Editor's note: The below interview contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Hawkeye.
Hawkeye, which premiered with its first two episodes on Disney+ today, picks up with the continuing story of the MCU two years after the universe-changing circumstances of Avengers: Endgame. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is hoping to spend a quiet and uneventful Christmas with his family, but those plans get derailed quickly when his path crosses with that of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a skilled archer who has her own personal history with Hawkeye. The series also promises to follow up on the aftermath of the MCU film Black Widow, which saw Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) being mistakenly led to believe that Clint was responsible for Natasha Romanoff's (Scarlett Johansson) death on Vormir. The show also stars Vera Farmiga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Zahn McClarnon, Brian d'Arcy James, and Alaqua Cox, as well as Jolt the Golden Retriever as Lucky the Pizza Dog.
Ahead of the premiere on Disney+, Collider had the chance to speak with Hawkeye head writer Jonathan Igla about the first two episodes. During the interview, Igla broke down the significance of the show's Avengers-set opening scene, why the Ronin suit was the catalyst that brought Kate and Clint together, and that hilarious montage revolving around Clint's hearing aid. He also shared how much the writers knew about the Black Widow end credits scene in advance, wanting to see a version of that Captain America musical in real life, and why Echo was the character to introduce alongside the Tracksuit Mafia.
Collider: In terms of the MCU at large, how much are you aware of going into this show? For example, the end credit scene in Black Widow. Is that the kind of thing where you're already aware of what's coming down the pipeline, and so in terms of working on the story, you're trying to fit it in within that larger MCU narrative?
JONATHAN IGLA: So this is a complicated question to answer, not because of secrecy. It's a real mixture. Certainly, when I went into pitch up on the show, all I knew was the movies that had been released, as a fan. There were a few things that, I would say, we mostly learned about what was going on on some of the other shows by pitching ideas and being told. For the first couple of weeks, we got a lot of replies that the writers that were developing [The Falcon and the] Winter Soldier [were already] doing that.
So that was some of it. And then, with some of the other things, it was a little bit of me sort of putting in requests where I thought they were sensible. Certainly, once we started talking about Yelena, it became clear that I, and the writing staff, was going to need to get to see Black Widow, which we were all desperately eager to do anyway. So, that was specifically relevant to us. But I thought doing a show about Clint as Natasha's best friend dealing with her loss, there were going to be some things in Black Widow that were worth us knowing about anyway. So, really, the short answer is we didn't know a ton, but when things were directly relevant to us we would find out, we would be told. Or if we thought that something would be really directly relevant to us, then I would seek out some answers and sometimes be able to get them, and sometimes not.
That makes a lot of sense, knowing Marvel secrecy. I loved the first scene of this first episode basically replaying the battle of New York through young Kate Bishop's perspective. It felt like a new way to retell this event that fans are so familiar with already. Was that something that you had outlined from the jump, that you knew you wanted to do?
IGLA: Yeah, that was part of my original pitch when I went into Marvel. I can't remember exactly where it initially came from, but it was definitely one of the very first things that I came up with. Partly, I was already thinking a little bit in terms of wanting to set up the notion of there being different points of view. That ends up being not as important in the series as I initially thought it might be, but in the comic books that, obviously, heavily influenced the series that everybody at Marvel loves, that I love so much, the Matt Fraction/David Aja run. And in Matt Fraction's, generally, he plays with point of view in a really fun and fascinating way.
Initially telling that story again that we are so familiar with, but from a totally different point of view, from young Kate's point of view, was also a way that I thought I could establish a convention of jumping back and forth a little bit in time and seeing things from different perspectives — which again, didn't end up being a big narrative part of the show, but was part of my initial thoughts.
I've always been fascinated by the way that we psychologically... the way that we pair events in our brain that are either only a little bit related, or not really related, or that we think happened at the same time and maybe didn't. There was a moment in the premiere of the last half of the last season of Mad Men where we did something like this, where Don has not found out that Rachel Menken had died. And he's talking to that waitress, and she sort of challenges him to think hard about the order that some of these things that he thought were coincidental had happened in.
So this is a very roundabout way of saying [that] I wanted to pair the death of Kate's father with her seeing Hawkeye. Because the trauma of losing a parent, and also an alien invasion right outside your window — which, apart from the death of a parent, is obviously a gigantic, terrifying, traumatizing event. Seeing [Hawkeye] who is not out of control in that moment, but seems completely in control, even though it's completely terrifying. [For] Kate, somebody who doesn't have superpowers, that felt like the type of thing that would make a lifelong lasting mark on a child.
I know you're probably going to get asked so much about Rogers: The Musical, which is honestly delightful in so many ways, but one of the things that struck me watching it was the very quiet moment we get of Clint clearly missing Natasha, even with all the hilarity and the grand spectacle of this stage musical. Is that something that we're going to see throughout these episodes, more of these little moments of him still mourning that loss?
IGLA: Broadly speaking, my answer is going to be, "You have to stay tuned." But certainly, Clint's grief and his feelings of guilt over Natasha's death inform his arc, and inform his relationship with Kate in a direct way. As a writer, I'm always looking to introduce important emotional information, or important psychological information disguised in something that is funny, or exciting, or surprising. So the musical gives us an opportunity to do that.
