As a lifelong comic and film geek, starring in the new Netflix series, Marvel’s The Punisher, is a dream for actor Michael Nathanson.
Based on the comic book of the same name, Marvel’s The Punisher follows former Marine Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal, aka Shane from The Walking Dead), known throughout New York City as “The Punisher.” After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, Castle uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family. Michael plays Sam Stein, a Department of Homeland Security agent, who gets partnered with Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), an Iranian-American Department of Homeland Security agent stationed in Afghanistan, who returns to New York City for an investigation that leads her to cross paths with Castle.
Dinah is initially skeptical of Stein as he’s very different from her. Stein is an anti-hero, but of the bureaucratic establishment. His past decisions have haunted him as well, and deep down he wants his life to mean something. When Dinah comes into his life, he begins to find his purpose. Like all the characters in the show, Stein desperately yearns for a sense of belonging, but is always wrestling with his demons.
After speaking with Michael, we have to say we are exhausted just thinking about his busy schedule (which includes being Dad to twin girls). Michael tells us everything from where to get the best fried chicken and tiki drinks in Brooklyn to his run-in with the great Luke Skywalker.
Tell us a bit about the projects you are working on.
I currently appear as Series Regular ‘Sam Stein’ on Marvel’s The Punisher, which is streaming on Netflix now. It’s a dream come true to be a part of the Marvel Universe! In addition, you can catch me in the new season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon, and I’m currently filming a Guest Star role on CBS’ Madam Secretary. I am also in development on a TV Single Cam Comedy Pilot about Dads in Brooklyn, called Drop-Off. On the film side of things, I play the lead role in the indie romantic dramedy feature Can’t Have You, which will be making the rounds at festivals in 2018. I am also in development on a feature I co-wrote with Amy Lowe Starbin (Kelly & Cal) and will be starring in and co-producing, called I Can Change. 2017 has been an incredibly busy year for me, and I’m very excited for what’s to come.
With your busy schedule, what do you like to do with your downtime?
With acting and writing and producing and then being a Dad to twin 4-year-old girls, my favorite pastime these days is definitely TV binging with a cocktail in hand. I still manage to squeeze in some concerts and movies. My wife and I are big foodies (an extremely overused term, I know) but we do love discovering new foods, restaurants, and neighborhoods around NYC.
When you go out to eat, where do you like to dine?
We currently live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and there are a ton of phenomenal restaurants at our doorstep. Although our go-to more often than not is Sushi. Bozu is our local favorite. I also love old-school red sauce Italian, and I admit I have a serious fried chicken fetish. The Commodore in Williamsburg makes some of the best I’ve had. I’ve also have been to Homer (son of Bill) Murray’s restaurant 21 Greenpoint a number of times, we are big fans. Delaware and Hudson is a good date spot here in the hood as well—affordable tasting menu and a Michelin star to boot. Another fantastic spot in Williamsburg is King County Imperial—amazing food and great Tiki inspired cocktails that pair perfectly.
My birthday tradition is Peter Luger’s, my all-time favorite restaurant. Quick anecdote: Many years ago, I was with my family there for a birthday dinner, and we happened to be sitting near actor Mark Hamill. He was regaling some folks at his table about Star Wars stories, and when the waiters brought out the cake and candles to sang Happy Birthday to me, he joined in. So to be at my favorite restaurant and have Luke Skywalker sing happy birthday to me, I pretty much died and went to heaven.
What types of dishes do you usually order?
We try to eat healthier at home, and when we go out, I like to indulge a bit—and almost always an aperitif (Negroni is for sure the new favorite).
Do you cook?
I do cook, but these days for the whole family. My wife and I try to make some healthy stuff, but when it’s just me at home, the kids get chicken wings, fried cutlets, pizza—it’s always a treat when Dad makes dinner. But I do always have veggies and healthy sides to go along with it … My wife is really the gourmet chef around here.
What types of drinks do you order when out?
I do love wine. I recently took a trip to Oregon to visit my brother in law and his wife who live in Corvallis (where he co-owns an AMAZING Taco and Wine joint called ‘Taco Vino’, delicious, you must go). They took us out to the Willamette Valley and we tasted the most incredible wines we’ve ever had. The area is really THE place to get the best wine in the world right now … it was an out of body wine experience. I also love to have a Manhattan or Old Fashioned to start off a meal if we’re on a date night or relaxing with friends and have some time. Same with Gin Martinis. The Brooklyn Distillery right here in our neighborhood makes excellent spirits for all of those, but I also enjoy a beer or a glass of wine—it really is occasion and atmosphere dependent.
Do you prepare drinks at home?
We do make drinks at home. I love to make them for friends when they come over. I make a mean Manhattan, but I like to make them right, burnt orange peel rim and all.
Do you own a home bar?
We do have a bar, but it’s mostly a multi-use storage cabinet at this point—most of our drinks are made on the kitchen counter, or any space not laden with kids’ toys.
What is it stocked with?
We always have the staples; gin, whiskey, Italian spirits for aperitifs, tequila, vodka. I’m a huge fan of Mezcal, so that’s in there, too. Luxardo cherries always on hand for the best Manhattan and Old Fashioned. We have a wine fridge but it broke, so now it’s just our wine “storage facility.” We belong to the wine club at Channing Daughters on Long Island and they keep us stocked with some amazing stuff.
What would your dream bar be like?
My dream is to have a more elaborate set up where I have a counter top to make all sorts of drinks—and an outdoor tiki bar is the dream.
What is your favorite drink/cocktail?
My two faves are classics: The Manhattan (usually Rye) and a Gin Martini—extra dirty with extra olives. Also love an Old Fashioned. Another fave is Mezcal on the rocks with lime juice and a salted rim. Big into Negroni’s these days as well (who isn’t?).
Have you ever been a bartender?
Haha, yes indeed. I bartended at a friend’s beer and wine bar earlier in my career to make some extra cash. It was short lived. Let’s just say the demanding New York clientele were too much for me to put up with.