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Marvel’s New Dynamic Duo: An Inside Look at ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’

March 14, 2021Ben MK

Of all the character relationships to emerge from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the most watchable has arguably been the love-hate dynamic between Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson (a.k.a. the Falcon) and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes (a.k.a. the Winter Soldier). Now, hot on the heels of the hugely successful WandaVision, Sam and Bucky are back in the new Disney+ original series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a show that promises to go far beyond your usual supervillain-of-the-week type of storytelling.

Set in the aftermath of the earth-shattering events of Avengers: Endgame, the six-episode series finds these two characters trying to integrate themselves back into a society that's itself still trying to deal with the sudden reappearance of some three and a half billion people. But as Sam and Bucky each respectively discover, doing so is by no means an easy task, even if everyone in the world knows you're an Avenger. And when grave new threats both domestic and foreign arise, it falls on them to carry on the mission — and, in many ways, the iconic shield — passed onto them by their friend Steve Rogers.

"I approached it like a film," states series director Kari Skogland. "From the beginning, we were making a six-hour film. We just figured out where to snip it at certain hour marks. You really can get involved with the characters in six hours that you're just not able to in a film, particularly because the films are often very high-octane and immersed in some world-saving event. So it's very hard to go off on a little tangent with a character because the stakes are so high. But on a series, you're able to meander a little bit, and we're able to get inside the lives of our characters. We're able to do twists and turns."

As for those twists and turns and what that might entail, even the show's leads found themselves uncovering new sides of their characters that they hadn't seen before. "It's always a surprise when the minds get together and the information trickles down to you," says Mackie. "Sam Wilson has evolved in the world of Marvel comic books, and now he's evolved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To be able to go back and dive into his backstory and his family and his surroundings only betters the character for the audience. It's great to learn more and give more about your character and not have it feel like heavy exposition, but a good cinematic experience."

"I've spent 10 years with this character. You grow and evolve with the character," comments Stan. "We're finally zooming in on [Bucky's] quest for identity, in terms of [him] accepting his past and re-educating himself about the world that he's currently in. The ideals and principals he might have lived by and been driven by at one point perhaps no longer serve him the same way. But the whole subject of PTSD and the experience that [Sam and Bucky] both share as soldiers is one of the things that brings them together. There's a bit of an honor code between them. It's a major part of our show and it grounds both of these characters in very realistic ways."

That's not to say the show is without its elements of humor, however. But as series writer Malcolm Spellman says, to simply label it as another entry in the buddy cop genre is to do it a disservice. "You can go from as gritty as 48 Hours to as comedic as Rush Hour, but in between there [you have] that first Lethal Weapon and the first Bad Boys. And what we liked about it was it allowed Sebastian and Anthony to do what they do and create that magic, but it also allows the broader creative to take on real issues and get into something very Marvel-ey. Dispatching Thanos has created a situation where the entire world is dealing with one single issue. And the villains in this series are responding to that. In fact, every villain in this series would tell you he or she is a hero."

Ultimately, though, it all boils down to the chemistry between Mackie and Stan. "The great thing about it is, and what I enjoy so much, [is that you] can't find two people further opposite to each other than Sebastian and I," notes Mackie. "But there's a mutual respect, understanding [and] appreciation of that person. We listen, learn and teach each other a great deal. We're friends. So because of that, as Mr. T would say, there's no jibber jabber. We allow ourselves to be our best selves and we correct ourselves when we are not our best selves."

"I always believe you're always better because of the people you surround yourself with," reflects Stan. "Particularly in acting, it's always about the people that bring out things in you. And in this particular situation, it's about the tone. We were trying to find a very fine line between making sure these characters were grounded and dealing with very serious issues. And there's another piece to this — having fun. I always turn to Anthony for guidance in that."

As for whether any of that takes away from the show's action, Mackie says viewers need not worry. "The great thing about what we were able to do in this was that nothing was jeopardized or watered down. The same stunt guys that we worked with in the films are the same guys who choreographed and did all of our stunts on the show. Because of that, the stunts are really amazing. It's more hand-to-hand combat, it's more physical, it's more assertive. It's more of us utilizing our strengths instead of something else. We had amazing stunt men to kick ass for us."

Last but not least, what about the future of the MCU and Marvel's upcoming television endeavors? What characters are Mackie and Stan most excited about seeing and potentially working with? "Moon Knight!" exclaims Stan without hestitation. "I would have to say She-Hulk is an interesting character I'm looking forward to seeing," adds Mackie. "But I would really like to spend some time in Blade world."

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier begins streaming March 19th, exclusively on Disney Plus.

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