HEAT VISION

'Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Star Emily VanCamp on Sharon Carter Finally Being Unleashed

Emily VanCamp
Amy Sussman/Getty Images
The actor looks back at her journey from the 'Captain America' films and describes where the Disney+ series is headed: "action-packed, timely and inspiring."

Emily VanCamp has waited patiently for Sharon Carter to be let loose on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and nearly seven years after her MCU debut in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the opportunity finally presented itself via Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Carter’s last appearance was in Captain America: Civil War, where she became a fugitive for aiding Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, violating the Sokovia Accords. Seven years later in the fictional timeline, Carter, who’s become a black market art dealer in the ungoverned nation of Madripoor, feels a great deal of resentment towards her former country and allies for not securing her a pardon a la Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier.

VanCamp’s return to Marvel wasn’t without its challenges as she was simultaneously shooting Fox’s The Resident in Atlanta.

The Resident was extremely accommodating. They had to hide tons of bruises, and I had bloody hands many, many days after my fight training,” VanCamp tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So they did a lot in hiding those things, and they were cheering me on as well. So I was lucky that I was able to tackle both at the same time.”

The physical toll that VanCamp endured was ultimately worth it since she helped execute one of Marvel Studios’ most brutal action set pieces to date. Since Sharon Carter doesn’t possess any superpowers and has been fending for herself in the lawless city of Madripoor, VanCamp knew that her big moment would require her commitment to learning jiu-jitsu and hand-to-hand combat.

“When we met Sharon initially, she was an agent, and there was a lot of technicality to everything that she did. But here, there had to be something a little bit more street and a little bit more raw to her character, including her fight style,” VanCamp explains. “So there were no superpowers or extra sort of weaponry to hide behind. It really had to be as physical as it looks, and it was me doing most of that. We tried all sorts of different weapons and guns, and ultimately, we landed on this rough-and-tough style that it became.”

In a recent conversation with THR, VanCamp also discusses Sharon Carter’s evolution as of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, her response to the Power Broker fan theory and how she’d describe the remaining three episodes.

It’s fitting that we’re talking a day after the 7-year anniversary of The Winter Soldier’s release.

Oh, how hilarious.

So when you were cast in 2013, did Marvel create the expectation that you’d potentially be playing Sharon 8 years later?

No, definitely not. I don’t think you ever really go into anything with that mindset. In a way, it was still kind of early on in the beginnings of Marvel. So I don’t think they could’ve predicted that there would be streaming. So, no, definitely not, but it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. (Laughs.)

Sharon Carter’s identity wasn’t revealed to Steve Rogers in The Winter Soldier, so there must have been some expectation that you’d be in at least two movies, right?

When I was originally cast, yeah. In my mind, that was where they were headed with Sharon. But there are so many characters to fit into these films and they’re ever-evolving. So I think you go into it one step at a time, if that makes sense. So The Winter Soldier happened and then Civil War. And the Avengers movies just became so big that it was hard to slot certain characters in, but you just know going into it that it’s such a big universe. So you don’t really have any specific expectations other than servicing the story in whatever way the character can, I suppose.

Since you were starring on ABC’s Revenge at the time of your casting, do you think the Disney connection helped open the door to Sarah Finn’s casting office?

Maybe. I’m not sure. I came in late in the game during that casting, so I’m not exactly sure if that connection helped. Yeah, it’s all still a little bit of a mystery, but it worked out in the end. (Laughs.)

After Peggy’s (Hayley Atwell) funeral in Civil War, Sharon and Steve brought each other up to speed near an elevator, and he basically asked her if Peggy knew about her undercover job as Kate the neighbor/nurse. However, the two of you originally shot a version of that scene at a bar after the funeral. Do you remember why the Russos reshot it near the elevator?

