Geektown’s Exclusive Interview With ‘The Punisher’ Star, Amber-Rose Revah
From the moment Jon Bernthal popped up as Frank Castle in ‘Daredevil’ Season 2, it seemed inevitable he would end up being spun off into his own series. With the arrival of Marvel’s ‘The Punisher‘ only weeks away, we had a chance to sit down with one of its new stars, Amber-Rose Revah, who has the job of tracking down Castle as Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani.
Amber has appeared in a number of high profile dramas including the mini-series ‘House of Saddam’, NBC’s ‘Emerald City’, and Channel 4’s ‘Indian Summers’, but this is her first step into the comic book world. She found her love of acting thanks to her polish grandmother who fled to England during WWII. “She always had this real love of theatre,” says Amber. “Because so much of the arts were repressed during the war, so when she came over here, she just loved walking around London and the theatres. In some ways, it has parallels with my character, Dinah Madani, in that her parents were also immigrants and had built a life for themselves, and give her this love and passion for America, and I think with my grandmother, she instilled that for me about London and England, and all the wonderful things that it has. So from a very young age, I was taken to the theatre, and I would just marvel at the shows and got so emotional watching them. That’s where my love of theatre started. As I got older, that was always my dream, to be on stage. I then went to Brunel University and studied contemporary performance there, then started professionally in TV and film at seventeen.”
I started off asking how ‘The Punisher’ role came to her. Do you get a phone call that says “we’d like you to be in Marvel’s…” and you interrupt and just shout “YES!”. She laughs and replies “I’d love to say it was that simple a process! But in reality was about 6 or 7 weeks of auditions. They flew me to LA for a screen test that was a round trip of 3 days where I didn’t sleep! So 72 hours with, literally, no sleep, and then meetings with directors and discussions with our showrunner about the character… By the time they offered me the role it was like… Phew! Now I can breathe!”
The character Amber plays in the series is a new edition to the Marvel universe created for the tv show, so I asked what she could tell me about her role that wouldn’t have a Marvel SWAT team busting down her door! “Ah yes… This is what I was going over with the Marvel people before the interview, as we finished filming in April, and I couldn’t completely remember what I can and can’t say! But, yes, Dinah Madani is a Homeland Security officer. She’s been in Afghanistan and been stationed there, and her partner is killed. She’s Iranian-American, but completely affiliated with the American way of life, she sees herself as American – that’s what her being is, that’s what she wants to protect, that’s why she does what she does. She’s in Afghanistan but realises something a bit shady is going on and is sent back to New York. So we start the show with her in New York and she’s been sent… something… although I’m not sure I can say what… which leads her to be untrusting of the people around her. She has a new partner [Sam Stein played by Michael Nathanson], she doesn’t know why she’s there, and her investigation leads her to cross paths with Frank Castle… I’m looking out of my windows for sniper rifles now to see if I’ve said too much!”
Moving the questions swiftly on, before Marvel’s Intelligence Services can pin down her location, I ask if she knew much about the world she was getting herself into and if she was a comic book fan. “I’d watched ‘Daredevil’,” she replies. “I hadn’t read the comics beforehand, but I’d watched the shows, just because they are brilliant shows, apart from being comic book shows. I watched because all my friends were like ‘Oh, you have to watch this!’ So I’d seen the representation of Frank Castle by Jon in ‘Daredevil’, but not apart from that. Funnily, my younger sister is completely obsessed with Marvel, just loves it, it’s her raison d’être. She has Marvel hats, t-shirts… She’s like ‘You should get a job on a Marvel show!’, and I’m like… It’s not always that simple! So when it came up, she was brilliant, because she told me about the shows, about the world, the characters. So she became my researcher, the person that’ll give me all my knowledge. When the job came up, she was really excited about that!”
Given her character is a new addition, not only to the MCU but also to the Marvel comic book universe, I was interested to know if that made a difference to her as an actor approaching the role. “I think it does make a difference,” she answers. “In that when I got the part, my research was based more on Homeland and what it’s like for those people, and the logical processes the character would be going through. I think, for a lot of actors, if you’re playing someone from comics, you probably feel you have some sort of responsibility to represent this character in a light that reflects how they were represented in the comic books. Because I didn’t have that, it probably let me be more open in my representation. I was very fortunate as Marvel has a lot of contacts with people, so I had some actual Homeland officers in New York that I managed to get in touch with. I went into Homeland and, basically, harassed them for information about everything, and just talked to them about stuff. Because that was the most important thing for me with the role – to represent them properly. I also talked to a lot of Iranian people, getting the background, to make that authentic. So it was very different.”
I pointed out that Marvel, and comic book shows in general, do have a habit of misdirecting audiences, and sometimes character that appears to be new can morph into established comic book characters. Would she like that to be the case with her role? “You probably know as much as I do,” she laughs. “We’re told most things as everyone else is, but it’s kind of exciting to think where she could go. But for now, all I can do is try and play the role as authentically as possible.”
Whilst Amber is an experienced actor, this role is somewhat of a departure from previous parts she has played in shows such as ‘Indian Summers’. I wondered how she felt landing an all-out action role, and what sort of training she got to prepare her for being a kick-ass Homeland operative. “It’s a very different role for me! We had a brilliant stunt team that came in and trained us over the first month. I had a special shotgun made for me [pictured at the top of the article], which was designed for my height and stature. So it was this mini shotgun which was brilliant! We had an armourer that would always sit with us which was really useful. I also did a bunch of fight training which was fun! There was a lot which pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but like most actors, that’s what I love. I had an incredible stunt woman who was there if I didn’t want to do something, but a lot of the stuff we ended up doing ourselves. That makes it quite intense! It’s exciting and a real challenge, and I hope when we see it that pays off and she looks bad-ass!” she laughs. “That was my main objective, for Dinah Madani to be really bad-ass!”
Another previous role saw Amber star in ‘Emerald City’ opposite Vincent D’Onofrio, who of course, played Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin in ‘Daredevil’. I asked if she’s been in contact to pick up any tips! “I hadn’t read for the role when I was doing ‘Emerald City’, but he’s such a fantastic actor. I love actors that really transform themselves, and he does that so much – vocally, his whole being, physically, the way he looks, it’s just great. Meeting him on ‘Emerald City’ and seeing him as that character, and then thinking about just how different he was in ‘Daredevil’, it was just brilliant. You just realise the transformation that people can make, and I loved him as Fisk, he was just fantastic. So I haven’t been in touch, but I think I must have said when I met him ‘God I loved you in ‘Daredevil’!”
As we come to the end of our interview time, I end with our traditional final questions whenever we talk to people for the site. Firstly, what tv shows are you watching at the moment? “I’m loving ‘Insecure’, I think that’s brilliant! I love the writing, and that it’s young women that are writing and creating. Also the second series of Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master Of None’ which is just hilarious! His co-writer [Alan Yang] actually lives in the building I was staying at in New York, and I had to stop myself from going up to him and saying ‘I love your show so much’, so I’m watching those at the moment. And I just finished ‘The Defenders’, I should get that in there!”
And the final question – If you had the opportunity to work on any show, past, present or future, (not one you’ve been on already), which show would it be? “Ooh… Well I guess, like every other person you must have interviewed has said, ‘Game Of Thrones’,” she laughs. Yes… That does come up quite a lot! “But also, I love ‘Black Mirror’, so I’d be a robot in ‘Black Mirror’. ‘Doctor Who’ I’d be an alien… I’d love to do that! Then ‘Game Of Thrones’ as some sort of monster, if I’m allowed to have three!”
‘The Punisher‘ is due to arrive in November 2017 on Netflix.