‘The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’ Director Kari Skogland On How Life Imitates Art

What the previews of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier don’t show is that, yes there’s plenty of action, but we also get to dive deeper into the personal lives of both Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). As director Kari Skogland says, the normal running time of a movie wouldn’t allow that, but here, over the course of six episodes we get to know a lot more about these two men other than “they are friends with Steve Rogers.”

Ahead, Skogland gives us a preview of what to expect over the course of this new Disney+ series that debuts this Friday. And there’s a lot going on in this series that reflects current events. There’s of course the Marvel blip, which has taken on a new, eerie vibe amidst our real life pandemic. The first episode introduces the Flag Smashers, which seems to echo real life political unrest. And there’s Sam, as a Black man in America, questioning if he should be the one carrying Captain America’s shield, while the country he fought for seems to be conspiring against him.

So, first, the narrative for years has been when are more women going to be directing Marvel movies. And that has started to happen. But The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been described as a “long movie,” so I feel your involvement should be getting even more attention.

Well, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. I mean, I’m part of a group of women who are coming on strong and I’m thrilled to be part of that. You know what? Making this as a movie, which you’re right, we approached it like a movie, and I think when people see all six, even though the rhythm of it is in sort of an hour space, the overall is very much in the movie paradigm: first act, second act, third act. So yeah, I’m very, very proud to be part of it.

Was there a difficulty on where to end each episode? Because I feel like it almost contradicts itself in that it’s divided into six, but playing together it will feel like a movie. The first one ends with suspense.

Exactly. Well, that’s what we did with all of them. We made a choice as to just where the story we wanted to be, to go, “Oh, wow, that just happened.” And, so, we chose accordingly.

You dig into both character’s personal lives. It feels like there’s a lot of fertile ground there.

Well, that’s one of the beauties of working in a six-part movie is that we were able to spend a little more time, and we’re able to get to know the characters on a more intimate basis. So, we were also not in quite the same pressure cooker of the two-hour movie when we would have to get to the ending and you can’t wander. So we were able to find out more about Sam’s world and find out more about Bucky and what his issues are with his identity. He’s having a crisis of who he is. How does he go forward? And where does he fit in? Nobody lives in a vacuum. So you are influenced by your surroundings and those pressures and how Sam is dealing with his family pressures. On top of just the returning from the blip. And being in a position where he has certain skills that are going to be called upon to help in extraordinary situations. So, I think it’s a marvelous space for the MCU. The doors are opening up for all of us to get to know these characters so differently.

When did filming on this end?

At the end of October.

How big was the blip going to be part of this pre-pandemic, then post-pandemic? Because everything about the Marvel blip now is super weird.

I know. And you know what? It was always part of our story and it didn’t change. So it was very much art imitating life, or life imitating art. So, no, we were exploring it because that was the cornerstone. And then when the pandemic happened, it just sort of sharpened our narrative, because we were already into things.

How did it sharpen?

I think it just made us all realize how incredibly relevant our conversation was, because post-blip, we’re exploring nationalism and patriotism and what that looks like. And some people want to turn back the clock and other people don’t. And so, you have this interesting dynamic of the past informing the future and the future is afraid of the past and all that stuff. It was sort of gathered up into our post-pandemic world similarly. So we just continued on with the story, but we realized how incredible it was that we were telling the story with this scope and relevance. And same was true, of course, of a black man carrying the shield. Because, at the same time, there was a lot of protests and very relevant conversation about racism in America and around the world. And we were telling that story, too. So we felt, I guess, very proud that we are part of a very current narrative and we wanted to tell a great story.

The Flag smashers have a role in this and I’m curious where that’s going. But is there a point with that aspect where fiction can’t get crazier than reality? Because we witnessed a horrible thing happen in January.

I think what is really terrific about us and the doors that we open, the conversation that we’re having, is that the whole goal is to be thought provoking. So I don’t think we have the answers, but I think we pose the questions. And the idea is to suggest that there is a need for an ongoing debate and an ongoing dialogue – that is asking the right questions. And, so, if we provoked that as part of our story, then we’ve done the job.

And then there’s a moment at the end of the first episode that puts the series in better focus.

Well, all I can tell you is that the ride that we go on is very unexpected. What was thought what was going to happen after Endgame – because we thought that we were going to go down a certain path – we did not go down that path. If there’s a door number one, two, and three? We definitely don’t choose door number one.

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ debuts via Disney+ on Friday. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.