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David Harbour says his Red Guardian is 'Captain America of the Cold War' in Black Widow film

By Caitlin Busch & Benjamin Bullard
David Harbour at SDCC 2019 Marvel Panel

Marvel finally revealed the full cast of its much-buzzed Black Widow movie at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, especially delighting fans of David Harbour with the ingeniously timed news that he’ll be taking on the role of Cold War-era baddie the Red Guardian in Scarlett Johansson’s new solo film. 

When SYFY WIRE caught up with Harbour, Johansson, and the rest of the Black Widow cast, Harbour sounded so genuinely excited about the movie’s story that he held back from unwrapping too many details too early. But he did shed some light on how the movie will frame the Red Guardian in Black Widow’s pre-Avengers world, while confessing he didn’t think he’d ever get to play another science fiction character as interesting as Stranger Things’ police chief Jim Hopper … that is, until Black Widow came along.

The Soviets’ answer to Captain America, said Harbour, has some hidden super-tricks up his sleeve, but Harbour didn’t say whether they’ll precisely mirror what fans have seen in the comics:

“He’s the Red Guardian, which is the counterpart to Captain America. In the Cold War, the Soviets retaliated with the Red Guardian. And … he’ll surprise you,” said Harbour. “He has this ‘thing,’ this super-soldier thing. But he’ll surprise you with his flaws, and with his complexities. I kinda don’t want to give it away, because I want you to be surprised as well.”

The Red Guardian, aka Alexei (who in the comics has several other named versions), is essentially the Soviets’ way of keeping up with the U.S. in the superhero arms race. Like Cap, he’s good in a close-quarters fight, and where Steve Rogers gets a shield, Alexei wields a souped-up magnetic throwing disc that boomerangs back to his hand once it’s struck its target. And while Natasha (Johansson) eventually bucked her communist past and defected, Alexei dug in deeper back home, becoming a patriotic symbol the Soviets could rally around.

How Harbour’s MCU character will play against his former comrade likely won’t be made known until the film itself has been released. But Harbour said there’ll be more to this incarnation of the Red Guardian than simple villainy.

“He’s just really rich — and it’s expanding me in ways that I love,” he explained. “I never thought I would play a character as rich as Hopper in these sort of genre things. And this guy has his own riches, so it’s exciting.”

Part of Marvel’s gigantic, recently revealed slate of movies and Disney+ TV shows for the MCU’s Phase 4, Black Widow is set to arrive in theaters on May 1, 2020.