Pit bulls have found a hero in Jon Bernthal.
He’s headed to Hell’s Kitchen as The Punisher in “Marvel’s Daredevil,” but in his daily life, the actor crusades for animal rights, taking aim at breed stereotypes.
(The Majority Project)
“I’ve kind of been a pit bull guy my whole life. I’ve got two rescues living with me now, with me and my kids, my family,” Jon told AccessHollywood.com in a new interview. “We’ve always been a big dog family and very much a family that’s behind animal rights. One of my big causes [is] I want to do my part to put an end to dog fighting, and to rehabilitating fighting dogs.”
The actor – whose father is Chair of the Board of the Humane Society of the United States – has teamed up with Animal Farm Foundation’s The Majority Project to combat misconceptions about pit bulls and their owners.
“The Majority Project is just something that’s very close to my heart. I believe in this breed. I believe that’s there’s a really ridiculous and unwarranted stigma that’s attached to both pit bulls and pit bull owners. I think it’s nonsense,” he said. “There are a lot of causes to get behind in the world, but I think that breed-specific prejudices can lead to problems that are as mundane as simply people crossing the street when they see a pit bull, to people being kicked out of their apartments or being separated from their family pets because of the breed of the dog, which has nothing to do with the dog’s behavior or the level of responsibility of the owner.”
Jon’s two pits, Boss and Venice, are his constant companions. They go to every set with the actor and have accompanied him at all of his auditions.
The dogs, who are trained to automatically lie down in the presence of children and strollers, were a huge hit on the set of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (where Jon played Shane Walsh).
“I promise you everybody bonded with them. It got to the point where I’d show up on set, and there’s sort of an announcement among all the radios that the PAs have, and it was never that Jon Bernthal has landed, it was always that Boss and Venice have landed,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve heard it many times, ‘You’re all right, but we’re gonna miss the hell out of your dogs!'”
Boss and Venice instantly made themselves at home with the “Walking Dead” cast, even sleeping through Andrew Lincoln’s (Rick Grimes) screen test.
“Boss was present at Andrew Lincoln’s audition, at his screen test. I remember [he] thanked Boss, because he said that Boss really put him at ease in the audition. I think, unfortunately, Boss may have fallen asleep during his audition,” he said, laughing. “During his screen test there’s the sound of snoring, and that might have been Boss. But, that just shows the relaxed nature of the dog.”
Boss and Venice will be with Jon on the “Daredevil” set when he assumes the mantle of The Punisher for Season 2. While he’s sworn to secrecy regarding details of his new Marvel/Netflix gig, he’s ecstatic over joining the Charlie Cox-led series.
“I’m thrilled about it. It’s a huge honor and I believe deeply in the people that I’m going to be working with and I’m an enormous fan of the show and of the world and of the character,” he said. “I look at it as a huge responsibility and I want to get it right.”
Though we’re dying to know how the trademark Punisher skull will be incorporated into the costume, Jon had to remain tight-lipped when asked if he’s had any wardrobe fittings or seen costume sketches.
“I know nothing, I’ve seen nothing… They make it abundantly clear when you get cast by Marvel – sort of a drone appears over your head, and if you say anything at all, you know you’re going to get zapped,” he joked.
Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple) recently told us she’s been a fan of Jon’s for years and can’t wait to work with him –praise we were happy to pass along to the actor.
“That’s so cool to hear! I really appreciate that,” he replied. “I’m an enormous fan of hers. I’ve been a fan of hers for a very long time, all of her films. That’s really cool. [I’m a fan] of really everybody in this cast.”
And Jon already has a connection to Season 1’s resident villain, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
“Actually, strangely enough, my first gig ever was on ‘Law & Order’… and my first scene ever on camera was with Vincent D’Onofrio,” he said. “So I’m a fan of all those guys. There’s so much talent in that cast and in that group of writers and just the people who make that show. I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of it.”
Who will prove a tougher foe: walkers or Hell’s Kitchen criminals? The verdict is still out.
“Oh man, I don’t know!” he laughed. “You’re gonna have to ask me that next year.”
“Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 2 will premiere on Netflix in 2016.
— Erin O’Sullivan
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