Something that I haven't said about the musical is that I was excited. I'm using the word excited so much. I should stop saying it so much. One of the things that that musical represents to me is the reality of the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm always interested in really imagining what it's like to live in that world. That's a part of Kate's story, obviously. It's a part of the idea of reimagining the events of the first Avengers movie, which we all remember as fans, but to think about that experience from the point of view of somebody who was not a superhero, who was not expecting it, who hadn't seen trailers for it, but was just living their life and then suddenly heard it outside their window. Inhabiting that world, thinking about the reality of that world.
It makes sense that somebody would think this is fertile ground for a Broadway musical. It makes sense that within the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, somebody would look at the story of Steve Rogers and think, "This man is an American hero, and he's an inspiring figure, and I think that we can inspire audiences and entertain them and get them to come and watch something about his story."
I feel like you're going to have to anticipate that people, at some point, are really going to want to see this musical happen in real life.
IGLA: I mean, me too.
I want to talk about the plotline that brings Kate and Clint together, which is Kate stealing and wearing the Ronin suit and getting caught on camera. It seemed like a really visual way to illustrate Clint's past as Ronin kind of resurrecting itself. Is that past maybe not as in the past as he wants it to be, or thought it would be?
IGLA: A series that is going to tell the story of Kate Bishop getting to meet and team up with her childhood hero is going to rely on some sort of an event to bring them together, and probably a coincidence. And when I'm trying to find the kind of coincidence that kicks off a story — which is, in good writing, really the only totally acceptable time for a coincidence. At the beginning, kicking off a story. I want it to be as coincidental and accidental as possible. Kate has a really good reason to go down the steps in that hotel to that black-market auction. And it has nothing to do with Hawkeye. It has nothing to do with the Ronin suit. And her desire to help people is why she ends up putting it on.
And I think that finding ways to motivate the characters into the coincidence is always a fun challenge. For Clint, [it's] that moment of seeing the Ronin suit on TV, especially paired with his kids' reaction of like, "Look how cool this is." Lila thinks that it's awesome that the ninja saved that dog, which, in a small way, was important to plant in Clint's mind, that the person wearing that costume may not be a bad guy, which obviously he quickly realizes. And that moment of seeing the Ronin costume pop up again is exactly the nightmare that has woken Clint up since he thought that it was dead and buried.
One of the funniest snapshot moments is the explanation montage for why Clint needs a hearing aid now. What was the process behind figuring out what that was going to look like and basically distilling it down to the series of events that probably contributed to it?
IGLA: Part of the thought process behind the whole idea was that I wanted to feel — because Clint is a guy without superpowers, he's in great shape, and he knows how to take a punch, but there is a lasting impact on his life from all of the blows that he has taken over the years. And we just wanted to remind the audience of the scale of things that he has been through, partly in contrast to the scale of the challenge that it feels like he's facing now. In terms of picking the moments, I think that what I suggested was, "Let's think of the biggest, most cinematic, expensive-looking explosion and Avengers-level offense that he has been through." Also, my memory of it now is that medically what we either were told or saw in the research was that it was likely a compounding problem. So it felt like a series of things that led up to that.
Kate and Clint's first conversation at her apartment feels like it's really the scene that defines their relationship from the jump. Was there a version of that used in auditions when Hailee [Steinfeld] was cast?
IGLA: I guess I can say the scene was not written yet when she was cast. We wrote the show knowing that she was Kate Bishop. The same way that we approached Clint, trying to tailor the part to Jeremy. I mean, Hailee's absolutely perfect casting for Kate Bishop. And certainly, now that people are going to see the show, everybody will know it, but we tried to write for her. We tried to write for her voice.
The closer in Episode 2 reveals that Echo is working with the Tracksuit Mafia and clearly has her own designs on Clint Barton. Based on the story you're trying to tell, why did she feel like the right character to end up working with the Tracksuit Bros?
IGLA: To some degree, it's possibly a sort of boring process answer, or a boring practical answer. We developed a wishlist of characters that we wanted to include in the show, and some of them are obvious natural fits, like the Tracksuit Mafia from those Matt Fraction/David Aja comics. They have become, in the last decade, a classic Hawkeye villain. And then there were other characters that we wanted to include that I made a case for, like Maya. And then it became, to some degree, just a practical matter of, how could Maya fit into the show? Where is a natural place for her? Who is she? Who is she related to? Who is she working with? Where does she fit into the story? And that's sort of the boring practical answer.
I have time for one more quick question, but this is just to satisfy my own curiosity. Who gave Lucky the Pizza Dog a bath? Because at one point he's very dirty, and then the next time we see him, he's very clean.
IGLA: I'm going to half-dodge the question because I think that he is actually very wet. Otherwise, we don't know what he gets up to in his spare time while Kate was out checking out Armand's apartment. Maybe he jumped into the shower.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye are available to stream on Disney+, with new episodes airing weekly each Wednesday.
They also reveal what it’s really like behind-the-scenes when you’re filming a big action set piece for Marvel.