Since 2012’s “The Avengers,” Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton has always been Marvel’s blue collar superhero, a regular guy with fabulous aim whose weapon of choice to defeat all manner of villainy is, somewhat inexplicably, a bow and arrow. On the new Disney Plus series “Hawkeye” — the character’s first titular outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Clint meets his biggest fan, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a wealthy Manhattan native who has, since she was a child, devoted her life to becoming a superhero just like Clint.
It’s a classic mismatched pairing, especially since Kate’s unbridled enthusiasm for saving the day is paralleled by Clint’s world weary resignation with being an Avengers B-lister. The show underscores Clint’s lot in life — perpetually on the periphery of the action, but still famous enough to be recognized — by opening with him taking his kids to see the unabashedly cheesy Broadway musical “Rogers” about Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers.
Renner and Steinfeld spoke with Variety about bringing a musical into the MCU; how doing a Marvel series compares with their other ongoing shows, the Paramount Plus crime drama “Mayor of Kingstown,” and the Apple TV Plus period comedy “Dickinson”; and how their characters align (or don’t) with their real life experiences.
Kate and Clint have such a specific dynamic — the extremely reluctant mentor and the extremely over eager apprentice. How does that compare to your dynamic working on the show together?
Jeremy Renner: I mean, I think there’s some similarities to that. Maybe take out the adjective extreme, or whatever. It might just be, you know, grumpy and tremendous. I don’t know. Yeah, there’s some lines that blur, but not that many. She’s just great at her job, and I’m great at my job. And then it’s a great character mix up. I think that there’s a great, wonderful need for these characters to coexist.
Hailee, what was it that surprised you about joining a Marvel Studios project compared with what your expectations were going in?
Haliee Steinfeld: In fairness, I didn’t really know exactly what to expect. I was actually in the middle of another project when I got the call for this one. And I just knew that I was going from one to the other, and I knew it was going to be completely different — as far as the role in the world that I was living in, to what I was, to what I was going to be doing. That much I knew. But I don’t know that I really necessarily could have prepared myself for something like this. It’s on such a large scale. I mean it’s a whole universe, right, that I’m stepping into that is completely established. And there was, you know, part of me that was like, this can be a little daunting, but I had some wonderful support walking into this and felt very welcomed and supported. So I felt like it was a smooth entrance into the MCU.
The show that you were working on, was that “Dickinson”?
And, Jeremy, you have “Mayor of Kingstown” basically at the same time. It’s rare that actors of your stature have two shows airing at the same time. How does making those kind of dramas compare to making a Marvel show?
Renner: I mean, Every job is different. You know, every MCU job has been different. This one was very different, I think, because of the amount of story: six hours. You know, there was a lot. We had a lot. When a plane lands, it’s just a controlled crash. Right? So when you look at it from that perspective, I think there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of moving parts for different teams. There’s no giant stunt team on, I don’t think, either of our other shows. Maybe a little bit here and there. A huge part of the MC Universe is the stunt team and the fight coordinators and all that. It’s just a whole ‘nother section of telling a story and it’s a huge part of what we do. That’s the biggest difference, I can imagine, from any show. “Hawkeye” was different than anything I’ve experienced in the MCU — we did six hours of it in the same amount of time [as a movie]. So it just felt like exponentially more. And it was awesome because of that, I think. We didn’t get hurt, really.
Clint seems to be really down on the idea of being Hawkeye, especially the constant fame that comes with it. How close is that to your experience of being Hawkeye?
Renner: Well, that’s where it was pretty congruent and easy to kind of understand or express in a different way. Yeah, I mean, I think there’s some similarities there. You’re in there, but you know, still blessed nonetheless.
The opening scene where you’re in a public bathroom and you’re trying to pee and a guy comes up to you wanting a selfie — that seems like that might have been an experience you’ve had yourself.
Renner: Yeah, I’ve spoken about it here and there on a talk show. Maybe that’s how it got into the show. And then I let the directors know, like, this does happen to me, let me show you how to shoot it. I live it every day. And it’s always creepy. Right? It’s always creepy. But you know, you take the good with the bad.
The musical “Rogers” is a near constant presence in the episodes that I watched. Do you think that there could be any real musical of an MCU show or movie? And would you want to be in it?
Renner: I think yes is the answer to both those questions. (Laughs) I don’t know. It really was quite a production. There’s a bit more that’s not in the show — and I’m sure they have plans for this kind of stuff. They think well ahead. Who knows what and how and way, shape or form. We spoke about the idea of an “Avengers” musical back on the first “Avengers” [movie], and we were all kind of joking about it. But yeah, [“Rogers”] was just oddly great and awful at the same time, and I’ve mixed feelings about it. But yes is the answer. I’m down. I’m in!
Steinfeld: Oh, I didn’t know I was part of the question! Sure!