Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan define patriotism, courage, and masculinity in an age of tempestuous democratic politics and wokeness with their characters in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. In this exclusive interview we find out more about the Disney+ series from the stars themselves as well as its relevance in relating current affairs to a wider audience.
It must be said that in the grand scheme of things that have unfolded in three Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Captain America series of stand-alone films stand in marked distinction from their other Avengers alumni.
From the evolution of Steve Rogers, a courageous yet physically ungifted specimen into the paragon of virtue and masculinity that is the Captain, the films were always a reflection of the socio-politics of the era.
First, the optimism during World War II seen in The First Avenger. Next, that eventual distrust resulting from misplaced faith in government bodies during the events of Winter Soldier.
Finally, the utter breakdown of the social contract between the government and do-gooder private citizens (even ones with proven credentials as defenders of mankind) resulting in a Civil War, the Russo brothers have made the Captain America films equal parts tentpole summer blockbusters as well as commentary on current affairs of the time.
Expanding The Captain America Universe
Speaking to Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, before our interview with The Falcon and Winter Soldier themselves, we were pleased to learn that the series would continue in the same tone and tenor set by big-screen show runners Anthony and Joe Russo.
Indeed, as the world begins to recover from the global pandemic, there’s an analogy similar to the one we experienced at the conclusion of Endgame: Captain America didn’t just hand over his Vibranium shield to Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie), he also handed a mantle of responsibility for safeguarding a world that had lived in a five-year shadow of half the world’s population snapped of existence.
The world that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Wilson find themselves sworn to protect might not be able to find their solutions in the power of their guns and fists.
Though subtly perceptible, the Captain America movies often asked complex political questions and so we asked Feige whether a tv series featuring the Captain’s close compatriots would explore topics of patriotic duty and its collision with democratic norms in the wake of the Capitol riot in Washington D.C. to which Marvel’s President responded, “Yes, they will. So much of the show is about Falcon and Winter Soldier but what it means for Sam Wilson to be a black American. It will parallel the state of the world we live in today.”
The Weight Of The Shield
According to Mackie, who’s portrayed Wilson aka Falcon since his debut in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Sam’s hesitation was instantly understandable. “Sam considers the shield a representation of the country that we live in. There’s a lot of trepidation as far as how does a Black man represent a country that does not represent him?”
“When you think of Captain America, you think of a very specific brand of person,” Mackie continues. “And there are so many different lines, so many different avenues, so many realities that we have to live in every day to be a successful Black man in our society. Sometimes it’s just too hard to deal with all of those courtships of success. You can’t be the same person in every room you walk in because every person you meet expects a different person.”
Stan has his own opinions on the matter. “I think the issue for Bucky now is about who will fill the shoes and legacy that Cap left behind,” says Stan. “I think Sam definitely grapples with that as well. They’re both, whether they want to or not, in the shadow of what Captain America means. And I think in Bucky’s mind, Sam is the next guy—that’s who was chosen, that was Steve’s wish. Bucky wants to see that through — and if there’s any doubt in Sam’s mind about it then that’s immediately a conflict for Bucky. He still feels very protective of Steve and his legacy.”
It is with this perspective, that I find myself discussing more earthbound concerns with whom I consider to be the most grounded “super” heroes (beyond the bionic arm and the flying wings) of the super-squad we call the Avengers.
In Endgame, we see Captain America handing the shield to you, are you training to get as jacked as Chris Evans?
Anthony Mackie: Well… I wouldn’t consider a man with a 28-inch waist jacked [laughs]. Sam Wilson eventually returns the shield to the US military, that’s why it’s called The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It’s more about these two characters after the Blip, trying to find their way in society.
This is a question for you both: We haven’t had a buddy-cop pairing in a while, are you guys this generation’s Lethal Weapons?
Anthony: We keep saying this! I don’t know who’s Mel Gibson or Danny Glover but we are definitely Lethal Weapons. Wait, I think we’re more Bad Boys…
Sebastian Stan: I definitely love the Bad Boys analogy more.
