(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios' The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Image Credit: Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has well and truly kicked into its phase four with force. We’re barely through the first quarter of 2021, and fans are already being treated to their second MCU event, just two weeks after the first, ‘WandaVision’, came to a dramatic close.

But ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’, debuting on OSN on March 19, was, in the beginning, being built to be the first Disney+ MCU series to come to audiences. But production delays due to Covid-19 meant that the series would drop as a sophomore effort. However, the scheduling gaffe makes little difference to the storytelling, say makers.

A virtual press conference held by Disney over the weekend featured series stars Anthony Mackie (who plays Sam Wilson) and Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes), director Kari Skogland, head writer Malcolm Spellman and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige delving into the journey that led to the creation of the series.

Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Image Credit: Marvel Studios

“This is the second [MCU show] that is coming out onto Disney+. But, as everybody knows, it was our first one that we started. But it has ended up working out very well because it was really meant to prove that we could — to ourselves to the audience and to Mr. Mackie and Stan — that just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s not gonna be as big as it possibly could be as a movie and that we were working just as hard on it and putting all of our blood, sweat and tears into it.

Which is why, in the first episode, it really starts off with a bang. 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’. And we’ve seen a lotta cool action with both of them before… It was really an opportunity to go deep,” said Feige at the press conference.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

While ‘WandaVision’ spun a more personal story, dealing with Wanda’s grief after Vision’s death, ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ tells a more high stakes story, while also tackling issues like identity, PTSD and race. The series will take a look at two Avengers — Falcon/Sam Wilson and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes, who are also Captain America’s best friends — grapple with the aftermath of the ‘Blip’, the return of an old foe, Helmut Zero (played by Daniel Bruhl), and the rise of a global masked militia.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. True to the characters and their trajectory so far, the makers have stuck to a lighter buddy-cop tone.

Elaborating on this, head writer Spellman said, “There was about a 12-second moment in ‘Avengers: Civil War’ where it felt like every single Marvel fan, Kevin Feige, and all his cabal partners knew that these two guys were gonna be able to support a movie or a franchise. And in doing the interviews, I feel like you can’t really take credit for the tone because in that 12 seconds everybody knew what it was gonna be, and that’s just sort of a transcendent thing. Um, the buddy cop or the buddy-two-hander genre, what we loved about them is the range tonally.”

Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios' THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios

“You can go from as gritty as ‘48 Hrs’ to as comedic as ‘Rush Hour’, but in between there is sort of, like, 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 to take on real issues or if you need to get into something very Marvel-y, it’s a very, very durable form of storytelling,” he continued.

For both Mackie and Stan, the series gives an opportunity to really get into the meat of the characters that they’ve played for close to a decade.

“The idea of Sam Wilson, he’s always evolved in the world of the Marvel comic books, and now he’s evolved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Because if you remember, when Sam Wilson first started out [in the comics], he was a hustler from Harlem. And then as African American culture evolved, Stan Lee evolved him in the comic book into different incarnations of himself. So, I’m excited for everyone to see the new and improved Sam Wilson,” said Mackie about his character.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Stan admitted that the process was equal parts terrifying and exciting. “I always learn something about myself from this character. I mean, I’ve spent 10 years with this character, you know? You grow and you evolve with the character. And I think everyone here definitely is [going to] attest to this.

"I was pretty freaked out becauseI 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 kind of go into this and go, ‘All right, well, what is he like now?’ And part of that was really kind of us homing in on his sense of humour, so to speak… And I think we’re really finally kind of zooming in on his quest for identity and in terms of really accepting his past and re educating himself about the world that he’s currently in.”

The actors both attested to their long-standing friendship and camaraderie, which translates to their palpable on-screen chemistry. Riffing off of each other’s energy comes naturally to the oddball couple.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

“I think the great thing about it is, or, what I enjoy so much, you can’t find two people further opposite than each other than Sebastian and I. But there’s a mutual respect, understanding, appreciation of that person. We listen, learn, and teach each other a great deal. We’re I would say, “friends”, [which?] isn’t a term that either of us use lightly. So, I think because of that, there’s no, as Mr. T would say, ‘There’s no jibber-jabber’. We allow ourselves to be our best selves and we correct ourselves when we’re not our best selves,” said Mackie.

To which, Stan quickly added, “I think he said it best. I always believed you’re always better because of the people you surround yourself with. And particularly, I feel like in acting and sort of the scenes and the material, it’s always about the people that bring out things in you, actually. And I think in this particular situation, it’s about the tone and we were trying to find a very fine line between making sure these characters are grounded, real and deal with very serious issues. And then, that there’s sort of another piece to this, about having fun and kind of connecting. And I always actually turn to Anthony for guidance in that, so it works out.”

Exploring Captain America’s legacy

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Elaborating on one of the final scenes of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, where an older Steve Rogers passes his Captain America shield to Sam Wilson, Mackie shared some of Sam’s internal thoughts, “Sam’s whole thing is he went on this journey, this Avenger journey, over six movies with Steve, because of his respect and admiration for Steve. When Captain America shows up at your door, you answer it.

"That being said, it’s the pain, the idea of not being able to go on these missions. Not being able to help his friend. There’s still people out there that really appreciate camaraderie and friendship. Sam is one of those people. He’s just like everybody else, you don’t want to see Steve Rogers go away. You don’t want to see Captain America go away. Because just like Captain America was your captain, Captain America was Sam Wilson’s captain. 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.”

Did you know?

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

While episode one of ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ features a surprise familiar face (we won’t spoil who it is), fans can expect to see more of where that came from. Head writer Malcolm Spellman said at the press conference, “Yes, there are many surprises. We can’t say who they all are. But they are all very pleasant surprises.” While it remains to be seen whether these are empty promises a la ‘WandaVision’, we can fairly surmise the series definitely has a lot to offer to long-standing MCU fans.

Don’t miss it!

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ debuts on OSN on March 19 in the UAE.