Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Ben Barnes said even he was disturbed by the scarred face, shaved head and goatee his villain character Billy Russo/Jigsaw has adopted for Season 2 of Netflix's The Punisher, which starts streaming Friday.
The first season of the comic-book adaptation ended with an epic showdown between Russo and Jon Bernthal's anti-hero Frank Castle near an amusement park merry-go-round.
Castle left his fellow, former Marine and best friend barely alive, but with a disfigured face and traumatic brain injury.
As Season 2 kicks off, Russo remains hospitalized and wears a blank, white face mask to disguise his wounds. He later decorates it to look like the terrifying skull he sees in his nightmares.
"I tried on this mask and realized how powerful it makes you feel to be not seen and hidden and how threatening a neutral face can be in that way," Barnes told UPI in a phone interview Monday, adding how he tried to take the look to the next level with the unfamiliar hairstyle.
"It was disconcerting the first few days. I would look in the mirror and think, 'Who is that person with the shaved head and this goatee?' And then, obviously, we added the scarring," he said.
The scars -- which took 90 minutes to two hours to apply each day -- were intended to be more subtle than they are in the comic books since the show focuses primarily on Russo's fractured state of mind and a narcissist's fall from grace than it does on the loss of Billy's looks, said the 37-year-old actor, who is known for his roles in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Easy Virtue and Dorian Gray.
"We wanted it to be about how he feels about himself, not about other people being horrified by how he looks," Barnes said of Russo's new appearance.
Figuring it out
Most of the main characters in the first season of The Punisher are veterans or government officials who served in foreign wars. Castle and Russo are highly skilled soldiers who can't escape the ramifications of a black ops mission they were part of in Afghanistan even after they arrive back home in the United States.
After Castle's wife and two children are murdered, he becomes a vigilante, slaying the people he believes are responsible for their deaths, as well as the assorted bad guys he encounters along the way who are committing other nefarious deeds.
Meanwhile, Russo leads his own, lucrative military contracting company and tries to kill Castle for fear he will reveal what really happened in Kandahar.
A theme that is repeated throughout Season 1 and continues in Season 2 is how police, government and military officials in this world frequently "redirect the narrative." That is, amend testimony and records to reflect their accounts of incidents.
"It's that whole 'history is written by the victors,' isn't it?" Barnes said.
"In the current climate, to have a character who is a narcissist and an egoist and a bully on a lot of levels -- for me in the first season more than the second season -- to allow history to be written by those people is a very dangerous thing."
In the second season, Russo is trying to put the narrative back together for himself, escaping from the hospital where he was recovering and embarking on a new criminal career.
"That such a terrible person with such a fractured past and such a traumatic present could think of themselves as being the person who is in the right; that, to me, is a very interesting contemporary theme," he said.
Castle gets a teen sidekick
Giorgia Whigham from 13 Reasons Why brings some levity to the show's second season as Castle's unlikely partner, a teen con artist named Amy.
Castle has been traveling under an assumed name when he rescues Amy from several people trying to kill her in a Michigan bar.
He brings her back to New York and, with the help of Dinah Madani, an ally in the Department of Homeland Security (played by Amber Rose Revah,) continues to protect Amy from the powerful men who want the incriminating photos she has in her possession and who have already executed the friends who were part of her blackmail scheme.
Amy is initially resentful and suspicious of Castle, but the law-skirting pair ultimately bonds, with the sarcastic, resourceful Amy reminding the vigilante of the daughter he lost.
"She added a new dimension to the show -- a bit of humor and a bit of youthfulness to a show that is so hard and, at times, is really scary and intense, so I was really drawn to that," Whigham told UPI In a separate interview.
The 21-year-old daughter of Vice and Boardwalk Empire actor Shea Whigham said she was ready to tackle any action sequences that her job on The Punisher required.
"Obviously, I don't get thrown over the bar. That was my double," she laughed. "But a little bruising, a little banged up, that's not too much for me to handle."
Her other credits include TV's Scream and Dirty John.