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[The following interview contains spoilers for Hawkeye episode five.]
With Hawkeye‘s finale right around the corner, Hailee Steinfeld is opening up about the most significant moments to this point. In the show’s fifth and most recent episode, “Ronin,” Kate has a long-awaited sit-down with Florence Pugh‘s Yelena Belova, who reveals her intent to kill Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) over her mistaken belief that he is responsible for Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) death. In an effort to protect her mentor, Kate suggests to Yelena that she should first find out who contracted her for the job, but this advice comes back to haunt Kate because it turns out to be her very own mother, Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga). Kate also learns that Eleanor has ties to Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), who’s been looming over the entire season.
Since Kate already lost her father in 2012, Steinfeld thinks it’s tragic that her mother may have jeopardized what’s left of their family.
“Is it heartbreaking? Absolutely. The one person that Kate has been trying to protect this whole time is now not to be trusted and possibly not to be protected?” Steinfeld tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I felt more scared for her than I felt sorry for her in that moment. We learn this piece of information, and though a lot of weight comes with that, we don’t know much more. So before feeling sorry, I think I was more curious to find out more information, while being terrified for her and what her mom, at that point, is capable of.”
Since Black Widow had yet to be released at the time of Hawkeye‘s production, producers gave Steinfeld some details about Yelena’s story to that point in preparation for their big scene involving macaroni and cheese.
“Florence showed up, she showed out, and she was so incredibly prepared. And obviously, having spent some time in this universe as her character Yelena Belova, she came in and knew exactly what her objectives were,” Steinfeld says. “And we notice and pick up on the fact that they’re both yearning for this connection, and they find that, even though that’s not the task at hand. They’re both living through these very high stakes and are trying to protect those that they love. So it pits them against each other in a way that they aren’t willing to accept, really.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Steinfeld also discusses Kate’s privilege at the start of the show and how she’s now on the brink of losing everything.
So let’s start with the most important question of the day. Hot sauce on macaroni and cheese: Yea or Nay?
(Laughs.) You know, it’s not my preference, but I’m not against it.
The mac and cheese scene is so important to this show, and it also offers a glimpse of the MCU’s future. Did you and Florence rehearse since there were a ton of pages?
I think we went straight into it. Florence showed up, she showed out, and she was so incredibly prepared. And obviously, having spent some time in this universe as her character, Yelena Belova, she came in and knew exactly what her objectives were, if you will. It’s a really interesting scene and one of my favorites in the show. I was just so excited. Once I got over my excitement and the idea of working with Florence and having this moment between Kate and Yelena, we dug into this scene, which felt very fun, and the banter was amazing. It’s this “girls’ night in,” essentially, over some mac and cheese with hot sauce, and you realize that there’s a lot of depth to this scene, to these characters individually and now to the connection that they have with each other. And we notice and pick up on the fact that they’re both yearning for this connection, and they find that, even though that’s not the task at hand. They’re both living through these very high stakes and are trying to protect those that they love. So it pits them against each other in a way that they aren’t willing to accept, really.
When dangerous characters like Yelena attempt to be friendly, it can sometimes come off as threatening, and there’s a bit of that in this scene. Is Kate genuinely afraid of this person, or is she still confident that she can hold her own?
Well, I think the two of them even mention this, but if they were to fight, Yelena would probably win in two seconds. But I think there’s a fine line between Kate being genuinely afraid of this person and curious about this person. I think she’s more curious. There’s this connection that she feels with Yelena as somebody who is in a similar situation. They’re living in this world of chaos, they’re fighting to stay alive, and they’re fighting to protect those that they love. And in the midst of all this, they connect with each other. There’s this sense of, “We might as well be friends through all of this,” while knowing that if they were to fight, Yelena would take her in two seconds. So I think there’s a fine line. She’s curious, but she’s also curious as to why she’s trying to do what she’s trying to do.
At the time of filming, Black Widow wasn’t out yet, so did the producers have to bring you up to speed on her character and the post-credit scene in that movie?
(Laughs.) Yeah, they gave me a little bit of info when it was all happening, but I was first in line to see it when it came out so I could get a better understanding.
Had you and Florence met before this?
No, we had not!
Hawkeye may be comedic and Christmas-y at times, but to me, it’s a tragedy. Kate lost her father at age 10, but then she witnessed a hero in Hawkeye who inspired her through her grief. Now, she’s learned that he isn’t as saintly as she thought he was. And she’s also just discovered that her mother (Vera Farmiga) not only interacted with a gangster (Vincent D’Onofrio), but she also hired an assassin to kill Clint. So did you feel sorry for Kate when you finished reading episode five for the first time?
Is it heartbreaking? Absolutely. The one person that Kate has been trying to protect this whole time is now not to be trusted and possibly not to be protected? Maybe Kate is meant to be protected against her. So I think I was more scared for her than I felt sorry. With everything happening around her, Kate has grown very quickly in a short period of time, and she’s learned a lot. I think she’s more capable of protecting herself than she was a few days prior, even though she has an Avenger by her side to help protect her. So I felt more scared for her than I felt sorry for her in that moment. We learn this piece of information, and though a lot of weight comes with that, we don’t know much more. So before feeling sorry, I think I was more curious to find out more information, while being terrified for her and what her mom, at that point, is capable of.
A few weeks ago, I saw a number of comments about Kate’s level of privilege, and now she’s on the verge of losing everything. Since you couldn’t say much at the time, were you eager to let this part of the story unfold?
I think that goes in line with not judging a book by its cover. There’s a reason there’s more than one episode. The story is unfolding, and this one is constantly unfolding and evolving. So surprises are happening and discoveries are constantly being made. But yeah, Kate’s privilege is part of her story and how she might toy with that or take advantage of that or use that in ways that aren’t appropriate at times. And her mother called her out for it. She’s a young girl and she’s learning what that means to have that privilege. Ultimately, we realize that the house she lives in, the credit cards in her wallet and whatever else she has doesn’t matter when the people that you love aren’t around or lives are being put at risk. So like you said, she ends up losing a lot, which is interesting, because we then realize her take on what people might have been harping on. So, I do think it’s important to sit back and watch the story unfold, but as it comes out weekly, you have a week to think about how you feel about what you just saw. So to each their own. (Laughs.)
Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.
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