In 2011, Thor introduced MCU fans to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), a wry archer operating in the shadows alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. teammate Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Since then, he’s saved the word thrice, lost his family in the Snap, watched Nat sacrifice herself, defeated Thanos, blipped his family back into existence, and officially retired from the Avengers. Now he just wants to enjoy the holidays and mourn Nat. But in the new Disney+ series Hawkeye, his world-weary cynicism is challenged by Kate Bishop, a bubbly and brash 22-year-old who eventually takes on the Hawkeye mantle in the comics.
“She's very personable and grounded,” Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Kate, tells Bustle of her character. “She's such an overachiever, and she’s very easily excitable and overeager. She's just someone you want to be friends with.”
Like Clint, Kate doesn’t have any superhuman powers, and her bevy of skills — including archery, martial arts, fencing, and gymnastics — are all self-taught. But unlike her jaded predecessor, Kate is still an impulsive rookie who often gets herself into trouble. When Clint spots Kate fighting bad guys in his infamous old Ronin outfit, he begrudgingly teams up with her to keep her safe from the various gangs looking to exact their revenge. All the while, Kate has to figure out how to pry her mom Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) away from her new boyfriend Jack (Tony Dalton), who may be even shadier than Kate initially thought.
Though Hawkeye obviously draws from the Marvel comics — most notably from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s 2010s run of the story — it takes several liberties with Kate. The character was first introduced in Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung’s 2005 issue Young Avengers #1 as a spunky wedding attendee who later became the co-leader of the Young Avengers. Estranged from her dad and without a mom, Kate latched onto Hawkeye after he saved her from a kidnapping. She was later sexually assaulted in Central Park, prompting her to learn how to fight and use her skills to take on her own criminal family members.
Hawkeye is still very much the family drama it is in the comics, but it allows Kate to exist without the specter of sexual trauma. Instead, it’s the 2012 Chitauri invasion of New York — during which her father died — that propels Kate to build up her own Avengers skillset.
Below, Steinfeld explains what else you can expect from this new Kate Bishop — and how playing a Victorian era poet in Dickinson prepared her for the role.
How do you think Kate is similar to Clint Barton’s Hawkeye?
I think that much like the Hawkeye that we know and love, she's very human. She doesn't have special powers. Her story is rooted in human strength and strength of mind. She's self-taught, very disciplined, and very determined. And on top of all of that, she’s funny.
What do you think fans of the comics will like about this new iteration of the character?
I think they'll be very happy. It was very fun to implement the banter, for instance, between Kate and Clint. Luckily that was something Jeremy and I found very quickly ... there are these tragic events taking place and there's still this witty, quick banter that they seem to find.
Can we talk about the fantastic fitted suits she wears?
Yes! It was very fun. We wanted her to feel like she was constantly at the ready, so the suits are something that she finds functional, yet still chic and cool.
In the comics, Kate learns martial arts after she’s assaulted, but that is obviously not the case in the show. What were the conversations like about changing her backstory?
It was definitely something we spoke about. [This version of] Kate, as a young woman growing up in New York City, can walk down the street and own herself and her strength. She can take anybody on, and [we wanted that to be] because she decided for herself that that was something she wanted to be able to do.
In the comics, it's Kate's mom — not her dad — who's dead. But in the show, Eleanor is very much alive. How would you describe their relationship?
It’s rather complicated, as mother-daughter relationships can be. Especially in your 20s, you're trying to figure out who you are. You want to come into your own, and [your parent] is still the person you want to go to when you're upset or frustrated, but then you don't like what they have to say! There's a lot of this push and pull. They have a deep-rooted love for each other, but they're completely different people, and Kate is having this realization that maybe her mom isn't who she thought she was.
We also see Kate clash with Eleanor’s boyfriend, Jack. What is it about Jack that Kate dislikes, even from the get-go?
I think it's the idea that he's taking the place of her father. He's sitting at the dinner table where he used to sit, and that's strange for her. He's in her space. That's a hard thing for anybody to adjust to, so Kate is very skeptical of this guy. She’s got a bone to pick with him because she doesn't feel that he can — or anyone can — ever replace her father.
On the flip side, Kate has been idolizing Clint since she lost her dad in 2012. What do you think he means and represents to Kate, especially when they meet for the first time?
It's amazing that in that moment we see Kate experience this loss, she discovers this hope and strength in Hawkeye. She idolizes him for being somebody who wanted to help people. There is that connection to her father, [but] whether Clint is a father figure, brother figure, or mentor — those dynamics are [all] there. He's ultimately this person who looks out for her and who cares about her. He’s also equally as into adventure and excitement and risk-taking as she is, and as her dad was.
There are times when Kate couldn't be more annoying to Clint, and then there are times when they’re actually collaborating and have a true partnership. They have these really subtle, still moments where Kate feels like this is somebody who she can trust. And we learn quickly that there are few people she feels that way about.
When she's first introduced in the comics, Kate is romantically linked with Eli Bradley, who appeared in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I know Eli isn't in the show, but is romance part of Kate's journey in any way?
It's really more about the love that she has for her family. That's where all of this is stemming from. I also think that's one huge similarity between Kate and Clint: they are incredibly family-oriented. The whole [show] is him trying to get back to his family, and Kate trying to protect hers.
The MCU can be overwhelming with all of the green screens and intense physical training. What was it like going from something like Dickinson to this?
I was on the set of Dickinson when I got the call that I got this job and all I could think was, “Oh my God, yes, I get to take this corset off!” And then I'm in this suit that is equally as constricting, believe it or not, as that corset.
So although it’s two completely different worlds and characters. I felt really grateful for my experience on Dickinson. It was also helpful to have spent a little time in the TV space, so I didn’t walk into this completely blindsided. It was definitely a challenge, and Jeremy knew that regardless of what I had done in my career in the past, this was going to be different. So I’m grateful that I had him — somebody who's been in this world for over 10 years — to be there and to help me through it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.