If I remember correctly, it was a timing issue. They needed to shoot something that was a little bit faster in terms of moving the story along. That’s what I remember, but again, it feels like quite a while ago. (Laughs.) I do remember shooting both versions, though. I remember having to go back and reshoot the elevator scene. Yeah, that sort of thing happens. There’s a lot of information to cram into a two-hour film with all of these characters. So every once in a while, you’ve got to go back and trim things and still offer the same information. So it definitely happens.

I still love that scene in Civil War where everybody takes turns fighting Sebastian Stan’s character. Did Sharon’s roundhouse kicks require a great deal of training?

(Laughs.) Luckily, for those, I had a ballet background. For that scene specifically, I remember that it wasn’t really written as it turned out on the day of filming. So it was pretty last-minute choreography, and we hadn’t really rehearsed that. For the stuff that I did in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more recently, we trained extensively for it because it just required a lot of fighting. For Civil War, I was just lucky that I had a background in dance. So I remember learning it on the day of filming because so much had changed. We just came up with these kicks in this little sequence, and it all worked out in the end. So I don’t think we were expecting it to be so much in that particular sequence, but it also prepared me for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I just really wanted to make sure that I was ready when the day came to tackle whatever came our way.

After the Avengers defeated Thanos and restored the universe, anyone who helped them along the way should’ve been pardoned. The government committing such oversight is par for the course, but there’s no excuse for Steve not facilitating Sharon’s pardon before he traveled back in time to be with her aunt.

I agree. (Laughs.)

So I don’t blame Sharon one bit for feeling resentful over her current situation.

I’m glad you say that.

When you first read episode three, did you immediately understand why she’s changed as much as she has?

Absolutely. When we were talking about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier initially — before any scripts were even written — one of the things that appealed to me was that we were going to see a very different version of Sharon. My initial thought was that this surely is a very different woman. She will most definitely have a chip on her shoulder, and she will most definitely have resentment. She sacrificed her whole life, and we talk about that in episode three. She’s been on the run this whole time and for what? And to what end? So I definitely think there was no other way to bring Sharon back into the story without acknowledging what she’s been through. Even though we don’t necessarily specify what she’s had to do to survive, you get the sense that it hasn’t been easy. So that’s where we find her, and I think that’s the only way we really could bring her back, to be honest.

In grade school, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, mainly to see the works of Claude Monet. So I wish I had known that places such as Sharon’s gallery had the real paintings all this time.

(Laughs.) Me too. I thought all of those art dealer aspects were a really interesting touch. Yeah, she’s been hustling, as she says.

In terms of hand-to-hand combat, Sharon’s fight scene in episode three is one of the MCU’s best and most brutal set pieces. From what I could tell, it seemed like you did more than your fair share of it, too. So what was being discussed as you prepared for that sequence?

Yeah, it was really interesting. We talked a lot about fight style and circumstance. When we met Sharon initially, she was an agent, and there was a lot of technicality to everything that she did. But here, there had to be something a little bit more street and a little bit more raw to her character, including her fight style. And you’re really working with the best when you talk about Marvel and their stunt teams. So we talked about it at length, and they put together tons of different versions of what that could look like. And once we really got into it, it turned into hand-on-hand combat a little bit more. So there were no superpowers or extra sort of weaponry to hide behind. It really had to be as physical as it looks, and it was me doing most of that. I have this amazing stunt double, Jess Durham, who was also there to hold my hand and do some of the stuff that I couldn’t do. But like I said, we really couldn’t hide behind anything; we actually had to get into it and train. So I was also shooting The Resident at the same time, but during every little bit of free time, I was in their stunt training rooms just learning all of this jiu-jitsu and hand-on-hand combat. We tried all sorts of different weapons and guns, and ultimately, we landed on this rough-and-tough style that it became. It was a lot of fun, but it was definitely challenging and grueling at times. (Laughs.) But that’s what it had to be. It was really our only option because she doesn’t have any superpowers. So it was a lot of fun to figure that out and to go through that process with them.

Well, I’m awfully glad that The Resident was accommodating because I’m not the only one who’s waited 7 years to see Sharon unleashed.

