The Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Erin Kellyman on her masked antagonist
Erin Kellyman is slowly cornering the market on playing masked, rebellion-leading freedom fighters.
The British actress broke out in 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story as Enfys Nest, the fierce leader of a band of pirates-turned-rebels. Now, she's gone from a galaxy far, far away to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as Flag-Smashers chief Karli Morgenthau.
"I see similarities, but I see differences also," Kellyman, 22, tells EW. "I think throughout the rest of the series, people will see more differences than similarities."
Like Enfys Nest, Karli is introduced as a mysterious, mask-wearing antagonist — but her motivations might not be as sinister as they seem. The first three episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier introduce Karli as an anarchic young rebel, concerned by the global chaos and the government's failure to respond to fallout from Avengers: Endgame. She and her fellow Flag-Smashers have gained access to a super soldier serum, giving them incredible strength as they fight for a world without flags or borders.
When Kellyman auditioned for the role in 2019, she only knew that it was for a potential Marvel project. But once she met with director Kari Skogland and co-executive producer Zoie Nagelhout, she found herself intrigued by Karli's passion — and the prospect of putting her own stamp on a character who, in the comics, was originally written as a man named Karl.
"The first thing that struck me was the fact that they changed [the character] into a woman," Kellyman says. "I thought that was really brave and inclusive, and it was an important thing to do. I was really thankful for that as well. But once I read the scripts and spoke more about her with Kari and] Zoie, [I learned] what she was fighting for, and it's a good thing. It's so interesting to be able to relate to what her passion is, and it was really helpful to actually understand her as a person."
To prepare to play the superpowered anarchist, Kellyman underwent weeks of stunt training, learning how to box and do parkour. "There were a lot of different styles in there because [Marvel] made a decision not to use weapons where there don't need to be weapons," she explains. "So a lot of the stunts that I did were just with hands and feet."
And although Karli's super soldier abilities mean that she can more than hold her own against Anthony Mackie's Falcon and Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier, Kellyman admits that she occasionally had to remind herself to focus in fight scenes with her superhero costars.
"It's always such a weird experience, especially doing the fight scenes with them," Kellyman says with a laugh. "I've seen these characters in these costumes since I was a kid, and now to be the other half of the scene, to be the one they're fighting against, is such a surreal experience. My head kept going up into the clouds and [I had to] be like, 'Stay down! Focus on what you're doing!'"
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier drops on Disney+ every Friday.