Before you read this, it assumes you have watched the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. If you haven’t, there some spoilers for the first episode only ahead.
At the end of this first episode, Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), has decided against becoming Captain America, and the U.S. government was all too happy to agree with Sam’s decision. Then Sam watches on television as he’s almost immediately replaced by a white guy, John Walker (Wyatt Russell). Ahead, head writer Malcolm Spellman digs into the implications of that and why, what you saw and the reaction you had, is by design. And he’s pretty open to the fact that this is a storytelling device they are using that, by the end, if someone is on the fence, there’s a good chance that person will be rooting for Sam to become Captain America.
I was reading about how, when you pitched this, your pitch was kind of focusing on race. They are so lucky they listened to you. Because I was watching this and it feels like I’m watching like a current event.
Mike, it is probably the thing we are most proud of. In a bunch of ways, this thing is of the times. And we’re all, everyone who worked on it, are very, very proud of that. It feels like the superhero project of the future, in that it’s relevant and rooted in the textures of a mindset that are dealing with the issues of now, good and bad. You know what I’m saying? Like it is very, very at the moment. And not of the moment like when this moment passes, but of where everything culturally is heading. We’re all very proud of that. And it was definitely by design.
I don’t know where the Flag Smasher stuff is going, but back when you were writing this was there ever a time, like with what we saw at The Capitol, when you’re like, “This is getting crazier than what we could’ve come up with.”
I would tell you offline. I’m not sure what I want to get into as far as how I see the world in this interview. But I’m a Black dude. The room was Black. Nothing has surprised me. And I think that is the importance of bringing diversity into these projects: the worldview is often to tap into the moment in a way that can be really, really special.
This won’t run until after the first episode airs, but I want to get into Sam’s arc because it’s pretty interesting…
He’s not sure he wants to be Captain America. And then the government chimes in, “Yeah, you don’t. That’s a great decision.” And then they immediately replace them with a white guy. That would definitely happen. Like that’s exactly how it would go down.
Yeah, absolutely. And his ambivalence is rooted in that and an awareness of that issue. The truth is, it’s not an easy decision. It’s not necessarily an appropriate thing to pick up that symbol if you’re Black, you know what I’m saying? And he’s very, very aware of that. And I feel like if you dig in the first episode, a lot of stuff is going to come to light. It’s going to be very satisfying.
And that scene where he’s watching it on TV at the end. It is so powerful. And he doesn’t even say anything. We know exactly what he’s thinking.
And I appreciate that. We put a ton of effort into that. I believe you are going to see it become more and more resonant and more and more relevant with each episode. And we worked very hard on that. Even those feelings when you’re writing. The great thing about the way we told the story over six episodes is, all those moments are feeling like that because we knew we were building to them like, there’s basically a constellation of emotional and character moments for each of these characters. And, hopefully, they will all resonate with you that way. And if they do, again, it’s not by accident. It’s because we have to confront what’s the truth in Sam’s identity and how he sees himself, right? As a Black man. That you can’t hide from that. You know what I’m saying? Just like with Bucky, you can’t hide from all the awful stuff Bucky was forced to do over the last hundred years. Or 90 years. I think you’re going to find a lot of it… Put it this way: I believe, like what I said a minute ago, it is a story of the times and that lives in every moment of every episode.
I just know I’m going to word this awkwardly so I apologize in advance because I’m trying to get into your head a little bit.
Go for it.
There are going to be people, white people, frankly, who are going to say, “I like Sam, but I don’t know about him being Captain America.” And the way this show looks like the way it’s going is, those people are probably going to start rooting for Sam to become Captain America.
That’s the exact goal. And I think that’s the magic of tackling things like that through a genre like this, you know what I’m saying? On a couple of levels. Number one: one of the things Marvel knew they wanted off the top is they wanted a buddy two-hander, right? When I say buddy two-hander, I’m also talking about a pedigree and an energy. If you think about the first buddy two-hander was The Defiant Ones, right? Not the first one, but the first one we all know about. The most iconic one of all times, it’s 48 hours.
I literally just re-watched that a few weeks ago.
And look at the issues it tackles.
While still being fun. So the buddy two-hander already is steeped in the tradition of being relevant to the times and dealing with real issues, but keeping it fun. And then you have the Marvel spectrum. When you look at what happened with our Black Panther, which proved its doing well, over a billion dollars worldwide. That all Marvel’s fans, ready for us to delve into honesty. As long as you keep it fun, they will have the conversation with you. I think even the people that might feel some kind of way about Sam will be rooting for him. But as you see in the pilot, it is not obvious what Sam is going to do.
And then on top of all that you have The Blip, which has taken on a whole new meaning.
Not at all by accident. For our entire creative team, I do want to say, it was a very present room and we were dialed in. But we did have a cheat code which is, once COVID shut down our production, we were able to really dig down deep and translate The Blip to the current state of The Blip of the Marvel universe being relevant to what’s happening today. I’m really glad you’re picking that up and, I promise you, it stays as relevant, if not gets more relevant as it goes.
‘The Falcon and the Winter Solider’ is now streaming via Disney+. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.