(Laughs.) I appreciate that. The Resident was extremely accommodating. They had to hide tons of bruises, and I had bloody hands many, many days after my fight training. (Laughs.) So they did a lot in hiding those things, and they were cheering me on as well. So I was lucky that I was able to tackle both at the same time.

So what do you think of the fan theory regarding Sharon being the Power Broker?

I think that’s a great theory. (Laughs.) I obviously can’t say anything. I’ve also been saying, “Yes, there are three episodes left, but there are characters yet to be seen, which is also exciting.” But I think it’s great that there are things swirling out there. Can I confirm that? No, 100 percent not. But you never know. (Laughs.)

Can you spare a few adjectives that generally describe the rest of the season?

I would say action-packed, timely and inspiring.

Did the set feel like a big-budget TV show, or did it really seem like a typical Marvel movie?

It definitely felt like it was a lot faster than the films. We were moving at a TV pace so there was that feeling of playing catch-up all the time. But that’s just because you’re trying to shoot the quality of an amazing Marvel film in a six-hour series. And this was the first time they’ve really done this. [Writer’s Note: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier started shooting before WandaVision.] But I do think that they succeeded in making it look just as beautiful and epic as the films do. Was it a faster pace? Absolutely. But that’s something I’m used to, so it didn’t feel much different. I definitely don’t think that the quality was compromised at all, and I think we were all delighted because no one really knew. This was the first time that any of us have been a part of Marvel in this new streaming medium. So I was definitely delighted when I watched the final product to see that nothing was compromised.

You’ve mentioned elsewhere that you’re an introvert. Is it easier for you to play an extroverted character on-camera, versus having to be extroverted in real-life situations as yourself?

100 percent. Yeah, I think that’s part of it, right? I wouldn’t say it’s hiding behind a character at all, but maybe that’s why I gravitate toward those types of characters. In my day-to-day life, I am rather shy, quiet and very much a loner. So I’m very comfortable in my own quiet space, and as a kid, I very much lived in my imagination. There’s something really freeing and liberating about bringing those types of characters to life, and feeling comfortable in my skin while doing that, even though I wouldn’t in my own personal life. (Laughs.) Part of the appeal and part of what makes what I do so fun is that I get to embody these different people. It’s permission, almost, to play with those sides of myself that normally I retreat from in my own day-to-day. And it’s not a bad thing at all to be an introvert. I just think that it’s who I am versus who I get to play, and that’s always exciting.

What’s the most impactful note you’ve ever received from a director, showrunner, co-star, etc.?

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some pretty extraordinary people. So, to narrow it down to the best would be really hard. And a lot of my greatest lessons have been less in something that’s been spoken to me and more in observation. Since I was a kid, I’ve really tried to keep my eyes very open to everything around me and learn as much as I possibly can. So I would say that a lot of it has been through experience and observing people. You learn a lot about who you want to be and who you don’t want to be through other people’s behavior. And having come from the background of learning on the job and not in school, it’s been so much about observing some pretty extraordinarily amazing behavior and extraordinarily terrible behavior. (Laughs.) And then deciding, “Well, who do you want to be? How do you want to work within the confines of this business?” So I’ve been very lucky to have some great mentors and great examples of who I want to be and what I want to implement within my work.

Several actors have told me that the camera picks up their thoughts, and once they realized that, they knew they could perform certain reaction shots or closeups without overdoing it. Since you’ve always been able to say a lot with just a look, especially on Revenge, do you agree with that premise?

Thank you. I think that’s the difference between working with the camera and doing theater. Theater is about projection. You’re trying to extend to a much bigger audience and a much bigger space. And what you can do with a lens is very special in that you barely have to do anything. It’s up to feel, and once you discover that as an actor, you hope that it will pick up your thoughts. (Laughs.) But that’s what’s beautiful about the medium of film and television. There’s an intimacy that you don’t get in theater or in any other kind of stage performance. You’re really sort of living with that person and with that character. So I think it’s important to remember that when you’re performing, subtlety is everything.

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.

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