'The Punisher' Cast On Their Favorite Kind Of Fake Blood & This Season's "Brutal" Fight Scenes

by Sydney Bucksbaum
Cara Howe/Netflix

There are more fight scenes, more broken bones and more blood spilled per episode of Marvel's The Punisher than most TV shows have throughout an entire series run. It comes with the territory, as Jon Bernthal's titular Frank Castle doesn't have any superpowers; he just makes it his mission to pound the living daylights out of every criminal and bad guy who crosses his path. But what exactly does it take to bring the graphic and realistic fight scenes in The Punisher Season 2 from the script to the screen? Along with skilled choreographers and professional stunt people and coordinators, one thing really ends up bringing The Punisher aesthetic to life. Buckets and buckets of fake blood.

When The Punisher Season 2 drops this Friday on Netflix, fans can expect all the intensity and brutal violence from the first season dialed up even more in the new batch of episodes, and with that means even more fake blood. "It's so sticky!" Giorgia Whigham, the newest addition to The Punisher cast for Season 2, tells Bustle during a recent press junket. "I remember this one scene, my hands were covered in it and they were so sticky. I couldn't touch anything or else it would just stick to my hands."

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Practical downsides of the fake blood aside, Whigham, who plays a young teen who gets caught up in Frank Castle's world for mysterious reasons in Season 2, loved getting to see the ins and outs of how Hollywood magic can make an actor look like they've just been through a knock-down, drag-out fight. "I'm such a big horror person so it was cool to see how it's all done," she says.

Amber Rose Revah, sitting next to her co-star and onscreen nemesis Ben Barnes, jokes that "about 50 to 60 percent of the blood you see is real blood through the season." Both Revah and Barnes, who play Homeland agent Dinah Madani and her former lover turned attempted murderer Billy Russo, respectively, spend a good chunk of time having to spit and choke on blood all throughout Season 2 as their rivalry continues onscreen. And that meant having to swallow a lot of fake blood throughout production.

"It's much like different wines," Barnes says of the fake blood. "There are different brands of blood and I found that I had a real distaste for one of them. One of the brands of it tasted like soap to me, so when you've got it in your mouth, it was so bitter, like a really acrid coffee, really syrupy and horrible." He laughs, then sheepishly adds, "I've never felt more precious or diva-ish in my life when I was like, 'Can we use the other brand of fake blood please in tomorrow's choking, gurgling scene? Can we use the nicer blood?'"

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That "nicer" blood, according to Revah, was a brand of blood that was mostly sugar. "I don't have a sweet tooth but when you have so much adrenaline running — " she says, and Barnes jumps in with, "And you've got low blood sugar... "

"A little bit of sugar each take is brilliant," Revah finishes with a laugh.

While both Barnes and Revah spend a lot of time choking and gurgling on fake blood this season, they were both relieved they didn't have to spend as much time swallowing it as Bernthal.

"Did you know that Jon has his own little bottle of blood that he keeps in – you know his Punisher belt, he's got his gun and his grenades and stuff? In the back, in those little back pockets, he's got his own little bottle [of fake blood]," Barnes reveals. "So I asked for one too. Otherwise it's someone coming up to you like a dentist going, 'Open up!'"

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In order to make production more efficient, Barnes started doing his own blood work and sprayed a little bottle of fake blood into his own mouth just like Bernthal (who Barnes imitates quite well as he "revs himself up" before each take, blood bottle sprays and all). "With [Billy] being that much more intense and off the scale this season, I was like, I think I've earned a little blood bottle," he adds. "So I got one and I would hide it behind lamps and under cushions because I didn't have a cool Punisher belt."

"It's a nightmare with hair," Revah says. "The fake blood gets gooey in longer hair, it takes like three washes. Towards the end, after like six months of doing the show, there were a couple of days — and I hate to admit it but — I wandered into work with blood in my hair at like five in the morning."

As real and terrifying as the fake blood looks on the actors as they filmed all their fight scenes, it's apparently even more of a nightmare to deal with at the end of the day. "It kind of sucks," Whigham says with a laugh. "You have to use a lot of shaving cream. The shaving cream is what gets the pigment out and makes it not as sticky. You use shaving cream then wet wipes then shaving cream then wet wipes, over and over and over again."

For one major scene in the upcoming Season 2, Whigham had to be covered in fake blood while outside during the winter. "It got super freezing," she remembers. "And the fake sweat comes in a can and you just spray that all over yourself and it mixes together. Jon is always the first one to run [after filming ends] because he's like, 'I'm done, I gotta go shower!'"

Cara Howe/Netflix

While Bernthal certainly has the worst of it when it comes to the fake blood, the women on the show have their own set of problems when it comes to washing off all the fake blood and sweat.

