'Falcon and Winter Soldier' team on rebooted Captain America: 'What does it mean for a Black man to pick up such an iconically white symbol?'

Although it was originally supposed to be the first Marvel Studios series to premiere on Disney+, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier arrives this week with the unenviable task of following the genre-bending, sitcom-spoofing WandaVision, which engaged fans and critics and launched a million social media theories for the past two months.

However, the creators and stars of FAWS, which follows Avenger buddies Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in a post-Blip world, aren’t phased — for the most part.

“Our show is very different,” Mackie tells us during a recent virtual press day in which he was joined by Stan (watch above). “I think it was great that WandaVision actually went first, ’cause it set up the audience’s ideas of this Marvel Cinematic Universe on the streamer. … But our show is so different. Sebastian and I are very different than [Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany].

“The bar is high, obviously,” says director Kari Skogland. “I’m thrilled for them that it was such a success, and it’s such a creative show. So what’s terrific is ours is completely different, as is true of the MCU and certainly of Marvel. They really come at every project with its own DNA. So there are no rules.”

But executive producer-writer Malcolm Spellman admits it’s a hard act to follow: “Hopefully we will honor the momentum that WandaVision got for us, but, yeah, I’m stressed.”

Spellman says the series features more conventional Marvel action with the intended tone of a buddy team-up like 48 Hrs. (1982) and Lethal Weapon (1987).

“[They] dealt with really very real issues of those times,” Spellman says. “48 Hrs. dealt with race; Lethal Weapon dealt with the Vietnam War — people don’t even really think about that. That genre allows you to tackle real issues while keeping the journey fun.”

Anthony Mackie in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' (Disney+)
Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. (Photo: Disney+)

As Marvel chief Kevin Feige recently stated, Falcon and the Winter Soldier will tackle what it means to be a Black man in present-day America. In the series’ first episode, for instance, Sam is unable to procure a business loan for his family’s fishing business, now run by his sister, despite having just helped return half of the world’s population from Thanos’s snap.

“This show deals with a lot of baggage that we harbor as Americans,” says Mackie. “It’s dealing with economic structure, race and not only the idea of being an American but being a human.”

The issues of race and identity will play a particularly pivotal role when it comes to Sam grappling with the potential of assuming Captain America’s shield — handed off to him in the climactic moments of Avengers: Endgame — in the wake of Steve Rogers’s (Chris Evans) decision to remain in the past and age into an elderly man.

“It’s a very important conversation that we’re having all the time but in particular it’s really bubbled to the [forefront] in the past year: What does it mean for a Black man to pick up such an iconically white symbol?” Skogland says of the shield passing. “What does that mean for the character? It’s a real exploration of what we have traditionally laid into with this iconic red, white and blue of it, and now we are taking it down another road.

“We’re really exploring what that is, and we don’t necessarily want to give answers. I think it’s also really important to provoke discussion.”

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres Friday on Disney+.

Watch the trailer:

Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

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