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There's a new Captain America in town, and the actor who plays him is very aware that he's about to become one of the most-disliked people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We've known for some time now that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was set to introduce John Walker, a character who famously took over the shield in the pages of the Captain America comic, to the MCU, and trailers for the series haven't been shy about portraying him as the United States government's official replacement for Steve Rogers. In the series premiere of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes' continuing MCU adventures, we finally got see how Walker arrives on the scene, and it definitely ruffled some feathers both within the fictional universe and within its fandom. For Wyatt Russell, who plays the character, that's all in a day's work.
“People are probably going to hate it, and some people are going to love it," Russell told USA Today, adding that it's something of "an honor, I guess, to be disliked in the Marvel universe."
Introduced in 1986 as Super-Patriot, and now known as U.S. Agent, Walker's time as Captain America in the pages of Marvel Comics was marked by a sense of burden, but also a sense of brutality that his forebear Steve Rogers didn't have. Though he was perhaps well-intentioned, Walker didn't carry the shield in the same way that Rogers did, and Russell has a clear grasp of that contrast looking ahead to his role in the rest of the series.
“I don't think there's really been many MCU characters who've had quite the dilemma he's had in terms of trying to fit into this sort of moralistic superhero world,” Russell said. “He's been thrust into this role as Captain America and he's going to do it his way, and he wants to do it right. But his way is a very specific way that he has learned through being basically a trained human hunter. I mean, that's what Marines are. They're not Steve Rogers, they're not the same. They're not like Boy Scouts anymore. They're a little bit more gnarly."
No matter his intentions or the eventual role he'll fall into in the MCU (Walker has been both hero and villain at various points in his comics career), Walker's introduction in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier automatically puts him at odds with the title characters. The series premiere focuses in large part on Sam Wilson's attempts to move on from the shield he was bequeathed, and one of his first acts in the series is to donate the iconic symbol of duty and patriotism to the Smithsonian, believing no one can ever carry it quite like his friend Steve could.
By the end of the episode, the U.S. government has made that decision for him, and without his input, pulling the shield out of its glass case and handing it to Walker. Whether his character is on the right side or not, Russell is acutely aware of exactly how that looks, particularly when he himself is working in the shadow of Chris Evans.
“He’s perfect. Who else can play Captain America like Chris Evans? Nobody," Russell said. "And what's good about this show is that it takes that in hand, where it's like, ‘Well, who else is going to (expletive) play Captain America? This guy?' "
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues Friday on Disney+.