industry, it’s amazing how doors are slammed in your face. I remember casting directors looking at my big nose and my giant ears and just being like, ‘What are you doing here?'” he told The New York Times. “Feeling like you don’t belong, agents never returning your phone calls. You get so much rejection and people make you feel so small, and the second that things start to change for you, those same people all want something.”
Jon Bernthal and D’Onofrio would later go on to reunite years later in the second season of Daredevil and then again in the crime drama starring Sandra Bullock, titled The Unforgivable. The two are currently available to stream now on Netflix.