There's a new star-spangled man with a plan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and franchise newcomer Wyatt Russell is hoping fans "don't hate [him] too much" as the new Captain America on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The premiere episode of the Marvel Studios original series, "New World Order," ended with the United States government publicly declaring a need for "new heroes" six months after Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) relinquished the shield in Avengers: Endgame. The 112-year-old Steve handed the shield to his trusted ally Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who was blindsided when the government unveiled a winking John Walker (Russell) under a catchy slogan: "Cap is back."
"People are probably going to hate it, and some people are going to love it," Russell told USA Today. "[Movies and TV shows] are there to make people feel emotions, and I'm hoping that that's what this show can do for people. Hopefully, they don't hate me too much. It would be an honor, I guess, to be disliked in the Marvel universe."
After the episode-ending reveal of the John Walker Captain America, viewers took to Twitter with the hashtag #NotMyCap — a phrase that appeared in the recent Marvel comic books where Sam Wilson wielded the shield as the all-new Captain America.
"I don't think there's really been many MCU characters who've had quite the dilemma he's had in terms of trying to fit into this sort of moralistic superhero world," Russell said of Walker, who comic book readers will recognize as US Agent. "He's been thrust into this role as Captain America and he's going to do it his way, and he wants to do it right. But his way is a very specific way that he has learned through being basically a trained human hunter. I mean, that's what Marines are. They're not Steve Rogers, they're not the same. They're not like Boy Scouts anymore. They're a little bit more gnarly."
Unlike Steve Rogers, Russell's John Walker is a man at war with his moral compass.
"There's always an element of reality [in the show] where it's like, well, sometimes you need that guy, and it's not always pretty," Russell said. "It's fun to play those characters because they're always at odds with themselves. They're always at odds with their own abilities and with their own moral compass. They know what is right, kind of, but they also want to win and they battle with that."
Walker has more in common with James 'Bucky' Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Cap's lifelong best friend and old war buddy, who is working through past traumas and guilt from the decades he spent as the infamous brainwashed assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
"A lot of times [soldiers] go out there and put their hearts and bodies on the line, they come back missing limbs, they come back with PTSD. That's some of the Bucky stuff [and] a lot of that is also part of John Walker's story," Stan said.
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere Fridays on Disney+.
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