‘Hawkeye’ EP Trinh Tran on Casting Hailee Steinfeld and the Influence of ‘Better Call Saul’

‘Hawkeye’ EP Trinh Tran on Casting Hailee Steinfeld and the Influence of ‘Better Call Saul’

BY BRIAN DAVIDS | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren for CNT #Entertainment

The Marvel executive reflects on why Jeremy Renner’s project was moved from film to TV: “The big question was, ‘How are we going to fit all of this into a two-hour timeframe?'”

Hawkeye and Avengers: Endgame executive producer Trinh Tran never doubted whether Clint Barton/Hawkeye’s Endgame storyline warranted further exploration. Instead, it was a question of which medium was best suited to tell the street-level story of Jeremy Renner’s Avenger and his quest to get home in time for Christmas. Tran, along with her fellow Marvel Studios producers, quickly realized that the Hawkeye project would benefit creatively if it transitioned from the feature film side of the studio to the newly-established Disney+ side.

“We decided to move Hawkeye from the feature side over to the Disney+ side for [creative flexibility],” Tran tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The big question was, ‘How are we going to fit all of this into a two-hour timeframe? We have an Avenger whose backstory we haven’t quite had time to explore yet . We also have to introduce a new character [Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop], as well as allow enough time for them to bond and create that special dynamic that everybody finds so appealing in the comics.’ So, in moving it over, it allowed us six hours, three times as much time, which really gave us the creative flexibility we needed to tell the story.”

In September 2019, when Hailee Steinfeld was reported to be playing Barton’s protégé Kate Bishop on Hawkeye, fans rejoiced unanimously until Steinfeld herself cast doubt on the idea. This led to some speculation that the actor’s existing contract with Apple TV+’s Dickinson may have caused a snag in the proceeding. However, Tran was always confident that Steinfeld would be involved as Bishop.

“When [Hailee] came in to meet, we knew right off the bat that she was the person we had been looking for all these years,” Tran shares. “It was just a matter of we couldn’t quite talk about her involvement all this time. So the speculation in terms of whether she was in or not was just us trying to figure out how we can carry out the series during this time and get it delivered in time for this holiday season.”

Prior to Black Widow‘s release, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige referenced Breaking Bad prequel/sequel, Better Call Saul, as an influence on Widow‘s prequel storytelling. Then Marvel Studios hired former Better Call Saul writer Marion Dayre to lead the writers’ room for Echo, which stars Alaqua Cox in the eponymous role. (Hawkeye will first introduce the character.) Furthermore, Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton also plays the enigmatic role of Jack Duquesne on Hawkeye, and Tran confirms that Better Call Saulwas a key factor in Dalton’s casting.

“I absolutely love Tony Dalton from Better Call Saul!” Tran says. “When we were talking about who would be great as Jack Duquesne, Tony obviously came to mind because he is incredible in that series. I can’t say much about his character in [Hawkeye], but as you can see in the earlier episodes, there’s a quality in Jack that will hopefully intrigue people into figuring out what’s happening.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Tran also explains why the decision was made to make Hawkeye a bit more lighthearted than previous MCU series.

Since WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki each explored some heavy subject matters and themes at times, was Hawkeye always designed to be something a bit lighter for the holidays? Was Hawkeye meant to be a response to those shows?

Well, as we were brainstorming and talking about the story a couple of years ago, we were trying to figure out how we can set this series apart from Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki. And one way was to set it around the holiday times. Out of all of the characters, it made sense for Clint Barton’s story to be told around this time of year because he’s a family guy. He’s one of the few Avengers with kids, and after the fallout of what happened in Endgame — where he lost his kids for five years, became Ronin and got them back — this is the first Christmas that he’s going to be spending with his family. And the big question of the series is if he’s going to be able to make it home in time in order to do so. So there’s that big weight that he’s trying to figure out as he’s stuck elsewhere. He’s trying to deal with something that has put him on this mission and he has to figure out how to get out of it. And in terms of the lightheartedness, we wanted to show a different side of Clint that we haven’t seen before, in comparison to all of the Avengers movies that he’s in. And I find it so much more interesting that there is a version of Clint that is a little bit more humorous from the Matt Fraction [comic book] run. So we wanted to pull a little bit of that into the series, and we thought that Kate Bishop, out of everybody, was the perfect candidate in order to do so.


 

Everyone celebrated when Hailee Steinfeld’s casting was reported, but then there was a period of uncertainty as to whether it would actually happen. Were you always confident that things would work out?

Yes, we love Hailee. When we were talking about who would be the perfect candidate for Kate Bishop, names were thrown into the hat, and we all loved Hailee. We think she’s tremendously talented. When she came in to meet, we knew right off the bat that she was the person we had been looking for all these years, once we had talked about who this person is and what she can bring to the table. Hailee did an incredible job, and we were all very happy with the onscreen Kate Bishop that she delivered. It was just a matter of we couldn’t quite talk about her involvement all this time. So the speculation in terms of whether she was in or not was just us trying to figure out how we can carry out the series during this time and get it delivered in time for this holiday season.


 

Kevin Feige has referenced a certain show as a touchstone for Black Widow‘s prequel storytelling. You also hired one of its writers, Marion Dayre, as the lead writer of Echo. And now, with Hawkeye‘s casting of Tony Dalton, is it safe to say that Marvel Studios is rather fond of Better Call Saul?

I absolutely love Tony Dalton from Better Call Saul! When we were talking about who would be great as Jack Duquesne, Tony obviously came to mind because he is incredible in that series. He brings a different tone to this particular character that people haven’t quite seen yet. I can’t say much about his character in the series, but as you can see in the earlier episodes, there’s a quality in Jack that will hopefully intrigue people into figuring out what’s happening.

What I love about Marvel Studios’ TV shows is that they’re able to devote more time to character development than a two-hour movie can. From your vantage point, are the TV shows already making your feature directors’ lives easier since they don’t have to squeeze six episodes of character work into their two-hour runtimes?

It allows us the creative flexibility to explore the characters a lot more because we have the time and space to do so. We decided to move Hawkeye from the feature side over to the Disney+ side for that very reason. The big question was, “How are we going to fit all of this into a two-hour timeframe? We have an Avenger whose backstory we haven’t quite had time to explore yet . We also have to introduce a new character, as well as allow enough time for them to bond and create that special dynamic that everybody finds so appealing in the comics.” So, in moving it over, it allowed us six hours, three times as much time, which really gave us the creative flexibility we needed to tell the story. But challenges come with it as well. We have a process at Marvel and we try to maintain that same process both on the feature side and the TV series side. We treat it as one process that works well for us. But things happen faster on the TV end. We have the same amount of time that we normally do on the feature end, but we have three times as much content that we have to deliver in a shorter time span.


 

So I’ve only got a few seconds left, but I have to say that I’m fascinated by the Marvel Studios Parliament, which counts you as a member [along with Stephen Broussard, Eric Carroll, Nate Moore and Brad Winderbaum]. Do you each have a special blazer with a crest on it? Is there a secret handshake? How do you signify your membership?

(Laughs.) That’s great, actually. I’m going to go back to my parliament colleagues and go, “We should definitely come up with a handshake of some sort.” If there is a blazer, I didn’t get one. (Laughs.) Can you call Kevin Feige and ask where my blazer is?

I’ll make some calls!

(Laughs.) But that is actually a great idea. I’m going to go back to the other parliament members and say that we should come up with a secret code or something.

Hawkeye‘s first two episodes premiere Nov. 24 on Disney+.

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By Troy Warren

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