Originally meant to be the first Marvel Disney+ series, this Friday will mark the release of the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Coming off of the success of Wandavision, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Kari Skogland, and Kevin Feige spoke about creating and being a part of this six-episode show, looking at a world post-Thanos, and diving deeper into the characters of Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson.
A Six-Hour Movie
When approaching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS), it was always planned to be a six-hour film rather than a traditional television show. Head writer Malcolm Spellman said that it wasn’t looked at one episode at a time. “A series allows horizontal storytelling,” Spellman explained. “And the rhythm of the storytelling is completely different in that, characters can befriend each other, fall out, and evolve in a different way.” This sort of storytelling allowed them to explore multiple different themes at once and plan out character journeys across the series. “It created that feeling where there’s almost like this fabric that’s draped over the entire series.”
For director Kari Skogland, this meant more work, but it allowed them to get more involved with the characters. In regards to the films, “They’re high octane already, and they’re 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 in one singular direction. But on a series, you’re able to meander a little bit. And we’re able to get inside the lives of our characters.”
And speaking of high octane, big world-saving events, Spellman noted that dealing with Thanos in Endgame created a situation where the entire world was dealing with one single issue, and everything moving forward is born from that. “The villains in this series are responding to that. And, in fact, every villain in the series would tell you he or she is a hero.” We already saw a bit of post-Blip life in Spiderman: Far From Home for the common man and we glimpsed Monica Rambeau’s return in Wandavision, but it sounds like the series will address this on a more global scale in TFATWS.
Instead of leaning into more traditional styles of television storytelling, Skogland and Spellman took influences from buddy-cop feature films. Spellman said that what was great about the genre was the wide range of tones that could be found. “You can go as gritty as 48 Hrs. to as comedic as Rush Hour, but in between there’s that first Lethal Weapon and that first Bad Boys. And what we liked about it was it allows Sebastian and Anthony to do what they do and create that magic, but also allows the broader creative take on real issues or if you need to get into something very Marvel-y, it’s a very, very dura-durable form of storytelling.”
Nothing Watered Down
It’s impossible not to think of action when it comes to a Marvel production. And when it comes to TFATWS, some might have worried that the transfer over to the small screen might have meant shortcuts that a feature film wouldn’t take. Kevin Feige made it clear that that wasn’t the case. “Just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s not gonna be as big as it possibly could be compared to a movie. We were working just as hard on it and putting all of our blood, sweat, and tears into it,” he said. “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.’”
The series worked with the same stunt team as they did in the films. This meant the fight choreography and stunts would have the same punch as bigger Marvel pictures. Anthony Mackie said, “The great thing about what we were able to do with was nothing was jeopardized or watered down.” He added, “Kari had a great idea that we all kind of fell in line with on taking the idea of weaponry away, so it’s more hand-to-hand combat. It’s more physical. It’s more assertive. It’s more of us utilizing our strengths.”
“It’s tonally the same as the movies,” added Sebastian Stan.
How Does It Feel?
One of the most exciting things going into TFATWS is getting to know fan favorite characters like Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. Although we’ve seen Sam and Bucky play key roles in Captain America’s films, and we saw Steve hand off the shield to Sam at the end of Endgame, we don’t know much about them. When it comes to Bucky, we know more about his life as the Winter Soldier than Bucky Barnes. We know Sam was a soldier, he lost his co-pilot years ago, he enjoys a good jog, but the series allows a lot more exploration into his life. “It was really an opportunity to go-to go deep,” Feige said.
Getting the shield from Cap meant that Sam could inherit the title of Captain America. But, as we know from Endgame, there was some uncertainty when Sam picked up the shield, even if Steve placed his trust in him. “Just like everybody else, [he doesn’t] wanna see Steve Rogers go away. […] Because, just like Captain America was your captain, Captain America was Sam Wilson’s captain. So, that’s why he says at the end of Endgame, it feels like when he’s holding his shield, it feels like it someone else’s. It feels like it’s yours. Because he was a fan, just like everyone else. Because Sam Wilson, for all intents and purposes, is a regular guy that just won the lottery…”
For Mackie, getting to dive deeper into his character’s family and backstory seems to only make the character better for the audience. “We’re in a place now where we want the audience to know and learn these new characters. Especially since Kevin Feige killed Iron Man,” he joked. “That history that they’ve built over 10 years we now have six episodes to play catch-up. So, it’s always great to learn more and give more about your character, and [for] it not to feel like heavy exposition and just a lesson, [but] when it feels like a good cinematic experience.”
Therapy for the Winter Soldier
Of course, despite being from different generations, one thing that always brought Steve, Sam, and Bucky together was their background in being soldiers. Stan noted that this shared experience is something that brings Sam and Bucky together. “There’s sort of a bit of an honor code between them,” Stan explained, despite the differences between the two characters. “There’s a mutual respect.” But, unlike Steve and Sam, Bucky also has the added trauma of his time as the Winter Soldier where he faced repeated brainwashing and manipulation at the hands of HYDRA.
For Stan, who has been playing Bucky for a decade and grown and evolved with the character, he admitted to being a bit freaked out going into the series. “I felt like we had established a character a certain way, and there were certain things about him that I knew and I was very comfortable and familiar with tonally in the movies, right? And then, we had to go into this and go, ‘All right. Well, what is he like now?’” But, he added, this meant that they could explore more of Bucky’s humor and his dynamic with Sam, marrying his real-life friendship with Mackie.
The series also gave room to explore Bucky’s quest for identity, Stan explained, “In terms of really accepting his past and re‑educating himself about the world that he’s currently in. The ideals and principles he might’ve lived by and been driven by at one point, perhaps no longer really serve him the same way. So, he’s really on an interesting trajectory when we start out the show, and, obviously, that’s always exciting for an actor.”
FATWS also explores Bucky finally going to therapy after these years of endless missions. Stan noted that the PTSD that Bucky faces is something that he will have to continue to grow with, and it is something that grounds both of the characters. And this isn’t a new subject for the MCU, we saw much of Iron Man 3 deal with Tony’s PTSD after the Battle of New York. Feige noted that it was important to anchor the characters. Despite their powers and the excitement of the movie’s events, they have experienced a lot of trauma over the years. “But really, if you think about it, which we do, we think about what if we were those characters, what if we lived this. There would be horrific elements to that that would have repercussions years down the line. And that is very fun to explore.”
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: A Marvel Production
Even if TFATWS was meant to be the first series to kick off the Marvel Disney+ shows, the reality is that it now has to follow Wandavision. When asked to comment about now being the second show to be released, Skogland had nothing but good things to say. “I’m so thrilled that WandaVision did so well. It’s just set the bar,” she laughed before crossing her fingers.
Although it’s likely that the shows won’t have any crossover, that doesn’t mean that they exist in their own separate bubbles. While Feige made no announcements about future seasons of Wandavision, he did make it clear that the shows would be braided into the MCU alongside the feature movies. “They really will 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, [or] sometimes will be in a feature, and then into an additional season.” But as for specifics? Nothing yet.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuts this Friday, only on Disney+!
- This interview was edited for clarity and readability.