Frank Castle hunts down bad guys with deadly force in Marvel’s The Punisher, but the brutal vigilante couldn’t do it all alone. In the new Netflix series, he’s aided by an NSA analyst turned renegade hacker named David Leiberman, a.k.a. “Micro.” With the ability to effortlessly access cameras and control drones, Micro aids the Punisher as his eyes in the sky and ears on the ground. Since David inhabits the wide-open Marvel Cinematic Universe, one would think his skills behind a computer would land him a cushy job at Stark Industries. David wouldn’t have uncovered government secrets that forced him to run away from his family if he was gainfully employed.
But to Ebon Moss-Bacharach, who plays David/Micro in the new Marvel/Netflix production, it’s just not in Micro’s DNA to have a boss like Tony Stark.
“I think David/Micro is more of an iconoclast, a vigilante and an outsider,” Bacharach tells Inverse in a phone interview. “He’s happier to be working with Frank, high and light, just dudes in a van, no corporate memos. Nothing like that. They’re both outsiders, and not into bosses.”
Best known for his stints in the TV shows Damages and HBO’s Girls, Moss-Bacharach plays a newly-reimagined David/Micro in the interconnected MCU. A dramatic departure from the greasy, overweight Micro from Marvel’s comics in the ‘90s, David is now a family man who is paying the consequences for what he believes was doing the right thing. Moss-Bacharach says that the ubiquity of technology and the increasingly known need for cybersecurity (and frequent lack of it) forced a change in how the MCU brought Micro to life.
“He’s not some kind of weird anomaly anymore, this guy in his mom’s garage building motherboards,” Moss-Bacharach says. “This is front page news for years now.”
Mastery over computers has long-ceased to solely be the domain of uber nerds before Edward Snowden, but the ex-CIA employee’s leak of classified information in 2013 — in which Snowden revealed the scary deep reach of the NSA — made cybersecurity mainstream. This allowed even Marvel, a fictional universe that has misused gamma radiation for decades, to tap into the zeitgeist with an obscure character from its comic book library.
Moss-Bacharach says he found two ways to hack into Micro’s head. The first was through his own experience as a father of two. “It seemed like the most important thing, to me, was that he’s a focused man who had his family taken,” he says. “I can understand that as a father. That was my starting point: just determined to get back, to reunite with his family. It’s through that desire where his story starts with Frank.”
The second was Moss-Bacharach’s own interest in cybersecurity, whistleblowers, and the military, all of which have a predominant role in The Punisher through both Micro and Frank’s origin stories. “I obviously did as much research as I could,” he says, revealing he read Jeremy Scahill’s 2013 nonfiction book Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and watched the 2014 documentary Citizenfour. In The Punisher, Frank reluctantly participated in way off-the-books military operations when he was a Marine, such as targeted killings of Afghanistan nationals funded through “black budgets” (explored in Dirty Wars) while Micro is a milder take on Snowden and whistleblowers.
“The movie Citizenfour was very interesting to me in terms of how someone, from a practical standpoint, what someone like Edward Snowden did to release the information,” says Moss-Bacharach, “Where he went, how he went, the timeline. I was reading a lot of stuff. As much as I can, I always try to cast a wide net and see what sticks.”
Of course, there were comics, too, which Moss-Bacharach had access to via Marvel Unlimited. “I was just reading all Punisher stuff I could get my hands on. I was given this Marvel all access thing, a database that had been digitized. So I was going through stuff, and I wasn’t always sure where they’re from. I was into Punisher MAX and Punisher Noir. I love that series.”
But no amount of reading brings the world of Frank Castle to life more than working alongside him every day on set. “When you’re there, working with somebody that you love to work with, the Punisher becomes this living, breathing, person. It takes on a more immediacy, says Moss-Bacharach. “It becomes less iconic and legendary and more personal. Even vulnerable.”
Marvel’s The Punisher is streaming now on Netflix.