The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's Daniel Brühl on showing a new side of Zemo and his surprise adversary
Warning: Spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 1, episode 3 are discussed in this article.
Out of everything that went down in the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — from the excursion to Madripoor where we find Emily VanCamp's Sharon Carter to the return of a certain Black Panther actor in the final minutes — Marvel fans have honed in on a seconds-long scene (a Blip, if you will): two-time Golden Globe nominee Daniel Brühl fist-pumping at a party.
Brühl laughs at the responses he received from that moment. "It was a long dance," he tells EW of this improvised bit. "There's more to it, but they cut this little moment [for the show]."
It certainly shows a different side of the Captain America: Civil War villain than we're used to. The last time we saw Zemo, he was strategically manipulating the Avengers into fighting each other in the hopes they would destroy themselves from the inside out. Now, after Bucky (Sebastian Stan) busts him out of a German prison cell to help him and Sam (Anthony Mackie) investigate the origins of off-the-books super-soldier experiments, there's a lot more humor to him.
"After reading the scripts, I thought, 'Oh! This is a whole new game.' It gives me the opportunity to discover so much more [about the character] and to show different sides of Baron Zemo that, actually, I always had in mind knowing the comic books," he says.
EW spoke with Brühl after the show's third episode, "Power Broker," debuted on Disney+ to unpack this new side of Zemo, his dance moves, and what the surprise cameo at the end of the hour means for this character moving forward.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This feels like a very different kind of Helmut Zemo than we're used to seeing. You're cracking jokes. You're fist-bumping in the club. How did you craft this new iteration for the character?
DANIEL BRUHL: It's incredibly helpful for you not to think that it could become boring or redundant. It is very nice to be invited back to something because it also shows that you haven't been that bad in the first place. So, I was very thrilled to hear that. But even more so, after reading the scripts, I thought, "Oh! This is a whole new game." It gives me the opportunity to discover so much more [about the character] and to show different sides of Baron Zemo that, actually, I always had in mind knowing the comic books. In Civil War, as much as I enjoyed playing the part, I thought, "Give me that mask at least for a second, for one scene!" "What about Zemo's aristocratic background?" "Why is he called Baron?" That all was added here in the show, and it was so much fun to play around with it. And the sense of humor. I'm always a fan when this is part of the performance, no matter how serious the circumstances are.
Have you seen any of these memes of you just fist-bumping on the show?
It's so hysterical. [That moment] was improvised when I saw the crowd dancing, going loco. I felt the beat and was like, Zemo has been sitting in a dodgy German prison cell for years. So, he needs to let off some steam and show his moves. Let's go for it! I enjoyed so much the reaction of Anthony and Sebastian looking at me. Still, I was 100 percent sure that they would cut it out [of the show]. I was really surprised and happy that they kept it. It was a long dance. There's more to it, but they cut this little moment. I didn't know what was happening, but I then received all these messages from my friends cracking up. My friends who know me well know I'm an embarrassing, passionate dancer on the floor but it would be different moves. It would be the Spanish side of me kicking in and doing some matador, flamenco moves, going down on my knees. Highly embarrassing for my friends.
Zemo seems to transform into a different person when he's wearing the purple mask. He becomes more aggressive, more exacting. Did wearing that mask affect your approach to the character?
Yeah. That's the great thing about costume design. That always happens. You feel different when you wear this mask. Also, his whole style has changed, if you think of that fury coat — that Mackie wanted to have the second he saw it. That whole outfit helped me a lot to recreate and reinvent Zemo.
Zemo shooting Dr. Nagel hints that there's a bigger game he's playing here. Is there anything you can tease about what Zemo's ultimate endgame is?
No, no. I would never do that. Like Zemo, I just enjoy being opaque and secretive. So, I wouldn't answer that question. There will be interesting twists and turns and surprises, I can assure you. Keeping up that cinematic level until the very end really impressed me because it's like six movies. These action segments, when you look at them, don't look much different than in the movies. To create this is mind-boggling. I sincerely don't know how they do that. But as in the story, I would prefer not to say anything. I'm the master of spoilers.
At the end of episode 3, we see Dora Milaje member Ayo from Wakanda come into the picture. She's after Zemo. Does that add a new layer of stakes to the back half of this season?
Oh yeah. These are very intimidating warriors who are after me. As much as I enjoyed me, as in Daniel, seeing [Ayo actress] Florence [Kasumba] again and talking to her — the only other German-speaking actor on the set — for Zemo, this is trouble. He should better watch out.
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere on Disney+ every Friday.
Check out our daily must-see picks — plus news, celeb interviews, trivia, and more — in EW's What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.