By William Mullally
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even the smallest moments can be big. Take one short scene in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” for example, in which The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), two supporting characters in the franchise, sit in a car while the film’s titular star discusses more-important business.
In the scene, one sits in the front seat, the other in the back. One asks the other, “Can you move your seat up?” only for the other to respond with a terse “No.”
Their exchange lasts mere seconds, but fans went wild for it, focusing in on the characters with memes, theories, and fan fiction for years to come. In that instant, the new Disney+ series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” now streaming in the region on OSN, was born.
“In that 12-second moment in ‘Civil War,’ it felt like every single Marvel fan, (Marvel Studios head) Kevin Feige, and every other creative partner knew that these two guys were going be able to support their own franchise,” says Malcolm Spellman, the show’s executive producer and head writer.
The characters may have made themselves stars in that one moment five years ago, but Marvel is only now in a place where it needs their help to build its future. In 2019, after 11 years and 23 films, Marvel said goodbye to the two pillars of its first era, Captain America and Iron Man, who exited the franchise with “Avengers: Endgame.” For Marvel to continue its outsized popularity in global pop-culture, new icons have to take their place. So those that were in the background had to move into sharper focus.
But who are these two characters, exactly? To figure that out, and tell the story of how two former best friends of Captain America become the main heroes themselves, and learn to respect each other without their level-headed mediator between them, Spellman leaned on the men who knew them best — the actors that played them.
“It was surprising how much work Sebastian and Anthony had done on the characters in their own minds. They had been living with these characters for a decade, and actors on that level will never show up to set unprepared. They’ve been writing all kinds of stories in their heads. When it was time for us to start working on them, you start to dialogue with these guys about the characters, and the sophistication of how they understood them was really impressive,” Spellman tells Arab News.
For Stan, the difficulty that the series presented was not in understanding who The Winter Soldier was, as they had clearly defined him in the previous Marvel films, it was in deciding who he was now — after all the events of those films had occurred. For the series to work, it had to not only establish the characters, it had to convey their growth, and set a new path forward for each of them.
“We spent 10 years with these characters, you know? You grow and you evolve with the character. I was pretty freaked out because we had established a character a certain way, and there were certain things about him that I knew I was very comfortable and familiar with tonally in the movies, and then, we had say, ‘Alright. Well, what is he like now?’ I think that was scary and exciting,” says Stan.
Mackie, for one, knew this was his chance to fill the void that Captain America had left in the MCU, and he put a lot of pressure on himself, as Stan did as well, to step into Cap’s army-issue boots.
“Our goal, and I speak for Sebastian too, was not to mess it up. We didn’t want to be the first bad Marvel project,” says Mackie. “Our job was to take the torch and not make a bad show. I'm very happy to say that (Captain America) will be proud that our show does not stink.”
Some will be surprised that “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is a TV series at all, and not a big-budget movie. But with the advent of streaming platforms, that difference may soon lose all meaning. In this series, Feige, the main creative voice in every Marvel project, intentionally set up each episode to feel like a blockbuster film.
“We really meant to prove — to ourselves, to the audience, and to Mr. Mackie and Stan — that just because it's on TV doesn't mean it's not going to be as big as it possibly could be as a movie. We were working just as hard on it and putting all of our blood, sweat, and tears into it,” says Feige.