Falcon and Winter Soldier’s Anthony Mackie Feared Leading the “First Marvel Project That Sucked”

Anthony Mackie was afraid when Marvel Studios approached him to star in the original streaming series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+, saying he "didn't want to be the guy in the first Marvel project that sucked." Originally scheduled to release in 2020 as the first original series from the Kevin Feige-led studio before delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed WandaVision out in front, the Captain America spin-off reuniting the Falcon (Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) picks up a thread from Avengers: Endgame when an aged and retired Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) hands the mantle and shield of Captain America to Mackie's Sam Wilson.

"It was nerve-racking. I was very shocked and afraid," Mackie said during a virtual panel with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation about Marvel's pitch for Falcon and Winter Soldier. "I didn't want to be the guy in the first Marvel project that sucked, so I didn't know what to make of it. But once we got into it and they promised me that they were going to keep the same level of work that we've been doing from the movie screen to the television screen, I got excited about it."

Marvel Studios brass Louis D'Esposito and Victoria Alonso executive produce the series with Feige and Nate Moore, a producer on Mackie's first Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and 2016's Captain America: Civil War.

"Once Kari [Skogland, director] and Malcolm [Spellman, head writer] were put on the show, I got excited about it," Mackie said. "I think everybody was kinda weird about what was going on, it was so secretive. Sebastian and I had our meetings on the same day, and it was like, 'So what are you going in for?' 'I don't know, what're you going in for?' I thought it was going to be a disaster, especially putting me and Sebastian together and letting us go (laughs)."

Falcon and Winter Soldier starts with Sam relinquishing the star-spangled shield of Captain America, only becoming Steve's successor after the government-stamped John Walker (Wyatt Russell) proves to be unworthy in the role of America's newest hero. Asked if a focus on Sam accepting the shield as a Black man was part of early conversations for the series, Mackie said Falcon and Winter Soldier was pitched with the premise of who would wield the shield of Captain America.

"We never talked about that when the pitch of the show came about it. It was more so about the continuation about what was gonna happen with the shield, if it was gonna be Bucky or if it was gonna be Sam," Mackie said. "Because at the end of Endgame, Sam didn't accept the shield. He told Steve, 'It feels like this is someone else's, it feels like it's yours.' So at no point in time was he excited or looking forward to the idea of becoming Captain America. So it was more so Kevin and Nate telling me, 'We're not sure what's happening, so the show will be more about the idea or the archetype of Captain America, not you becoming Captain America.'"

"So I was really confused leaving out of the meeting. But I wasn't excited either. I hated the idea," Mackie added. "I thought it was gonna be an awful idea (laughs)."

In March, Falcon and Winter Soldier opened as the streaming service's most-watched series premiere — a crown now worn by Tom Hiddleston's God of Mischief with the June premiere of Loki on Disney+ — and has since scored an 89% fresh approval from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

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All episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are now streaming on Disney+.

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