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Falcon And Winter Soldier Boss Gets Candid About How The Stars Influenced The Show - Exclusive

Many writers and directors hold a "my way or the highway" mentality when it comes to making a television show, but the creatives behind Marvel Studios' second Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier thought very differently. And the environment on set? Anything but stifling. 

The series hones in on Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) while they deal with their pasts so they can look to the future in a post-Avengers: Endgame world. While both characters have been a vital part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, going into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the slate was clean for the series to dig deep into who these characters are beyond what fans already know from the movies.

What exactly was Bucky doing when he was the Winter Soldier? Where did Sam grow up, and who was he before becoming an Avenger? What demons are the characters battling, and how are they working through them? During an exclusive interview with LooperThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier creator, head writer, showrunner, and executive producer Malcolm Spellman told us how Mackie and Stan helped answer these questions for their characters — and how Spellman gave them the space and freedom to do so.

That crawfish life

Sam Wilson is one of the few major MCU characters that haven't had their backstories revealed on screen yet. That changed with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

We asked Spellman what plot points he most wanted to hit on that front, and if Anthony Mackie provided insight into where he wanted his character's arc to go. "I think the answer to that is if you look into where Anthony Mackie comes from and where Sam comes from in real life, you know what I'm saying?" said Spellman. Translation: Mackie, who hails from New Orleans, inspired Sam's Louisiana backstory that we see in the first episode.

"Anthony was actually very protective of [Sam and his backstory]. These actors have to write who these characters are to show up to set every day, so Anthony's been Sam for ten years," Spellman elaborated. "We needed to stretch the rubber band of what Anthony had already built to be able to position him as a character so that he would feel relevant to today — so that he would have real conflicts. And going on this journey without snapping the rubber band from what Anthony built [was vital]. So, there was a very good exchange between all of us as creatives and Anthony [about] how to grow Sam and launch him in this new journey without breaking who he thought Sam was."

Actors know best

So, Mackie helped create Sam's backstory for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but what about Sebastian Stan? Spellman was quick to confirm that Stan had a hand in shaping Bucky's history as well. "One hundred percent. [Mackie and Stan] need to believe it, and they need to have input so that it can be right for them," he said. "They all have input, and it's not contentious at Marvel because it all existed before any of us showed up. So, we're happy to have [these] conversations with them."

We asked if Stan added to a specific scene or storyline, but Spellman explained that it was more seamless than that. He and director Kari Skogland let both Mackie and Stan become an integral part of developing their stories, so their input weaves throughout the show. "It's all of it," Spellman clarified. "We're literally talking to them, they're sending us notes, they're working with us. It's all of it, yeah." 

On the most challenging aspect of getting into these characters' heads, Spellman said, "I think, for me, I wouldn't call it challenging, but the big challenge is the translation of Sebastian and Anthony in particular. Again, I hope the audience understands [that] they don't show up to work and just read lines. They have to believe what's happening."

Always quick to praise the actors' experience with their roles, the showrunner added, "They've been doing it with these characters for ten years, but it's only in small snippets, but they've written whole stories for them. So, we had to be respectful of what they've written and work with them to take them to a new place. It was a lot of work, but I think everyone was good with how it happened."

On Fridays, Sam and Bucky's backstories will continue to unravel when new episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier arrive on Disney+.