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Falcon And Winter Soldier Creator On Why This Is A 'Superhero Story For The Times' - Exclusive

Contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The biggest question surrounding The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is this: Will Sam Wilson accept Captain America's shield? What seemed like a given when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) passed the shield onto Sam (Anthony Mackie) at the close of Avengers: Endgame is now up in the air. 

With the first episode of the Disney+ series, we've seen the racism that Sam has to go through, even in areas of his life as mundane as banking. Now, add in the pressure of the U.S. government selecting John Walker (Wyatt Russell) to be the new Cap, and Sam is faced with a tough choice: fight to take on the Captain America mantle that he's already given up, or let John be the hero to walk in Steve's shadow?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier director Kari Skogland and creator (and head writer, showrunner, and executive producer) Malcolm Spellman knew from the start that they didn't want to gloss over the social issues surrounding what could potentially be the debut of the first Black Captain America we've seen on screen. Luckily, the six-hour series provides much more space than a feature film to tackle these struggles.

When Looper spoke to Spellman during an exclusive interview, he revealed how Mackie helped shape this vital character arc, and lent insight to the deeper timely context of Sam's impending decision. 

Shield or no shield?

On the unfolding plot of who will take Cap's shield, Spellman said, "I think what is super important [is] two things: Number one, and you can back me up now because you've seen the first episode, this is not an obvious journey into who's going to be Captain America." Making his next point, the showrunner added, "Number two, you will see more and more with each episode how relevant the themes and issues we're dealing with in the show are to today. I do feel like I hope the fans will appreciate that this very much feels like a quote 'superhero story for the times,' and it's very, very relevant."

Given what's going on in the real world — with vital movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate taking place, and people having necessary discussions about racism and its deadly impacts – it's only natural that fiction tackles these crucial issues. TV and film expose these subjects to millions of people from all over the world who may not otherwise have an opportunity to take a deeper look at what's underneath the surface. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is one project doing that work — and doing it well.

Honoring the struggle

One of the most hard-hitting scenes in the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the bank scene. The teller is trying to take selfies with Sam, all while denying him the help he desperately needs for his family. Spellman told Looper how that scene came about, and if we'll see more moments like it in the rest of the series.

"Absolutely. You just tell the truth about the world, and I think that scene [is] a great example of how you can invite all Marvel fans in without being dishonest to the struggles that the Black characters in [the] MCU would obviously have to deal with," he said. "Trust me, it's only the beginning, it's only the beginning. [...] Marvel, from the time they were only comics to now, has always allowed their stories to be relevant and deal with the times."

Additionally, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier marks the first time we're truly seeing some of the ripple effects for the people we initially lost in the Blip. Sam can't even get a loan because he didn't have any credit history in the past five years. Spellman assured us that the series will continue to show more of these moments. 

"I think one of the things we're most proud of is [...] the Blip [has] created a situation where everyone in the world has one thing in common, and everyone in the world, rich or poor, is struggling with one thing," he explained. "Does that sound familiar? We really made it a point to mirror that, not in a way that's heavy, but to just really make that world that we created for the MCU feel very much like this world because everybody right now has the same struggle."

Getting real with the fandom

Based on the bureaucrat who told Sam it was the right decision to come forward with Cap's shield, it seems like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will tackle heavy conversations surrounding others' opinions on whether Sam should become Captain America. Spellman let us in on some of those conversations, revealing if Mackie lent any of his insight into those issues.

"Absolutely," Spellman affirmed. "As you saw from Black Panther and that hashtag that went around, 'Killmonger was right,' the Marvel fans don't want you to be dishonest. They don't want you to show up and make a movie or a project like this [to] feel burdened or weighed down, but they don't want you to run from what's obviously there."

He added, "So, from the very beginning, as a Black man, Anthony Mackie — that was always going to be a part of his journey. I hope you will make sure fans know it's serious: the decision he makes is not an obvious one." 

Clearly, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is doing something right, as it garnered the highest debut viewership of any Disney+ original series. Fans can watch these essential social issues unfold Fridays on Disney+ when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier releases new episodes.