Anthony Mackie’s first day as Marvel’s new Captain America was the worst day of his acting life.
Friday’s finale episode of Disney+’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” revealed Mackie’s Sam Wilson – a Marvel Cinematic Universe regular since 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – as the high-flying superhero who’s officially taking over the mantle from Chris Evans.
The former Falcon introduces himself (“I’m Captain America”) when characters he’s trying to help don’t recognize his spiffy red, white and blue winged suit, but also throws down with the mercenary Batroc, played by world-renowned MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre.
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“We were doing our fight sequence and he actually punched me in the face,” Mackie says in an interview from his home in New Orleans. “And I have to say, I took a full punch from Georges St-Pierre and I did not go down. Everybody saw it, they have it on tape. And then I took a full kick to the chest and I went down, but it didn’t knock me out.
“It was a long day. So by the time I got to the Captain America moment, I was like, ‘Dude, this is the worst job. I want to go back to being the Falcon. Just leave me alone.’ ”
The show partnered Sam and Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), as they deal with the antagonistic Flag Smashers and their leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) – who took a similar serum that turned Evans’ Steve Rogers into a super-soldier. Complicating matters is the presence of John Walker (Wyatt Russell), an unstable soldier who’s given the Captain America shield by the government.
The emotional core of “Falcon,” however, was Sam coming to grips with what it would mean to be a Black Captain America in a country that locked up and experimented on an African-American super-soldier (Carl Lumbly).
Mackie, 42, talks about Sam’s journey, watching the finale with his four sons (ages 4, 5, 8 and 11), and the possibility of starring in his own “Captain America” movie:
Question: Over the course of the season, Sam went from thinking the shield was someone else’s to owning it himself. Is there a scene that cemented in Sam’s mind that he wanted to be Captain America?
Anthony Mackie: It was the training scene with Bucky, when they were throwing the shield. America struggles with acknowledgement, specifically acknowledgement for Black Americans and their contributions to what this country has become. It meant a lot to Sam just simply for Bucky to say, “I never considered what it would mean for a Black man to become Captain America.” That was the huge turning point for Sam. It was a cathartic experience, and his ability to release that pain and frustration in that moment turned that character completely on his head and moved him in the direction of accepting the idea of being Captain America.
Q: Steve Rogers was, for a long time, the MCU’s moral center. Does Sam take on that mantle, too, in his impromptu speech where he says, “The only power that I have is that I believe we can do better”?
Mackie: It was a very important line and moment for him as Captain America. Captain America will be very different going forward. You have to realize, he’s the only person who’s not a superhero. He has no serum, he has no powers. He’s just a dude who went for a job and became an Avenger. (Laughs) So instead of using brute and brawn, and him being a former military counselor to vets, his emotional (and) mental path is completely different.
It’s very important to realize that if push comes to shove, he can give you a one-two (punch). But the reality of it is, how do we move forward in a more sophisticated way instead of dropping-a-city-on-people way.
Q: How much cooler are you now to your kids being Cap?
Mackie: The five of us were watching it together, and the two little ones looked at the TV, they looked back at me, they looked at the TV and they’re like, “Dad, you could be Captain America.” I was like, “I know.” And the other two start laughing and they’re like, “Can we have some more popcorn?” I’m like, “So y’all don’t give a (care) about anything but popcorn.” (Laughs)
The 11- and 8-year-old, to them it’s really cool. They’ve seen all the work that I’ve put in and all the things that I’ve had to do to sacrifice to get to where I am. But the little ones, they don’t get how you’re on TV and on the couch at the same time. That makes no sense to them.
Q: Your next TV gig is Amazon’s upcoming “Solos” sci-fi anthology series. What’s your role in that?
Mackie: I play a young man who plays opposite himself, so it’s two of me talking to each other. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but (the script’s) just 35 pages of me. We get to a place in this business where I’m 20 years in, you can phone it in. You can do the same thing, same way in every movie, pick up a check and go home. With COVID, I wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I still had it.
Q: There are rumblings about a fourth “Captain America” film in development, starring you. Is that official or still hypothetical at this point?
Mackie: I love working with Marvel, because you literally find out stuff from people at the grocery store. They didn’t call me and tell me. The dude at the grocery store takes off his mask and he goes, “Are you really starting Part Four?” “What are you talking about?” He takes out his phone and he’s like, “Look! That’s you!” I’m like, “(Expletive)! Nobody told me.” It’s always a surprise. I found out in the grocery store, buying red beans and rice.
Q: What would it mean to you to headline a Marvel movie?
Mackie: That would be everything. It’s funny, because I’ve been doing this for so long. Getting into the business, I had two wishes for my agent at the time: I want to do a Western, preferably with Clint Eastwood, and I want to be a superhero. That was all I wanted, and after that I’m done. I’ll go make po’ boys at a local po’ boys stand downtown. The idea of being the title character in a Marvel movie, there’s no words to describe that, especially as a Black actor. Black actors don’t get those opportunities. And to have that opportunity, for all the work that I had to do, the 11 years of training, all the stuff that I had to do to get here, it would be a monumental feat.
Q: So you just need to talk to Clint now, and then you can retire.
Mackie: Dude, I’m working on it! I really want to go back and reshoot all the scenes in “Unforgiven” with Morgan Freeman and just put me in all those scenes.