Following on the heels of “WandaVision,” Marvel Studios’ latest dive into television for Disney+ was actually originally intended to be its first — and “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is quintessential Marvel action brought to the small screen.
Director Kari Skogland, head writer Malcom Spellman, producer Kevin Feige, and show stars Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier) recently gathered over Zoom to chat with the media and each other about the show and what it took to dive deeper into these two characters and bring the massive action Marvel is known for to television.
With the first episode now streaming on Disney+, “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” takes place in the aftermath of The Blip — in which those snapped out of existence by Thanos return to their lives five years later — and our heroes are not only coping with the loss of the likes of Captain America, but also their own person fallouts and that of their communities.
Thanks to the versatility of Disney+, Marvel Studios is able to explore deeper into characters fans know and love at a scope that isn’t easy to do in a theatrical film.
“This is the second [Marvel series] that is coming out onto Disney+ but, as Malcolm [Spellman] and Kari [Skogland] well know, it was our first one that we started, so Malcolm got to experience a bunch of filmmakers who’d never done TV before,” said Feige. “But it has ended up working out very well because it was really meant to prove that we could — to ourselves, to the audience and to Mr. Mackie and Stan — there that just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s not gonna be as big as it possibly could be as a movie and that we were working just as hard on it and putting all of our blood, sweat, and tears into [it]. We kept saying, ‘If we’re gonna do a series with Falcon and Winter Soldier in it, we need to at least start off with the best action that we’ve ever seen.’”
But it isn’t just about the action, as fans of “WandaVision” know; it’s about the chance to deep-dive into these characters and their own stories outside of the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“More importantly, as I think you also see in that first episode [of the show] and will see much more of over the course of the series, learn who the heck [Sam and Bucky] are,” added Feige. “We know a little bit about the poor Bucky Barnes and what he’d been through. Sam Wilson, other than that he likes the job and is an inherently moral man and had been in the service and worked with PTSD, we didn’t know much about ‘em. So it was really an opportunity to go deep.”
The relationship between Sam and Bucky is one that was teased in Phase Three of the MCU, which stood out to Feige and his team and illustrated that there was a story to tell with these two.
“There was about a 12-second moment in “[Captain America:] Civil War” where it feels like every single Marvel fan, Kevin Feige, and all his cabal partners knew that these two guys were gonna be able to support a movie or a franchise,” said Spellman. “I feel like you can’t really take credit for the tone because, in that 12 seconds, everybody knew what it was gonna be, and that’s sort of a transcendent thing […] You can go from as gritty as ‘48 Hours’ to as comedic as ‘Rush Hour,’ but in between there is sort of like that first ‘Lethal Weapon’ and that first ‘Bad Boys.’”
Bucky’s own personal growth in the aftermath of the Blip was not lost on Stan, who commented on how the character has grown over his time in the MCU.
“I always learn something about myself from this character. I mean, [I] spent 10 years with this character, you know? It’s impossible. You growand you evolve with the character,” said Stan. “I was pretty freaked out because, again, I felt like we had established a character a certain way, and there were certain things about that I knew and I was very comfortable and familiar with, totally, in the movies, right? And then, we had to kind of go into this and go, ‘All right. Well, what is he like now?’ You know, and part of that was really kind of us honing in on his sense of humor, so to speak. That really came into the tone of the series, and, particularly, with his dynamic with Sam Wilson along with my own dynamic with Anthony, and kind of just marrying the two.”
Pairing Sam and Bucky together for their own series continues Marvel’s Disney+ trend of “unusual couples,” and Mackie is quick to point out why, in the case of these two actors and their characters, works.
“I think the great thing about it is, or, what I enjoy so much, you can’t find two people further opposite than each other than Sebastian and I,” remarked Mackie. “But there’s a musical respect, understanding, appreciation of that person. We listen, learn, and teach each other a great deal. We’re, I would say, ‘friends,’ which isn’t a term that either of us use lightly […] We allow ourselves to be our best selves and we correct ourselves when we’re not our best selves. So you always look for that other person, you know, that second hand. I think that’s kind of — and I’m not trying to speak for Sebastian. I would never do that, even though I do that all the time. But that’s kind of our relationship. We allow ourselves to be ourselves.”
When asked about multiple seasons, Feige was jokingly apprehensive about giving an answer, but later said that what matters is that you approach the first season like it’s the only one you’re going to get.
“You know, it’s a funny question, and it’s one that we, obviously, get asked much more in television, because people expect it to be like what people know before. ‘So where’s season two?’ […] We really did approach it like we do the movies,” said Feige. “Which is, we better make this great, or we won’t be able to do another one. If we were able to do another one, there’s certainly ideas. The slight difference, of course, is as you’ve all heard me say, and I think is becoming clear with ‘WandaVision,’ that they will really go back and forth between Disney+ series and the Marvel Studios features. So, where characters show up, and how, sometimes will be in a direct season two, sometimes will be in a feature, and then into an additional season. We’re just not gonna say who does what right this second.”
Marvel Studios’ “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is streaming now exclusively on Disney+. You can read our spoiler-free review of the first episode here.