Marvel newcomer Wyatt Russell put in a phone call to Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn before accepting his role as John Walker, the new Captain America, in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. A well-read Marvel Comics fan who directed Russell's father, Kurt Russell, in 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn described Walker as a flawed and "inherently interesting" character who assumes the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers resigns the role. When Walker proves unworthy of the stars and shield of Captain America, he reinvents himself as the black-suited super-soldier U.S. Agent.
"It's hard because they don't tell you anything, they don't even tell you who you're playing until you have a meeting with them and say, 'Here you go!'" Russell told Gold Derby about meeting with Marvel Studios. "So I had no idea what to think and kind of kept it that way, had no expectation, didn't know if it was something I'd want to do even after [reading] the part and they say 'we want you to do it,' just because you just don't know."
Upon learning the role was John Walker, the "first phone call" Russell made was to someone who "knew the world" of Marvel: Gunn.
"I called James Gunn, who had become friendly with my wife [actress Meredith Hagner], she had worked with him on a movie [the Gunn-produced Brightburn]. And I trust his opinion," Russell said. "Obviously, he's a great filmmaker, he's in that world. He said, 'if it's the character I'm thinking of, it's a really interesting, inherently interesting character because he has a lot of issues that you have to work through.' So he knew a little bit about the character, which was more than my nothing."
As an admitted non-reader of Marvel Comics, Russell consulted with Gunn before meeting with Falcon and Winter Soldier co-executive producer Zoie Nagelhout and director Kari Skogland. The creatives explained Walker would be an anti-Cap, whose short-lived stint as the star-spangled superhero ends in disgrace when he's stripped of his title and authority as Captain America.
"My fears were, 'you're going to want me to be Captain America and do the thing,' and it wasn't a good idea to anybody, obviously, but to me, that was what I was nervous about," Russell said. "They said, 'no, no, it's this character, this is sort of his arc.' They didn't know exactly how they wanted to handle the tone of him yet, which I actually took as something that was a good challenge because I wasn't stepping into some pre-ordained version of somebody or preconceived version of somebody."
Russell added, "So I felt like, 'okay, they want me to play around, they got the right guy because I like giving a lot of different versions' … so that sort of creative leeway that I got was a lot longer leash than I thought was going to be. That's what led me to really going, 'okay, this'll be fun.'"
All six episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are streaming on Disney+.
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