Anthony: Yeah, I think we’re more Bad Boys. Lethal Weapon was a great franchise but if we could have its storylines with the cinematography of Bad Boys, that would be very sexy.
You’re both strong alpha males in this kind of a woke environment, do you feel there’s an added responsibility to be a beacon for guys who are growing up and watching you, maybe taking cues from you?
Sebastian: I think Marvel characters have a lot of fans and yes there’s an added responsibility no matter what you feel. People are watching it and you want to be play truthful, honest characters and I feel that we’ve done that pretty well so far. We are as honest as these characters can get given their circumstances and I think this show does that even more. I don’t feel like anyone holds any punches in the series. We give it to you straight and create a world that you can relate and that you understand because of what you see on the news, specifically the past year and so if anything, yes, it brings a much-needed awareness.
Is America ready for a black Captain America?
Anthony: I think any time you play a character from an underrepresented race or gender, you threaten the status quo. So the idea of having a black Captain America is an answer to the racism and sexism from our past that some are trying to hold onto but are only just starting to recognise that is no longer allowed in our country. This needs to happen so we can be better people.
You are mortals rather than enhanced super humans, what aspects of the characters were you excited to explore?
Sebastian: Bucky was always very serious. I hope I was able to balance the sense of humour with the depth of the character because I didn’t really get to do that in the films.
Anthony, you’re known for your serious roles in Adjustment Bureau, who’s the comedic talent and who’s the straight one in this show?
Anthony: I don’t think we have a straight man in this and I don’t think we have a comedic person. I think what is great about Sebastian and I are what we bring to the table. We complement each other real well and it’s not so much us trying to be funny. It’s just us together and it’s funny because we’re quite opposite from each other. We are so far apart from each other that it is ridiculous to see us together. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be together.
Speaking of having no reason not to be together, do you guys hang out for beers after shoots? Are you best buddies now?
Anthony: Yeah, when Sebastian is not on his diet! [laughs]
Sebastian: [Plays the electro-theme from Beverly Hills Cop on his phone] We both need to remake this one!
Anthony: [Laughs] I say we do Miami Vice. That would be the best.
Sebastian, everyone in the Twitterverse is saying you’re a dead ringer for a young Mark Hamill. Now that Luke Skywalker has made an appearance in The Mandalorian, are you going to join another Disney+ series?
Sebastian: You know, I’m just trying get through one Disney+ series. It’s very kind of the fans and Mark to think of me.
Falcon has never wavered, He’s always been upstanding, choosing the right thing, and being on the clear side of good. How will the series shape our opinion of the character?
Anthony: With the series and Sam Wilson, it’s about adjusting to life after the Blip and the new normal. It’s going to be much like us adjusting after Covid when we are all vaccinated, what is going to be our new normal? With Sam, you’re going to see his growth and with it, the audience’s attachment to him. You’re really going to see what makes him tick. He’s an ordinary guy who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
In the wake of the Capitol riots, do you gentlemen have any words of advice for someone wanting to do the right thing in these trying times?
Sebastian: [Long pause] Well…
Anthony [Interjects]: Be honest with yourself. The reality is this: you know what’s good, you know what’s bad, you know what’s right and what’s wrong. Don’t listen to anybody else, if you look at the situation and you know within you, that is the right thing, do it. Because no one can question what’s within you.
Sebastian: That said, I think we’ve witnessed many examples of people thinking they’re doing the right thing when they’re actually doing the worst thing ever.
Anthony: [Laughs] They definitely do not think they were doing the right thing now!
Sebastian: Sadly, no. I would say — check yourself! Look in the mirror, ask yourself: Who are you, what’s the deal, what are you about and what are you going to put forward in the world because the time is f—king going by and life’s too short.
Catch the season finale of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, 23 April 2021. The series also stars Wyatt Russell as John Walker, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and Daniel Brühl as Zemo. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was created for television by Malcolm Spellman. The series is directed by Kari Skogland.
(Images: Marvel Studios/Disney+)