Years before Jon Bernthal's Punisher and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin crossed paths in Netflix and Marvel's Daredevil, D'Onofrio encouraged Bernthal in the young actor's first television role. Bernthal made his TV debut guest-starring opposite D'Onofrio in Dick Wolf's Law & Order spinoff Criminal Intent, playing Lane Ruddock in the Season 2 episode "Malignant" in 2002. On the road to starring roles in The Walking Dead and Marvel's The Punisher, Bernthal appeared as a supporting actor in episodes of CSI: Miami, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and How I Met Your Mother. Recounting his early career rejections in an interview with The New York Times, Bernthal revealed the exchange with D'Onofrio he remembers 20 years later:
"I remember being so wide-eyed and so naïve," Bernthal recalled of his start as a guest star on established television shows. "One of the first TV sets I walked into, they told me to go to hair and makeup, and I didn't know what hair and makeup was. So I just went into a trailer, and the lead of the show was changing in that trailer and she yelled, 'Get out,' and threw a shoe right at my head. I had to do a scene with her that day!"
"It took a real long time for me to feel comfortable on-set. I remember Vincent D'Onofrio talked to me after a take when I did his show [Law & Order: Criminal Intent], and he said, 'Hey, what you did there was pretty good,'" Bernthal said. "Something like that can carry you through months of rejection. I always try to remember that with young actors, because the littlest thing can keep you going."
D'Onofrio's words were a contrast to the rejection Bernthal had suffered as a young actor auditioning for casting directors.
"When you look at the entertainment industry, it's amazing how doors are slammed in your face. I remember casting directors looking at my big nose and my giant ears and just being like, 'What are you doing here?'" he told The New York Times. "Feeling like you don't belong, agents never returning your phone calls. You get so much rejection and people make you feel so small, and the second that things start to change for you, those same people all want something."
Bernthal and D'Onofrio would reunite years later in Season 2 of Daredevil and again in the Sandra Bullock-starring crime drama The Unforgivable. Both are available to stream now on Netflix.