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Why Hailee Steinfeld will make a great Kate Bishop in the Disney Plus 'Hawkeye'

Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson.
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

It has been over a year since Hailee Steinfeld walked the Dickinson Season 1 red carpet and denied landing a second leading role on a different streaming service. Reacting in a coy manner to Variety’s inquiry about the rumored Hawkeye casting, Steinfeld claimed “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Denials like this one are common while deals are being hashed out, but after recent paparazzi shots showed the actress filming in New York City’s East Village alongside OG Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), it was clear Steinfeld would be playing Emily Dickinson and Kate Bishop. 

During the MCU portion of the packed Disney Investor Day presentation, this news was finally confirmed and Steinfeld posted a first look at her purple costume on Twitter. Yes, the paparazzi had already given the first peek at her superhero threads — plus a non-crime fighting check coat, knit beanie, and ripped jeans ensemble — but the high-res image emphasizes the vibrancy and attention to detail. While a costume designer credit has not been released so far, the instantly recognizable Dr. Martin boots are an on and off-duty sartorial signature that dials into Kate Bishop's tough aesthetic. The latter is a thread connecting several of Steinfeld’s key roles that suggest she will be perfect for this action-heavy series. From her first major role in the Coen brothers Western True Grit to the recent Bumblebee, the young actress has already proved she is formidable, no matter what decade (or century) provides the backdrop. 

Hawkeye doesn’t have a Disney+ premiere date beyond the vague 2021 announcement but six supporting cast members additions (including Florence Pugh) were also reported earlier this month. As the Marvel TV slate grows, here is a look back at Steinfeld’s earlier roles that make her an ideal candidate for Kate Bishop.  

Westerns, Bumblebee, and Spider-Gwen

A difficult relationship with her parents or a tragic backstory — sometimes both — is a common storytelling trope that Steinfeld is familiar with. As Mattie Ross in True Grit, bringing her father’s murderer to justice provides the central motivation. The tenacious and stubborn teen hires a boozy lawman to enact justice, which turns into a substitute parental relationship with plenty of bickering along the way. Making her mark, Steinfeld was only 13 when she won the coveted role and delivered a performance that strikes a balance between strength and vulnerability. Subsequently, this has become a Hailee hallmark without feeling repetitive or one-note.

Fearlessness teenagers dealing with the grief of losing a parent covers both True Grit and Bumblebee. After lackluster and bloated sequels, the Transformers franchise was given a heart-warming boost thanks to a charming performance from Steinfeld as Charlie and a script by Christina Hodson that was funny and tapped into the ‘80s family movies to match the 1987 setting. Director Travis Knight opted out of leering camera shots that proved a character can wear jorts without resorting to unnecessary close-ups. Dealing with her dad’s death, Charlie’s grief swirls with rage as she tries to search for meaning and hope after being dealt a cruel blow. Conversations with her yellow bug showcase Steinfeld’s ability to be serious and goofy in equal measure. The used car provides an outlet and adventure, which shows there is still life left in the Hasbro adaptations — with the right cast and creative team. 

Kate Bishop’s backstory in the comics fits the turbulent parental relationships that are not only a cornerstone of Steinfeld’s genre roles but also the coming-of-age The Edge of Seventeen and even musical dramedy Begin Again — the Incredible Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo stars as the somewhat flaky dad in this 2014 underappreciated gem. Hailing from a wealthy New York family, Kate first appeared in Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung’s Young Avengers #1 in 2005. The Bishop family’s wealth comes from her father’s criminal activity, something Kate has rejected. Her mother died in an accident when she was young and this has unsurprisingly left the young woman haunted by this event. Her turn toward crime-fighting occurs after she is attacked in Central Park while jogging. Kate takes up various forms of combat and self-defense, while also learning archery and sword fighting. As a child, the Avengers aided Kate’s escape from a perilous situation and she became a fan of Hawkeye as the one member of the team who didn’t possess powers.   

Often playing an outsider looking for her place in the world, Steinfeld’s tendency to portray independent, tough, and outspoken characters fit the Kate Bishop description. Dealing with gruff mentors is another common link, which will see her working with Clint Barton (who definitely matches that label). As with Clint, Kate doesn’t possess any actual powers, rather her strength is in her physical skill set and determined spirit. It is unclear how close the TV show will stick to the source material but we do already know that one of Kate’s pals is the four-legged kind from the comics. In 2018 she played Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so this isn’t her first superhero endeavor. The teen and early 20-something Marvel superhero possibilities have been limited outside of Spider-Man and Black Panther's Shuri (Letitia Wright) but this entry point into the Young Avengers opens up those roles. 

Emily Dickinson and Kate Bishop 

A versatile performer (and multi-hyphenate with a music career), it isn’t too much of a stretch to picture Steinfeld flourishing on two different streaming platforms. When Apple TV+ launched, Steinfeld's first television venture was the titular Dickinson in a genre-bending take on the great poet. This was one of the first offerings from the streamer with Season 2 arriving in the new year (it has already been renewed for a third outing). Ticking those charming but fiery boxes, this role is a mix of vulnerability with tempestuous reactions to the restrictions of being a woman in the mid-1800s. Both parents are alive — surprising considering the time period — but confrontations are regular occurrences under the Dickinson roof. Because creator Alena Smith infuses contemporary language and themes to the narrative, there is a playful element that suits Steinfeld’s ability to go big and then dial it back when required.

Stylistically, it is unclear how Hawkeye will fit into this Disney+ phase of Marvel’s TV output — though it will probably be less off-kilter than the trailers for WandaVision and Loki suggest. After all, Hawkeye as played by Jeremy Renner is relatively straight as an arrow and the very early glimpse of the series suggests it might resemble the Netflix Marvel offerings. If Krysten Ritter is available it would be wonderful to see her put on her boots, jeans, and leather jacket once more as Kate Bishop does form a friendship with Jessica Jones in the comics. 

Jonathan Igla (Mad Men, Sorry For Your Loss) is taking on showrunner duties while Troop Zero directing duo Bert and Bertie are tapped to step behind the camera along with Rhys Thomas (whose notable credits include John Mulaney’s stand-up specials and Documentary Now!). The latter indicates there might be a humorous angle that will definitely benefit from Steinfeld’s versatility. Comedy and action are both in her wheelhouse so these elements bode well. 

Despite delays, the Hawkeye confirmation and first look at Steinfeld in this role reaffirm the excitement of when her name was first uttered in connection to this project. Playing literary icon Emily Dickinson and a Young Avenger might sound like an odd combination, but these two headline roles are pitch-perfect for the 20-something actress.