Ken Marino may be best known for his comedic roles, as a cast member of legendary sketch comedy show “The State” and memorable turns on “Reaper,” “Hot Wet American Summer” and “Party Down” under his belt. But as “Agent Carter’s” Joseph Manfredi, the actor has been anything but a barrel of laughs.
Marvel Comics fans may recognize Manfredi as the costumed supervillain Blackwing, who happens to be the son of crime lord Silvermane. However, as “Agent Carter’s” mob boss, Manfredi lives to serve, protect and love the diabolical Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett).
Ahead of tonight’s back-to-back episodes — “The Edge of Mystery” and “A Little Song and Dance” — Marino spoke with CBR News about being both Whitney Frost’s head enforcer and her love interest. He opened up about his character’s violent outbursts, his disappointment at not being able to break out in song and dance for the show’s big musical number, and the importance of bringing some old-school charm to his rough around the edges character.
CBR News: You are mostly known for comedic roles. What grabbed you about the Agent Carter Universe and this character, Joseph Manfredi?
Ken Marino: I’ve always been a fan of the Marvel Universe and comics being made into TV shows and movies. It’s that dream for a lot of people of, “I want to do a Western.” That’s one thing I hope to do. The other was to be in a Marvel movie or TV show. When executive producers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas called to say, “Hey, there’s this part we were thinking of you for,” I was like, “Please do more than think about me. Please cast me.”
Joseph clearly isn’t the same character as his counterpart from the comics. What conversations did you have with the producers about what made him tick?
We didn’t have a lot of conversations other than the fact that he definitely was the muscle for Whitney, and that he did have a true love for her. Those were the two things [vital to the character]. I don’t know how much we talked about it, but because it was set in the ’40s, I wanted to make sure it felt like he was an old-school tough guy.
Can you expand on that dynamic? Has Joseph always been more than just the brawn of their relationship?
From what I understand about their past, they were once together. I think they had a passionate, intense relationship when they were a couple. The fact that she comes back to him, in my interpretation — she’s the one true love for him. He’s there to serve her and to help her in any way possible. In my head, they’re like Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
When we first met Joseph, he struck a deal with Whitney and Calvin before delivering a severe beating to one of his crew. What were your thoughts about that explosive introduction?
You always want a really fun, exciting, cool intro to a character you are playing. I don’t think you can get much better than that. You see him calm and cool, he’s in control and then, in the flip of a switch, he was on top of somebody, losing his mind, beating the bloody hell out of him. It was a fun first scene, and certainly an alarming introduction to Manfredi’s violent tendencies.
Whitney doesn’t believe Joseph is being sincere when he calls her “gorgeous,” though viewers certainly do. Why are these two made for each other, and what have you enjoyed about how that relationship has unfolded?
I think he was attracted to her beauty. He fell for her hard, so no matter what happens to her externally, he still sees that beauty. He truly is enamored with this woman. He’s blinded by his love for her. He’ll do anything to stay by her side.
What are his feelings on this Zero Matter business?
The truth, is at first, he’s not really concerned about it that much. Then, when he starts to see what it is and what it does, it’s a little alarming. It’s above his pay grade, or it’s not his department. He puts his blinders on, keeps his head down and does what he’s told, as long as he’s feeling wanted and loved. If, and when that changes, he might change his mind.
Your co-stars put on a little song and dance show in tonight’s episode. How bummed were you not to join in on that number?
It’s funny — I was talking to the producers and said, “Why isn’t Joseph in that?” They said, “Oh, we’ll add you in.” Then, they told me the day they were shooting it, and I was already working on something else. I was like, “Oh, crap. I can’t do it.” I was thrilled to be in it, and then I wasn’t able to do it. I haven’t seen the scene, but I’m really excited to see what it looks like.
What else can you preview about Joseph and his Merry Men’s activities?
You can expect him to be protecting and riding along with Whitney and making sure her plans are fulfilled. You get to see him a little annoyed, being dragged from place to place, and not having the ability to use force when he wants to at times.
Jack gets under Joseph’s skin, and Peggy and Jarvis have been thorns in his side. Will there be a confrontation between any of them again?
They may come to visit Joseph. There’s a little confrontation — without spoiling anything, you see my men meet up with them, and some punches are thrown.
How much fun has it been stepping into the ’40s era, wearing those suits and being a mob boss?
It’s been a blast. As an actor, you hope to be in a Western and a period piece like this show. You also hope the character is fun. I get all of that. While I was shooting, I’d come home with my hair in Joseph’s style. My daughter would be like, “Oh, daddy has handsome hair.” I got the sense she doesn’t like my modern-day haircut. She does like when it’s styled and parted back hard on the side and slicked back.
To end on a light note, two years ago you returned to Neptune High for the “Veronica Mars” movie. Are there any other properties or characters you would like to revisit?
There are a number of ones. The two biggest ones would be “Party Down,” and I’d love to do “Reaper” again. Just working with Ray Wise and everybody else — it was a special show. Doing Ron Donald and Tony, working with Mike Black as my gay demon lover, those were special parts of my career I remember fondly.