'Hawkeye' Director on Finding Clint's Humor, Ronin's Return, and Introducing Kate Bishop

Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+, with the first two episodes of the new series out on the platform.

The show follows its eponymous hero (played by Jeremy Renner) and his encounter with Kate Bishop, a plucky young woman who idolizes the archer and is as skilled with a bow and arrow as he is.

Rhys Thomas, who directed the opening episodes and is also executive producer, spoke with Newsweek ahead of its release to discuss finding Clint Barton's more humorous side, why Hailee Steinfeld is the perfect Kate Bishop and bringing back Hawkeye's alter-ego Ronin.

Avoiding making Clint Barton 'maudlin'

Avengers: Endgame saw the group of heroes make a number of sacrifices in order to defeat Thanos, and one of the most shocking was Black Widow's death.

Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself in place of Clint in order for him to get the Soul Stone the Avengers needed to fight off the titan, and this is something that weighs heavily on the character's mind.

Despite this, though, Thomas explained that they wanted to make sure Clint didn't become too "maudlin" in the face of his loss during the Disney+ show.

"He's always carried a lot of the heart in the stories, especially Endgame and so moving that on in this was one of the more exciting aspects," he explained. "And in terms of Jeremy and moving on with him, he's lived as this character for 10 years and knows more, it is him.

"And that's what's funny, I think because Marvel, the MCU, is such a part of our collective cultural consciousness now, it's hard to sometimes separate Jeremy and Clint, you know?

"Jeremy, as an actor, sort of feels these things as well in a way so I think he had a really clear sense of where Clint was psychologically at that point, and it was interesting."

He added: "I think it was important, essentially, finding a way in that wasn't expected and maybe wasn't too maudlin at the beginning.

"It was to try and find him at this place of peace, or ostensibly peace, so that we could kind of start to pick away at what that really means.

"I think it was always a combination of, I think, trying to get to the heart of things but also trying to do it in maybe an unexpected or slightly more fun way that kind of just enabled him to tread a little more lightly around it.

"Jeremy definitely was on that page as well, and I don't think [he was] interested in coming in moody from the get-go as you can easily do with this character."

Bringing back Hawkeye's alter-ego Ronin

One aspect of Clint's past that comes back to haunt him is his alter-ego Ronin, which he took on in between the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and was briefly shown in the latter.

Clint shucked off his Hawkeye persona in favor of Ronin so that he could fight bad guys after losing his family because of Thanos' snap, but he soon dropped the moniker and didn't return to it.

However, his Ronin costume and sword makes a welcome return in Hawkeye, and is the way in which he is introduced to Kate Bishop after she uses the costume to fight off the Tracksuit Gang.

Thomas explained that they wanted to bring Ronin back because it is a "deep part" of Clint's backstory, and it was important to explore his struggle with identity through it.

He said: "The Ronin, while we only had a brief glimpse of it it's obviously such a deep part of Clint character, and in his past and, to me, even without thinking about this show, necessarily, that was what I found so compelling about the character, it was that he had these two identities.

"And so when we started thinking about this show we get to explore where's Clint's point of view on this? How does he feel? To me, there's probably this fear, this deep seated anxiety [of] 'Am I Ronin? Or am I Hawkeye?'

"And so having that at the heart of things, the suit, and the idea of a suit or an identity just being this kind of material thing, was an interesting way to sort of begin things because, yes, [Kate] quite innocently puts on the suit not knowing its meaning, and really it only means something essentially to Clint and the people in his past that he's crossed.

"And so, I think the idea of suits, superheroes, and identities and disguise, it sort of all kind of comes in this innocuous way through Kate's point of view, but obviously it's setting up the opportunity to look at that idea of identity from all these different angles.

"I think [it's through] the show [and] that relationship between Kate that we get to sort of examine [it and] Clint gets to understand what Hawkeye means to him through the eyes of someone who it means something completely different."

Why Hailee Steinfeld is perfect as Kate Bishop

Steinfeld makes her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Hawkeye, and Thomas admitted she's so perfect as Kate he couldn't picture anyone else playing her.

Discussing how he worked with her on the character, he reflected: "A lot of it's Haley. I mean all we could do is is again sort of provide a runway and Kate Bishop in the comics has a really energetic and fun presence and I think [is] a bold addition to the expanding universe.

"So, a lot of our work I remember in writing was just... there was a lot of constant going back and forth and trying to find her voice, how mature is she? Where's the line between enthusiasm and annoying? We want her to annoy Clint, but you want the audience to fall in love with her and you want them to understand the heart of where she's coming from."

He added: "It wasn't really until I actually got to sit down with Hailee and we started working on scenes and rehearsing that suddenly your mind is at rest, and you realise, 'oh, this, this is where the heart of it comes from'.

"When you work with anyone talented like Hailee or Jeremy that's the luxury you have, that they're always going to add this other thing that you never quite anticipated.

"And Hailee, really, I can't see anyone else being Kate Bishop. But I think that was the thing, too, there was never any separation in my mind."

Hawkeye streams every Wednesday on Disney+.

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton in "Hawkeye". Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.