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SYFY WIRE The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Kevin Feige on what makes Falcon different from other Marvel heroes: ‘He’s not from another planet or a king’

By Josh Weiss

Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson has some big shoes to fill after accepting the Captain America shield from an elderly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in Avengers: Endgame. But before he takes on the patriotic mantle, Sam will once more assume the winged role of The Falcon in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which debuts on Disney+ later this month.

As Mackie was bumped up to No. 1 on the MCU call sheet for the upcoming series, Marvel Studios' boss spoke with Variety about what makes Sam different from other heroes — especially heroes of color — that we've seen in the onscreen comic book mythos thus far.

"Sam Wilson, as played by Mackie, is different than a Thor or a Black Panther, because he’s not from another planet or a king from another country," Feige said. "He’s an African American man. He’s got experience in the military and doing grief counseling with soldiers who have PTSD. But where did he grow up? Who is his family? Mackie was excited to dig into it as this man, this Black man in particular, in the Marvel version of the world outside our window."

“I’m basically the eyes and ears of the audience, if you were put in that position where you could go out and fight alongside superheroes," Mackie added. "It adds a really nice quality to him, that he’s a regular guy who can go out there and do special things."

As the first MCU project to be headlined by a Black actor since 2018's Black Panther, the show (co-starring Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes) offers up a chance to explore what it's like to be a Black man in the United States. While production kicked off before 2020 rolled around, the idea of a person of color becoming the next Captain America holds as much cultural resonance as ever. It's a welcome step forward for representation and diversity in terms of how we define superheroes.

“Suddenly, what had been a classic passing of the torch from one hero to another at the end of Endgame became an opening up of our potential to tell an entire story about that," Feige continued. "What does it really mean for somebody to step into those shoes, and not just somebody but a Black man in the present day?"

[Falcon’s] role within the Marvel universe has answered the call to action time and time again," said Evans. "He’s proven his courage, loyalty and reliability over multiple films. Sam has given so much, and he’s also lost a lot too. He believes in something bigger than himself, and that type of humility is necessary to carry the shield.” 

And yes, after years of working alongside bigger stars, Mackie is finally No. 1 on the call sheet. However, Feige remarked that "it still says ‘No. 6.’ He kept it because he didn’t want it to go to his head." If nothing else, Mackie is already nailing that Captain America-style humility.

Showrun by Malcolm Spellman, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier flies onto Disney+ Friday, March 19.