Wyatt Russell plays the new Captain America in Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Steve Newall chatted with him about pulling on the suit – and Aotearoa’s running icon, with whom his character shares a name.
The shoes of an absent Captain America are quickly filled in new Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with the US Government anointing top soldier John Walker as the new Cap—a development that sees actor Wyatt Russell (Overlord) step into the role of one heroic man stepping into the role of another heroic man. Quickly it becomes apparent that Walker’s duties involve media appearances as well as adventuring, including an early costumed appearance on Good Morning America. Russell tells us more about suiting up for the series.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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FLICKS: You’re not wearing your Captain America uniform today. Is that just for Good Morning America?
WYATT RUSSELL: Normally if I go get coffee or anything, I will wear it just so that everybody knows who they’re giving coffee to. It’s very important that I get that validation.
Constant validation, the single most important thing in life.
There’s nothing more important than constant validation. You know this.
You’re drawing upon some pretty familiar experiences in the Good Morning America scene, because interviews for an actor are pretty common. But is it weird sitting in the middle of a football field pretending to do an interview in a superhero outfit?
I mean, you have to forget that you are in a superhero outfit, otherwise you will act like you are in a superhero outfit, which is not a good combination in my opinion. Part of what made it easier though is that he’s doing that too a little bit where he’s going “I’m a man in a superhero outfit—act like a man in a superhero outfit”. That was kind of the fun of it, actually.
But in reality, every time they yell “cut!”, it’s just the weirdest thing. You look down, you’re like, “this is so weird”.
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Does that scene show what a big part of John Walker’s responsibilities are? To be a public face and figure?
Yeah, it’s kind of part of the job, I guess, for Captain America to have to go out and do PR tours. John has never had to do that. And it’s being set up by the US government in a different way this time, clearly, than it was in the past.
There’s more pomp and circumstance to it. He wants to just get the job done, but it’s kind of part of the job now. You have to go be a figurehead to represent good—or what their version of good is at the moment—rather than just go do your job.
I don’t know how things are going to unfold in the show. But that propaganda dimension is pretty interesting early on – is there more that we can expect in that vein from the episodes to come?
I think there’s definitely a reckoning within himself about what that means and what being a figurehead means and what his role in that is. Him asking himself questions he hasn’t asked himself ever before because he is now in this role.
Captain America always had a PR element—it was a little bit easier to sell killing Nazis than it is now fighting evil because everybody has their own version of what evil means. And it’s more difficult to describe because not everybody’s version is the same. So he’s having a reckoning with his own feelings about that, and that’s what really drives him to do the things he’s he’s doing and become who he becomes.
It’s still a good idea to take on Nazis in 2021 though.
It is a great idea, I hope a lot of people don’t argue with it.
Was there appeal for you in playing a character whose origins were a bit different to the ones we used to seeing? He’s a recast hero – it’s a really interesting idea.
It is something that was fun to play because you’re playing the result of being aware of the superhero culture. It’s meta that way—him being brought in as Captain America, knowing there was a Captain America before… his awareness of it makes it different than anything that I think has been brought on before. Just the awareness factor of “this is what I’m supposed to be like…” and how that can fuck you up in the head.
If you ever think “I am supposed to be like this”—other people’s version of what they think I should be—you’re dead. You’re doomed. You’re dead in the water. And so now he’s realising “I have to become my own version of it”. And how does that happen? It can really throw you for a loop.
The name itself, John Walker is a great name – it’s got a hero’s resonance to it.
It does. It’s also a very famous whiskey, which I wonder if they took the name from. That is like a very American name, John Walker.
I’ve got to caution you on this, though – let’s just keep the cultural imperialism to one side for a moment, because we also have a John Walker here in New Zealand who’s a legendary Olympic gold medal-winning runner.
Wyatt, I’m sorry, you’re not going to replace that John Walker in our hearts just yet
I’m happy about that. I’m very pleased. Maybe I’ll play that character in another world. I’ll play two John Walkers.
I mean, check this dude out.
Is that him? I could totally play that guy! But I don’t have a very good New Zealand accent, and everybody would destroy me and laugh me out of the country.
Back to getting the suit on – for the American John Walker. What’s it like dressing up as dressing up as… sorry, what’s it like wearing the outfit of a character that we’ve been familiar with for such a long period of time?
“Dressing up as”… “Dressing up as” is right. You have to forget that you’re in the outfit because otherwise you’ll just think about it the whole time. The suit has all this meaning and this but it’s really stuff the fans put on it. And that’s what’s fun about Marvel. It’s like what the fans make of it.
Walt Disney said that when Disneyland is closed and there’s nobody in it, people think it would be so cool to see Disneyland with nobody in it, like all the rides. And then you actually have the opportunity to see Disneyland when there’s nothing in it, no people. And it’s so depressing. Disneyland is the people that make it, you know, they make up that what’s special about it, not the things… not me.
It’s what people put on it and the ideas that they have and and the life they give it—that’s what’s special. So that’s how I view it, how I view the suit, the shield and all that kind of stuff. They’re just things.
It’s pretty common to do press and talk about something you shot a while back. Does it feel like even longer ago having the pandemic in between production and where we’re at now ?
Oh, it feels like a million years ago. It’s like it’s another life. “Oh, yeah—what did we do? What was it about? Oh, yeah. Right. The Captain America thing.” It was felt very long ago and simultaneously like yesterday. We started shooting that almost like two years ago now, a year and a half ago. It’s been a long time.