The Rise of Marvel’s Leading Man, Anthony Mackie

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Feb. 19, 2021 - Actor Anthony Mackie photographed in the Tremé District of New Orleans.

Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon in the Avengers film, talks about his hopes and fears in the upcoming show “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” while reflecting on his journey thus far in an interview with Variety.

From his breakout role in 8 mile to receiving the shield from Captain America in Marvel’s Endgame, Mackie has fought his way from supporting character to lead role for years.

“I was really surprised and affected by the idea of possibly getting the shield and becoming Captain America,” Mackie tells Variety. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and I did it the way they said you’re supposed to do it. I didn’t go to L.A. and say, ‘Make me famous.’ I went to theater school, did off-Broadway, did indie movies, and worked my way through the ranks. It took a long time for this shit to manifest itself the way it has, and I’m extremely happy about that.”

Mackie refers to his infamous rap battle in 8 mile, as a “monumental step” in his career. Rapper Eminem won his first Oscar for his role in 8 mile. After 8 mile, Mackie performed on “Half Nelson,” a film that won Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination.

In 2008, Mackie played in “The Hurt Locker” alongside Jeremy Renner, who also received an Oscar nomination.

“I thought I would be able to move forward in my career,” Mackie explains. “and not have to jostle and position myself for work. To get into rooms with certain people. I thought my work would speak for itself. I didn’t feel a huge shift,” he says, “but I 100% think that ‘The Hurt Locker’ is the reason I got ‘Captain America.’”

Mackie’s role in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will finally give the actor a chance to take center stage. An opportunity that the actor expressed both excites him and terrifies him.

“I didn’t think we could do on the television what we’d been doing on the big screen,” says Mackie. “I didn’t want to be the face of the first Marvel franchise to fail. Like, ‘See? We cast the Black dude, and now this shit is awful.’ That was a huge fear of mine, and also a huge responsibility with playing a Marvel character,”

Reading Malcolm Spellman’s script calmed his fears. Now, Mackie is ready to show a different side of the Marvel fans’ favorite sidekick.

“Sam Wilson as played by Mackie is different than a Thor or a Black Panther because he’s not from another planet or a king from another country,” Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige says. “He’s an African American man. He’s got experience in the military and doing grief counseling with soldiers who have PTSD. But where did he grow up? Who is his family? Mackie was excited to dig into it as this man, this Black man in particular, in the Marvel version of the world outside our window.”

The Marvel world is full of Gods and Kings. But Mackie believes that the simplicity of his character is what makes him special.

“I’m basically the eyes and ears of the audience,” explains Mackie. “If you were put in that position where you could go out and fight alongside superheroes. It adds a really nice quality to him that he’s a regular guy who can go out there and do special things.”

“The Falcon and Winter Solider” premieres on Disney + on March 19.