Anthony Mackie reveals how he feels about being the first black Captain America in the next Marvel blockbuster.
Sebastian Stan says that not having Chris “Captain America” Evans around for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was “weird and freeing at the same time”.
Stan and Anthony Mackie, his co-star on the eagerly anticipated (its Super Bowl spot and trailer racked up 125 million views earlier this year) superhero action-adventure spin-off that drops on Disney+ next Friday, have until now both played supporting roles to Evans in the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Stan first reported for duty a decade ago in Captain America: The First Avenger, playing WWII soldier Bucky Barnes.
He was the best friend of Evans’ scrawny Steve Rogers, who would gain superpowers and the famous red, white and blue shield after taking an experimental serum.
Stan returned for the sequel three years later with his own superhuman abilities as Rogers’ enhanced, brainwashed nemesis in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Mackie also made his MCU debut in that film as Sam Wilson, a former air force pararescue man, whose hi-tech flying suit earned him the nickname Falcon, after he teamed up with Captain America to thwart the Winter Soldier and his shady handlers.
Evans, Stan and Mackie all appeared together in the third Captain America film Civil War, as well as Avengers: Infinity War, but with Cap seemingly tapping out at the end of the record-breaking Avengers: Endgame, the time has finally come for the sidekicks to take centre stage.
“Both of these characters have been tied to that storyline for a long time and to some extent we never really understood them separately from it,” says Stan.
“So, it was interesting to see them like fish out of water and functioning in a very different way than we’ve been introduced to so far.”
While the usual Marvel cone of silence has been in full effect for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the early word and the trailer footage so far suggests a wisecracking, buddy-cop vibe and story threads that will delve into the backstory of both characters.
The action kicks off after the events of Endgame, with Wilson and Barnes trying to reintegrate into society and their superhero alter egos joining forces to fight an antipatriotism group called the Flag Smashers.
“The show stays in the tone and with the line of Captain America,” Mackie agrees.
“It stays true to these two characters and where they have come from and them moving through the Marvel Universe to where they are now.”
Mackie says he was initially reluctant to take centre stage in a Marvel’s new push into the streaming world.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was supposed to have been the MCU’s first foray into the small screen but coronavirus-related production issues meant that WandaVision got there first. Having achieved such success with silver screen spectacle, culminating with Endgame becoming the highest grossing film ever, Mackie didn’t want to be part of something that was somehow perceived as being smaller or second rate, despite a reported budget of $195 million for the six episodes.
“My greatest fear was that the Marvel idea, the Marvel moniker was going to be watered down because you wouldn’t be able to do on a TV what you do on the movie screen,” Mackie says. “But I am proud to say that everything you expect or want this show to be, it’s going to be.”
Mackie’s fears were also allayed once he started to read the scripts by Malcolm Spellman (Empire) and discuss the ideas with director Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Walking Dead) of being a black man with no special powers, living in a superhero’s world in modern-day America.
With Captain America handing Falcon the famous shield at the end of Endgame, Mackie says his character will start the new show wrestling with the legacy and the expectation.
But in a time of racial tension in the US, particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the prospect of having a black Captain America is a big deal.
“It means a lot,” Mackie says.
“And I think that Marvel or myself or anyone else, we are definitely aware of that. But we have to figure out what that journey is.”
Although he hedges as to whether Sam will eventually take on the famous Captain America title – as he has done in the comic books – Mackie admits that when he saw his new red, white and blue uniform he was “literally moved to tears”.
“I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t expect that. But when I put it on I just had to take a minute – the weight of it and the gravitas of that moment meant a lot.”
Mackie is also curious to find out how the themes of patriotism, protest and operating outside the law play out in 2021, particularly after the most fractious US election in recent history and especially the storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. in January.
“The funny thing is that this show was written three years ago,” Mackie says.
“We started shooting it two years ago. So, the show that we wrote and Marvel produced and we starred in has been in production way before any of this stuff happened. But we are in a position now where we can just sit back and see what is your perception of how this show plays into contemporary times.”
Falcon and the Winter Soldier streams on Disney+ from March 19