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“Just the all-around adventure of being Captain America has been much more pleasant than I thought it would be,” Anthony Mackie says, one month after the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The response from kids in particular has been a moving experience for Mackie, who displays a clear understanding of what it means for a Black man to be Captain America at this moment in time.
The road to Mackie’s Sam Wilson taking up the mantle of Captain America has been a long one, not simply in terms of the character’s journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in getting The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ready to air on Disney+. After production stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing what was set to be Marvel Studios’ inaugural show to debut later, following WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had to roll with the punches. Luckily, all involved were more than up for the challenge. During a recent THR Presents Q&A, powered by Vision Media, the cast and talent behind the series sat down and shared their insights into making the event series.
Sebastian Stan, who portrays Bucky Barnes, has earned a bit of seniority on the rest of the cast, having first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Ten years on, and Stan is still finding new avenues to explore in the World War II hero turned HYDRA assassin turned superhero. “Every time it feels like we’re finding something new, and as long as we can do that, then that’s great,” Stan says on continuing Bucky’s journey. Despite his seniority, Stan is quick to point out that Mackie certainly doesn’t cut him any slack when it comes to trading jokes on set. The buddy dynamics onscreen are just as visible off.
The camaraderie is clear among the cast, which extends to newcomers Carl Lumbly and Wyatt Russell, who portray super-soldiers of different generations, Isaiah Bradley and John Walker, respectively. Lumbly is no stranger to the world of superheroes, having played one of the first Black costumed heroes to appear on TV screens in 1994’s M.A.N.T.I.S., and later as the voice of Martian Manhunter on DC’s animated series Justice League. “I think each time I participate in these universes, I can only bring myself, so having been in the other forms doesn’t necessarily make a difference,” Lumbly says about his approach to Bradley — a characterization that has generated considerable buzz.
Wyatt Russell has the distinction of being the first second-generation actor to appear in the MCU, following his father Kurt Russell’s role as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
Yet that aspect, and the fact that fans loved to hate his character, didn’t affect his experiences. “I approached it just like a normal character and didn’t put too much pressure on the fact that it was Marvel,” Russell says about playing John Walker. In terms of advice from dad Kurt about joining the MCU, Russell says he was told to make sure he could go to the bathroom, noting the difficulties that come with wearing a superhero suit.
Director Kari Skogland and head writer Malcolm Spellman brought their own ideas and styles to what has become a well-oiled franchise, though the stakes could not have been higher. “Malcolm and I went to the premiere of Endgame to see what the prequel was to our show, and at the end of it, the two of us looked at each other, and that was the first wave of sheer terror,” Skogland laughs. Despite that terror, Skogland admits she and Spellman were right in their comfort zones, approaching the show from a grounded perspective. Spellman says tracking the characters’ arcs through the season was the result of several months of pre-planning, covering the walls of the writers room with timelines of the characters’ emotional and psychological journeys.
The places the characters are taken to within The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t always come easily for the actors, particularly Mackie, who has always seemed like one of the most gung-ho of the MCU cast. “I had a lot of fear going into it,” he admits. “It was one of the first things about Marvel that I’ve been a part of that I’ve questioned, and I wasn’t really sure that I actually wanted to do it. What Malcolm and Kari were able to do with this character, with this show, and actually with the Marvel Universe, has changed my entire perspective on what Sam can be,” Mackie says, crediting Spellman and Skogland for their fearlessness as leaders.
That fearlessness is very apparent in the series’ introduction of Isaiah Bradley, a character who does not have a relationship with Sam Wilson in the comics, yet is someone whom Spellman saw as instrumental to Sam’s journey to becoming Captain America. “One thing the fans should know is even though the MCU veers off from the books, you really do try and be respectful of them,” says the writer. “I was clear on what that character would mean to Sam as he was going on this journey, and that’s the magic of translation from comic to MCU. There’s this almost preordained perfection. Once you allow the adjustments to happen, you feel it was always meant to go this way.”
The discussion ultimately came around to the first day of production, which became the last scene in the series: Sam and Bucky standing together at the docks. Despite the discomfort of filming on a waterfront in early morning, that preordained perfection felt real to the creators and actors alike. Says Mackie: “It was a beautiful camaraderie to start the show.”
This THR Presents is brought to you by Disney+.
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