Marvel is kicking off the fourth phase of the MCU with an entire slate of new series this year, and the latest is The Falcon and the Winter Solider, debuting tomorrow on Disney+.
Starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in the titular roles, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets the duo out on a six-episode journey around the world. It’s an action-packed adventure with Marvel’s trademark style and sense of humour, and it starts with the pair trying to figure out their place in the shadow that Captain America left behind.
Picking up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, after Thanos has left his mark on the world, digging into the story of these two characters. Over six cinematic episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Solider follows the odd couple on a journey that will undoubtedly setup a lot for the next chapter of the MCU.
During a special press conference this week, hosted by journalist Kelley L. Carter, Mackie and Stan joined executive producer Kevin Feige, series director Kari Skogland, and show runner Malcolm Spellman for a 45-minute chat about the series. The conversation was fast, light, funny, and offered a deep dive some of the ideas, plans, and making-of the show.
“This is the second [Marvel series] that is coming out onto Disney+, but, as Malcolm and Kari well know, it was our first one that we started,” Feige said.
“We kept saying, ‘If we’re gonna do a series with Falcon and Winter Soldier in it, we need to at least start off with the best action that we’ve ever seen.'”
It was a chance as well for Marvel to explore who The Falcon really was.
“Sam Wilson–other than that he likes the job and is an inherently moral man, and had been in the service and worked with PTSD–we didn’t know much about him. So, it was really an opportunity to go deep,” Feige said.
Skogland had a clear idea for making the series. “I approached it like a film. From the beginning, as Kevin said, we were making a six-hour film. We just kind of figured out where to snip it, at certain hour marks. So, Malcolm and I did a lot of looking at shows, but primarily movies, that were in our paradigm because we have a buddy-cop kind of relationship going on.”
She also saw the series as a chance to do something very different from the movies.
“I’ve been calling the movies, they’re like the snack, and this is like the meal. And you really can get involved with the characters in a way, in six hours, that you’re just not able to in a film. Particularly because the films are often very, you know–they’re high octane already. And they’re immersed in some world-saving event.”
So what is the series about? Spellman said that “dispatching Thanos has created a situation where the entire world is dealing with one single issue.”
Something “very familiar to what’s going on today” opens the door for the show’s villains to step in because of one single, organic thing. “The heroes are responding to that in their personal lives… and this continuum from what happens after End Game, that sort of galvanizes and affects everybody on the planet the same time and creates a nice cohesion, and direct lineage to the MCU.”
The groundwork for the series, and a bit of the tone, came from one moment that fans of the franchise will be very familiar with.
“There was about a 12-second moment in Civil War,” Spellman said, “where it feels like every single Marvel fan, Kevin Feige, and all his cabal partners knew that these two guys were gonna be able to support a movie or a franchise. And in doing the interviews, I feel like you can’t really take credit for the tone because in that 12 seconds everybody knew what it was gonna be, and that’s just sort of a transcendent thing.”
“You can go from as gritty as 48 Hrs. to as comedic as Rush Hour, but in between there is sorta that first Lethal Weapon and that first Bad Boys,” he said. “And what we liked about it was it allows Sebastian and Anthony to do what they do and create that magic, but also allows the broader creative if you need to take on real issues or if you need to get into something very Marvel-y, it’s a very, very durable form of storytelling.”
The series sets up a lot of details about Sam Wilson, diving into his character, his past, and where he is today.
“When I first read the script,” Mackie said, “I was really happy they acknowledged the fact that he was from Louisiana specifically, ’cause that’s the best state in the union and New Orleans is the best city in the world.”
“I had one request that, if he was from Louisiana, I had to eat crawfish on-camera and I don’t know who said no, but somebody said no. [Laughs] So, I don’t know if it was because they were outta season, but it was, you know, too much to get crawfish for Marvel.”
“It was great. You know, the idea of Sam Wilson, he’s always evolved in the world of the Marvel comic books, and now he’s evolved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
“‘Cause if you remember, when Sam Wilson first started out, he was a hustler from Harlem. And then, as African American culture evolved, Stan Lee evolved him in the comic book into different incarnations of himself. So, I’m excited for everyone to see the new and improved Sam Wilson.”
For Stan, he’s been playing Buckie for a while, too, and the series gave him a chance to dig even deeper.
“I always learn something about myself from this character,” Stan said. “I spent ten years with this character, you know? It’s impossible. You grow and you evolve with the character. And, look, I think everyone here definitely is gonna sort of attest to this.”
“Like, I was pretty freaked out because, again, I felt like we had established a character a certain way, and there were certain things about him that I knew, and I was very comfortable and familiar with tonally in the movies, right? And then, we had to kind of go into this and go, ‘All right. Well, what is he like now?'”
