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"They're both soldiers from different eras," the John Walker actor explains to EW.

By Nick Romano
March 26, 2021 at 09:30 AM EDT
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Warning: Spoilers from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 1, episode 2 are discussed in this article.

It's time for the world to get to know our new Captain America.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's premiere episode ended with a cliffhanger that introduced John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as the U.S. government's pick to carry the shield and don the suit after Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Now, in episode 2, John is doing what every newly cast star would do to earn the public's affection: He's made the promotional rounds.

John got a massive press tour, complete with "Cap Is Back" posters, to introduce him to the American public. It all culminated with an interview with Good Morning America on the football field of his old high school, where we got to know a little bit about his background, including his military career in counterterrorism.

"What I thought was interesting about John is that Steve was a soldier from a different era. They're both soldiers from different eras, and the era of John is very different than the era of Steve," Russell explains to EW. "The type of military men who are going to Iraq and Afghanistan was different because the time was different, and the grey area now, you see everything. Everything's filmed. There's a much different way of fighting now. You go in guns blazing first and ask questions later."

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

While Steve's internal compass was directed by moral and ethical obligations — "fighting for something more than just getting the job done," as Russell puts it — John is more of a company man with the company being the United States military.

"John's the type of guy who's like, 'Look, you want me to do the job? I will finish the job for you,'" Russell says. "Sometimes that might require things in the grey areas where you are not comfortable but I am, and I need to be able to do my job."

That dichotomy between the legacy of Steve's Cap and John stepping into this role results in an internal struggle for the newly minted hero. It's a question of identity, which trickles down to all the characters, including Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes.

There are questions of, "Who am I in this suit?" Russell elaborates. "What does it mean to me? What does it mean to the people watching?"

"Everybody has this idea of imposter syndrome to a degree, like even Sam at the beginning," he adds. "[Sam] didn't necessarily feel comfortable with being Captain America. He didn't feel right. Everybody deals with those things differently. So, it's a big difference between this guy [John] and Steve. He's a little bit more of a [jump in] head first type guy."

In terms of how John fits into the rest of the story, Russell calls him "a wrench that gets thrown into the whole deal." Sam, he remarks, is on a "hero's journey" and getting to the point where he's "a fully realized person." "I'm an obstacle in that," he says.

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
Credit: Marvel Studios

Russell didn't read much of the original Marvel Comics in preparation for the role. Part of that is because he was never a comic book guy growing up. None of his friends read comics, either. He was an athlete, a hockey player. Though he found the comic artwork of John informative for the physical approach to the role.

"Your shoulders are a bit more rolled forward," the actor notes. "It's just a little bit more bull."

John, in the comics, follows his family's footsteps by joining the army. Eager to serve his country and get in on the action, he agrees to undergo experimentation that gives him super strength and becomes known as Super-Patriot, wanting to emulate Steve Rogers. The character later becomes an official Captain America after Steve hangs up the shield for ethical reasons.

Russell didn't care to know much of this lore because The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn't so "derivative" of this exact comic book story. However, pieces of it, of course, carried over into the show. For one, actor Cle Bennett plays Lemar Hoskins, John's friend who became an enhanced fighter named Battlestar. In the series, Lemar is part of John's Captain America strike force. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also makes mention of the Power Brokers. A corrupt entrepreneur who went by Power Broker (singular) in the comics is how John and Lemar both got their enhanced abilities.

Russell didn't watch any of the past Marvel movies until he landed the role, either. When he finally did, he realized why Evans was so good as Captain America.

"It's next to an impossible job as far as I'm concerned," Russell says. "You're trying to be a character who's perfect. Then playing against that, of trying to be a character who's perfect but feels like he's not at all, he did an unreal job of towing that line."

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.

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

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