Hawkeye's Kazi dove deep into dark Marvel history to understand his character

Actor Fra Fee also bonded with co-star Alaqua Cox while learning American Sign Language, giving their characters a stronger onscreen relationship.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Clint and Kazi in Hawkeye

Gun-wielding Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kazi (Fra Free) have a chat about Maya's quest for vengeance in Hawkeye's fourth episode.

Marvel Studios

We're four episodes into Hawkeye, the fifth and final Marvel Cinematic Universe show to hit Disney Plus this year. And the silly goons of the Tracksuit Mafia have been hot on Clint Barton's and Kate Bishop's tails almost every step of the way. One of the tracksuit-wearers seems a little less silly, though -- the cool and collected Kazimierz Kazimierczak, aka Kazi.

Kazi is played with a brooding darkness by Irish actor Fra Fee, whom you might remember as Courfeyrac in Tom Hooper's 2012 movie adaptation of Les Misérables, the 2020 vampire comedy Boys from County Hell, the 2021 version of Cinderella with Camila Cabello or more than a decade's worth of stage performances.

Hawkeye is Kazi's first appearance in the MCU, but he was adapted from a terrifying assassin introduced in Matt Fraction and David Aja's iconic 2012 Hawkeye comics run. I got to have a quick chat with fellow Irishman Fee over Zoom about the changes from the comic book character, working with first-time actor Alaqua Cox, who is deaf, and what it's like to be the smartest guy in the Tracksuit Mafia.

Here's a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity. 

What was it like to work with Alaqua Cox? Did you learn American Sign Language for this role?
Fra Fee: I did learn ASL for it. I hadn't done any sign language before. I'd love to try my hands at the ISL -- Irish Sign Language -- I only realized that actually exists quite recently. 

Echo/Maya in Hawkeye

Maya Lopez is actor Alaqua Cox's first role.

Marvel Studios

[With ASL] I was initially quite worried because of the level of proficiency I was meant to get to. But I just adored it, and it meant that Alaqua and I got to spend so much time together before actually getting on set because I had to rehearse these scenes. We were able to create a friendship and a bond, which I hope translates onto the screen. 

When we got to set, we felt comfortable around each other. We were able to make mistakes and lift each other up, to support each other in that environment. That doesn't usually happen in films because it's a very quick turnaround. 

She's a complete dream of a girl. I'm so excited that she is becoming this icon. It's amazing that she's going to inspire so many. She's doing the most incredible job. I'm excited to just be a tiny part of her story. [Cox will also portray Maya in Disney Plus spinoff Echo.]

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Kazi seems like a character with a fascinating past. He's not quite as intense as his comic book counterpart. Are you aware of that history? And how did you decide to approach his demeanor?
Yeah, I'm always a fan of absorbing as much of the origin content as possible, whether it's for a play, movie or show. It's always fascinating for me to just read the source material, whether or not that actually manages to translate onto the adaptation. 

There are a lot of things that I was able to extract from the comic book character. That said, he is an inherently evil person in the comic books, I think. In [the show's] version of events, we were able to flesh it out. Although not a lot has been revealed thus far, I was able to create a sense of history as to why Kazi is who he is and how he's found himself to be in this position. That was a wonderful thing to explore.

How would you characterize Kazi's role within the Tracksuit Mafia? He seems like the smartest fella in the room, along with Maya.
He's definitely the smartest fella! His counterparts in the Tracksuit Mafia are wonderful characters. They're so larger than life, often bold and brash. Kazi is cool and collected, with a quiet intensity that I've always loved playing because there are clearly some secrets there. He's harboring a lot. He is fiercely loyal to the organization that's been his whole life as long as he can remember -- they were the surrogate family. 

He wants to work his way up the pecking order as high as he possibly can because he is a fiercely ambitious person. So for him to find that Maya has managed to sort of swoop in above him is possibly quite a difficult pill to swallow.

The idea that she swooped in above him is fascinating, as is the dynamic between Maya and Kazi. Clearly that's partially a result of the chemistry between you and Alaqua. Did we see a younger Kazi in the karate class flashback [in episode 3]?You're very astute to have picked him out. Yes, he was there [played by Phoenix Crepin, with Alaqua Cox's cousin Darnell Besaw as young Maya]. They've known each other since they were kids. That's actually where they met. Maya taught Kazi sign language and that's how the relationship was formed. So it's a very close bond. That's where his conflict is beginning to come into play in the show.

Young Maya and Kazi in Hawkeye

A young Kazi (second from left) looks on as Maya displays her martial arts skills.

Marvel Studios

Clint has given them something of an ultimatum [in the episode 4 scene where he confronts Kazi in the car]; Maya is threatened to be hurt. He is devoted to her and there are feelings of familial loyalty or whatever's going on there. He's also so fiercely loyal to this -- the only structure that he's ever known to be safe and true: the Tracksuit Mafia and everyone involved in it.

So we keep getting hints about a bigger boss. Can you give us any clues about that person?
Well, there is a pecking order. The Tracksuit Mafia is a criminal underbelly of a system of New York organizations and Maya is above Kazi in that respect, but she also has to take the orders from somebody.

We might find out who that somebody is Wednesday, Dec. 15, when episode 5 of Hawkeye hits Disney Plus.

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