Remember two months ago when all you really knew about Disney+’s WandaVision was it had something to do with classic sitcoms? That was obviously a massive undersell, and yet we’re currently in a similarly clueless place with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Marvel’s next streaming series is just a few weeks away and while we know a few overarching basics, we don’t yet know how much deeper it’s going to dig, both into its characters and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
But we may have begun to find out. In the way that WandaVision used those sitcoms as a clever, devastating way to tackle the impact of grief, The Falcon and Winter Soldier may indeed be a buddy action show that ultimately pulls back the layers on race relations in the massive comic book universe.
Speaking to Variety, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige discussed how the end of Avengers: Endgame, where an old Steve Rogers passes the Captain America shield to Sam Wilson rather than Bucky Barnes, opened up some very fertile room for storytelling. “Suddenly, what had been a classic passing of the torch from one hero to another at the end of Endgame became an opening up of our potential to tell an entire story about that,” Feige said. “What does it really mean for somebody to step into those shoes, and not just somebody but a Black man in the present day?”
In the same article, which is primarily about Mackie’s larger career (and is a very good read), the actor spoke about his trepidations about the show at large regarding his race, too. “I didn’t think we could do on the television what we’d been doing on the big screen,” Mackie said. “I didn’t want to be the face of the first Marvel franchise to fail. Like, ‘See? We cast the Black dude, and now this shit is awful.’ That was a huge fear of mine, and also a huge responsibility with playing a Marvel character.”
But after several movies, The Falcon and Winter Soldier is going to give Mackie plenty of time to explore his character and how Sam’s future will impact the MCU.
“Sam Wilson as played by Mackie is different than a Thor or a Black Panther, because he’s not from another planet or a king from another country,” Feige said. “He’s an African American man. He’s got experience in the military and doing grief counseling with soldiers who have PTSD. But where did he grow up? Who is his family? Mackie was excited to dig into it as this man, this Black man in particular, in the Marvel version of the world outside our window.”
Mackie didn’t go so far as to say the show is about Falcon officially picking up the Captain America mantle — something pretty much every fan assumes — but he doesn’t deny it either.
“I was really surprised and affected by the idea of possibly getting the shield and becoming Captain America,” Mackie said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and I did it the way they said you’re supposed to do it. I didn’t go to L.A. and say, ‘Make me famous.’ I went to theatre school, did Off-Broadway, did indie movies and worked my way through the ranks. It took a long time for this shit to manifest itself the way it has, and I’m extremely happy about that.”