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Hawkeye's season 1 finale saw not only the introduction of new major players in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also the return of a fan favorite: Vincent D'Onofrio's portrayal of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin.
The legendary comic big bad first made his on-screen debut back in the Daredevil series -- part of Marvel's Netflix originals that also included The Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And fans were just as delighted to see him return onscreen as D'Onofrio was to don the character's white suit and cane once again.
"I just love the character, Wilson Fisk," the actor raved to ET in a recent Zoom interview. "I think he's a very complicated dude."
D'Onofrio doesn't have official Marvel confirmation as to Fisk's fate during "The Blip" -- the five-year period that followed Thanos' genocidal finger snap, which occurred between the timelines of his Daredevil introduction and Hawkeye return -- but one thing he can confirm is that the mob boss' "kingdom came crashing down a bit" in the aftermath.
"And so, over the years, he's been trying to build things back up again," he added. "When we meet him in Hawkeye, he wants his city back."
That pursuit finds the Kingpin entangled with two new MCU heroes, Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop and newcomer Alaqua Cox, who plays Maya Lopez.
"They're very impressive," D'Onofrio said of the young actresses who both have intense face offs with Fisk in the season finale. "They're these young talented people and so different and so unique, but they both have the same kind of work ethic...Their presence on set is definitely strong, and they are just a pleasure to knock the ball back and forth with when the cameras roll. So that's like, a perfect day for me."
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Marvel President Kevin Feige on Why 'Hawkeye' is Set at Christmas Time (Exclusive)
One of the most thrilling moments in Hawkeye's final episode is a comic book-worthy toy store fight sequence between Kate and Kingpin that D'Onofrio called "extravagant and fun."
"It's quite technically involved to shoot those things," he recalled. "But the overall general feeling of acting it with Hailee is pretty much... From my point of view, she is just a fly, and I'm the flyswatter. And it felt like from her point of view, she needs to protect the city and her family from me. And I believe that comes across."
When it comes to Fisk's interactions with Maya, however, there are personal wrinkles that make the relationship more complicated. According to her backstory, which was teased throughout Hawkeye's first season and will likely be further explored in the upcoming Echo standalone series, Maya has known Fisk since she was a young girl. Her father worked for him, and was ultimately killed by the Ronin after being tipped off by someone within Fisk's organization.
Fisk even showed in the Hawkeye finale that he's learned some ASL in order to communicate with Maya. But whether that was motivated by compassion or control remains just as murky as the Kingpin's business dealings. "The best thing about Wilson Fisk is that he evokes questions [like that]," D'Onofrio said with a smile
The pair's final encounter ends on an ominous note, as Maya -- seeking retribution for her father's death -- pulls a gun on the man she once referred to as "Uncle." But the actual shot happens off-screen, leaving Fisk's fate unclear. Astute comic fans have also noted that Fisk's final words to Maya -- about how "sometimes family doesn't see eye to eye" -- recall a Marvel storyline in which Maya shoots Kingpin in the head, blinding but not killing him.
"It's open-ended in so many ways," D'Onofrio said of his character's potential future in the MCU. "It's not open-ended in just Hawkeye, but it's open-ended for me as an actor, too. I'm left in this kind of great, wonderful, mysterious position where I don't what's next."
D'Onofrio noted that it's not the first time he's been faced with the question of whether or not his character will return, but added that it's "no secret" that he hopes to play Fisk again in the future.
"I think there's a lot of facets of this character that haven't been explored yet. And I really want to do that," he said. "When I was doing research for Daredevil and trying to develop how I was going to play him... I think I read everything, basically, and there are so many storylines that I would like to explore."
The actor, who grew up reading Marvel comics like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Punisher and Captain America, also noted that there's plenty of ways that the Kingpin could insert his hulking presence in the MCU's future productions.
"Fisk is in Punisher, Daredevil and Spider-Man," he said of the comic canon. "And then I consider what's going on now and how he could fall into place in so many other things. I mean, these are only hopes and dreams of an actor, so who knows?"
Marvel fans already have confirmation that Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock will be a part of the MCU, so who else from the Netflix series would D'Onofrio like to see again in the MCU?
"I mean, all of them," he admitted. "I think everybody did such a great job, but I do have to say that Deborah [Ann Woll], her Karen Page was just perfection, I think."
"I actually had the pleasure of doing a pretty iconic scene with her, when it comes to the fans of Daredevil," he shared, recalling Karen's first confrontation with Fisk in season 3, when she admits to killing Fisk's right-hand man, James Wesley.
"It really is only popular for one reason, in my mind. And that's because of the talent of Deborah," D'Onofrio added. "Her Karen Page needs to be explored. In a perfect world, I would think that her character would be explored."
Hawkeye's first season is streaming now on Disney+.