Anthony Mackie on His ‘Promotion’ to Captain America, and Sam and Bucky’s ‘Bromance’ on ‘Falcon and Winter Soldier’

When Anthony Mackie first put on the Captain America costume for Marvel Studios’ Disney Plus series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” he says he “literally experienced 1,000 emotions in one minute.”

“I’ve worked so long in this business and I’ve done so many things that I felt were not appreciated, or overlooked or things that were not considered to be worthy of promotion — and this is like my first promotion,” Mackie tells Variety on the latest episode of the “Awards Circuit” podcast. Listen below!

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Although Mackie says that he’s always wanted to be in a comic book movie, he didn’t ever consider that he could take on the mantle of one of Marvel’s most iconic superheroes.

“The idea of being Captain America was something that I never fathom, or because it was so so so far fetched,” he says. “I wanted to be in comic book movies so I could be the guy in ‘Spider-Man’ that goes, ‘It’s Spider Man!’ That was as far as my ambition could take me in that universe.”

Like his character Sam Wilson, who initially declines to become Captain America on the show, Mackie says that those limitations on his own ambition were connected directly to his experience as a Black man in the United States.

“The fear of representing a country who doesn’t represent you, you know, was something that’s not only unfathomable, but hard to overcome,” he says. “My dad always used to say greatness is as far as you can see it… There are limitations that we place on ourselves because of our surroundings. And, you know, I did that to myself, and that’s definitely what Sam Wilson goes through.”

So getting to wear the costume, hold the shield, and call himself Captain America — as Wilson does in the Marvel comics — was somewhat overwhelming for Mackie.

“Having if not one of my bucket lists, the bucket list moment happen, is not so much about becoming Captain America — it’s about having my dreams realized,” he says. “It’s very humbling when, you know, you get the opportunity that you’ve always dreamed of.”

The other half of Sam’s journey on the show is the transformation of his relationship with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) from simmering resentment to a lasting and profound friendship. That translated into several scenes of emotional and physical familiarity between Sam and Bucky that some fans interpreted as a budding romance — similar to how some Marvel fans desired Bucky and the first Captain America, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, to be a couple.

Mackie points out that he’s played in these kinds of waters before, in an episode of “Black Mirror” in which he and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star as best friends who play an immersive, virtual reality video game that allows them to simulate being a man and woman in a sexual relationship. But he resists an interpretation that Sam and Bucky are sexually or romantically attracted to each other.

“So many things are twisted and convoluted. There’s so many things that people latch on to with their own devices to make themselves relevant and rational,” he says. “The idea of two guys being friends and loving each other in 2021 is a problem because of the exploitation of homosexuality. It used to be guys can be friends, we can hang out, and it was cool. You would always meet your friends at the bar, you know. You can’t do that anymore, because something as pure and beautiful as homosexuality has been exploited by people who are trying to rationalize themselves. So something that’s always been very important to me is showing a sensitive masculine figure. There’s nothing more masculine than being a superhero and flying around and beating people up. But there’s nothing more sensitive than having emotional conversations and a kindred spirit friendship with someone that you care about and love.”

“Sam and Steve had a relationship where they admired, appreciated and loved each other,” Mackie continues. “Bucky and Sam have a relationship where they learn how to accept, appreciate and love each other. You’d call it a bromance, but it’s literally just two guys who have each other’s backs.”

When Sam and Bucky will continue their adventures together is unclear. Marvel Studios hasn’t announced a second season of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” but head writer Malcolm Spellman is working on a screenplay for a fourth “Captain America” movie that would, presumably, star Mackie. When Variety spoke with Mackie in May, however, the actor didn’t have any news about the movie — because, he says, he hasn’t heard yet from Marvel about it.

“I didn’t get a call or email – nothing,” he says. Instead, Mackie says he learned about the film project from his favorite grocery store check-out guy, who showed Mackie the stories about the project on his phone. “So I’m standing in line, and he’s like, yo, so is this real?” Mackie says with a laugh. “He knew the whole break down of everything before I did. I hadn’t heard anything. I’m like, dude, you got breaking news in the grocery store!”

Also in this episode, we chat with “WandaVision” head writer Jac Schaeffer and star Paul Bettany about their Marvel Studios show, including the intricacies of getting those old-time sitcoms right — down to the studio audience — as well as how it focused on grief, and the impact of one particular line about grief in the show and how that has resonated. We also discuss whether we’ll ever see more “WandaVision” and yes, we discuss Bettany’s padded butt. But first, the Variety Awards Circuit roundtable panelists discuss the surprisingly spare best drama category at the Emmys.

Variety’s Emmy edition of the “Awards Circuit” podcast is hosted by Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Danielle Turchiano and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in television. Each week during Emmy season, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.

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