“And part of that was really kind of us homing in on his sense of humor, so to speak. That really came into the tone of the series and, particularly, with his dynamic with Sam Wilson along with my own dynamic with Anthony, and kind of just marrying the two, you know?”
“The character that we’ve been introduced to for all these movies, and then also, where he is now. And I think that was scary and exciting.”
“Malcolm kind of really homed in on that and I think it’ really finally kind of zooming in on his quest for identity and in terms of really accepting his past and sort of re-educating himself about the-the world that he’s currently in… the ideals and principles he might’ve lived by and been driven by at one point that perhaps no longer really serve him the same way.”
“So he’s really kind of in an interesting trajectory when we start out the show and, obviously, that’s always exciting for an actor.”
The Falcon and the Winter Solider delves a lot into Bucky and Sam’s relationship, and as Mackie said during the chat, “I think the great thing about it is, or what I enjoy so much; you can’t find two people further opposite than each other than Sebastian and I.”
“But there’s a mutual respect, understanding, appreciation of that person. We listen, learn, and, teach each other a great deal. We’re, I would say, friends, which isn’t a term that either of us use lightly. So, I think because of that, there’s no, as Mr. T would say, ‘There’s no jibber-jabber.’ We allow ourselves to be our best selves and we correct ourselves when we’re not our best selves.”
“So, you always look for that other person, you know, that second hand. I think that’s kind of… and I’m not trying to speak for Sebastian. I would never do that, even though I do that all the time. But that’s kind of our relationship, you know? We allow ourselves to be ourselves.”
“I think he said it best,” Stan said. ” I know, I always believed you’re always better because of the people you surround yourself with.”
“And particularly, I feel like in acting and sorta the scenes and the material, it’s always about the people that bring out things in you, actually.”
The series brings the two characters into a lot of new situations, with back stories, and details about who they are now, and Mackie thought it was key for the MCU, “especially since Kevin Feige killed Iron Man [laughs]. We have to put ourselves in the position where we have to introduce these new characters to the audience, and give them that relationship. That history that they’ve built over 10 years we now have six episodes to play catch-up. You know, post blip.”
Stan sees the series as a chance to find what connects them, despite their differences.
“The whole subject of PTSD and the experience that they both share as soldiers, as men who have served, right?,” Stand said. “[That’s] one of the things that brings them together. And-and there’s sort of a bit of an honour code between them. Even though they come from different ideas or opinions about things, there’s a mutual respect, which Anthony’s already touched upon.”
So will there be more of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier?
“It’s a funny question,” Feige said, “and it’s one that we obviously get asked much more in television because people expect it to be like what people know before. So, where’s season two? Where’s season one? We really did approach it like we do the movies. Which is, we better make this great, or we won’t be able to do another one.”
“If we were able to do another one, there’s certainly ideas. The slight difference, of course, is as you’ve all heard-heard me say, and I think is becoming clear with Wandavision, that they really will go back and forth between Disney+ series, and the Marvel Studios features. So, where characters show up, and how, sometimes will be in a direct season two. Sometimes will be in a feature, and then into an additional season. We’re just not gonna say who does what right this second.”
One of the big things the series helps unpack is the idea of Sam Wilson accepting that Steve Rogers–Captain America–chose him to take up the shield.
“Sam’s whole thing is, he went on this journey–this Avenger journey–over six movies with Steve, because of his respect and admiration for Steve. He says, when Captain America shows up at your door, you answer it. It’s the pain, the idea of not being able to go on these missions.”
“There’s still people out there that really appreciate camaraderie and friendship. And Sam is one of those people. He enjoys his friend. So, he doesn’t–just like everybody else–you don’t wanna see Steve Rogers go away. You don’t wanna see Captain America go away. Because just like Captain America was your captain, Captain America was Sam Wilson’s captain. So, you know, that’s why he says at the end of End Game, it feels like when he’s holding his shield, it feels like it someone else’s. It feels like it’s yours.”
“Because he was a fan, just like everyone else. Because Sam Wilson, in all intensive purposes, is a regular guy that just won the lottery because you know, Black Widow knocked on his door, and needed a place to hide. And he fell in love, and was hopin’ to have a spin off with Black Widow. [Laughs].”
Beyond everything, Mackie said that one thing was more important for The Falcon and the Winter Solider than the rest.
“So, you know, our goal, and we’ve talked about this–I speak for Sebastian–was not to mess it up. So we didn’t wanna be the first crappy Marvel project.”
“Our job was to take the torch and not make a bad show. And I’m very happy to say that Steve Rogers will be proud that our show does not suck.”
“So the next show has a problem because if it’s bad, they’re gonna be the first crappy Marvel project in like 20 years.”
“So, what are you saying about Loki? [laughs]” Stan said.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just saying.”
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