"It's a nightmare with hair," Revah says. "The fake blood gets gooey in longer hair, it takes like three washes. Towards the end, after like six months of doing the show, there were a couple of days — and I hate to admit it but — I wandered into work with blood in my hair at like five in the morning."

Barnes throws his head back and laughs at her confession before defending her. It's clear that the onscreen animosity between Madani and Russo is completely for show, as Revah and Barnes joke around with each other with the care of close friends.

Cara Howe/Netflix

"It does escalate as you get towards the end of the season, there is more and more and more blood and you go home feeling broken and sticky," Barnes adds. "But when you get into a hot shower at the end of the day to wash the blood off, you feel like you tried your hardest today. I've got bruises and scrapes and I sweated and caked this blood into myself with adrenaline and intensity and something feels good about that. You feel like you earned it."

Barnes should know, as he's speaking completely from experience. Looking back on the first season of The Punisher, he remembers how intimidated he was at first of Bernthal and the idea that Billy Russo would somehow have to be a match, pound-for-pound, against Frank Castle as he becomes the Marvel supervillain Jigsaw.

"When you've got Jon growling and running at you, screaming and sweating and spitting blood, you have to be prepared," he says. "He punched me in the face at least three times in the course of those few days. Just because he didn't like me. He didn't like my lip."

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It was important for Barnes to feel like he not only could hold his own against Bernthal but also be able to do as many of the stunts as possible. He believes that it looks better onscreen if it's "actor fighting actor" and not constantly cutting to the back of a stunt fighter pretending to be the character. But that also means that sometimes, if an actor is doing a lot of the fighting, things can go too far in the moment.

"When you're actually doing the fight scenes, the way we prepare and get into character, they shout action and you have all this going on around you," Revah explains. "You have these brutal intentions of what you're going for and a lot of the time it's difficult to not get carried away and really just go for it."

Cara Howe/Netflix

Barnes then throws an apologetic smile over to Revah. "There's a scene in the second season where we're really choking each other out and I wasn't going easy," Barnes teases. "I was throwing her on the ground and choking her. I did slam you into the wall a few times."

Revah laughs, then adds, "He slammed me like whoa."

Barnes then throws his hands in the air and joins her in laughing, this time at himself. "Literally I knew that was what she was talking about!" he shouts with a huge, self-deprecating smile. "I picked her up off the ground and slammed her and she was like, 'Owww.' I felt so awful."

Revah's biggest injury to date was the previously mentioned incident where Barnes "smashed [her] into a wall" which left her "quite shaken" afterwards. "I had to leave the studios and just stand outside for 10 minutes," she says. "No one could find me and everyone was stressing."

With all the special effects makeup and fake blood and broken props, there's a lot of pressure to get a huge fight scene like that right the first time. Otherwise, "it's going to take an hour to reset it properly," Barnes adds. "You want to get it right, that reaction, exactly timed perfectly. Everyone's stressing about that and they wanted me to slam her against the way in that same shot, so I've got adrenaline, I'm worried about this, I want it to be right, there's all this pressure and you want it to be fierce and intense as well. So I'm so sorry, but I forgot about your head."

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Revah continues to laugh and waves her hand. "But I was okay and I'm here," she says.

That's just one instance of many in which The Punisher fight scenes have gone wrong in the moment during filming. Barnes recalls "getting punched in the face by Jon" multiple times. "Last season I injured myself so many times," he adds. "I broke a toe, I sprained something in my shoulder. I was a mess most of last season. Jon hurt himself this season quite badly doing some fights."

Revah's biggest injury to date was the previously mentioned incident where Barnes "smashed [her] into a wall" which left her "quite shaken" afterwards. "I had to leave the studios and just stand outside for 10 minutes," she says. "No one could find me and everyone was stressing."

Barnes apologizes again, before defending himself. "You were the one who said, 'Fight me like you fight Jon!' And I was like, well, okay," he adds with a smile.

"I know!" Revah laughs again. "I never want to back down."

Cara Howe/Netflix

It's that kind of attitude that Barnes credits with giving The Punisher its realistic and authentic feel, since all the actors throw themselves into the fighting despite the risk of personal injury. "It's brutal and we try to make that honest," Barnes says, before another memory pops into his head. He turns to Revah and adds, "I did think your stunt double was actually going to choke me to death. I remember that one take the director was like, 'Okay, keep going! Keep going! More! Hold it! You're dying! You're choking! Keep going!' I was just like, please god."

Both Revah and Barnes start laughing once again. "After that take, she probably choked me for a full two minutes or so and she is fierce," Barnes continues. "I definitely needed a break after that take for sure. I thought I was going to pass out. I was supposed to so that was helpful. Any time you can trick yourself into feeling that feeling, like when the director finally said, 'Pass out!' I was like, 'Done!'"

Thankfully all the actors made it out of this season alive. But will their characters find the same lucky fate? You'll have to stream The Punisher Season 2 to find out.