Marvel's new Captain America, Wyatt Russell, talks 'Falcon and the Winter Soldier' role

Brian Truitt

Spoiler alert: This story addresses the ending and a major reveal from the first episode of the Disney+ Marvel series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." 

Over the course of eight years and seven films, Chris Evans wielded the shield of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s resident all-American superhero and moral center. Yet in the cliffhanger ending of the premiere of Marvel’s new “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” series (now streaming on Disney+), there’s another guy not named Steve Rogers who’s been picked to be Captain America. 

The actor who plays him is steeled for any backlash: “People are probably going to hate it, and some people are going to love it,” says Wyatt Russell, whose new character John Walker now wears the star-spangled suit and wields that iconic shield – although the “A” on the outfit has undergone a snazzy makeover. Movies and TV shows “are there to make people feel emotions, and I'm hoping that that's what this show can do for people. Hopefully, they don't hate me too much," he adds. But “it would be an honor, I guess, to be disliked in the Marvel universe.”

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John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is introduced as the new Captain America in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

“Winter Soldier” gives two supporting Avengers the spotlight: Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). And both are former military men, just like Steve Rogers. As a Marine, Walker also is a part of the armed forces when he gets his new government orders, as America seeks “new heroes” in an era of global turmoil. But he’s a very different Cap than the last one.

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“I don't think there's really been many MCU characters who've had quite the dilemma he's had in terms of trying to fit into this sort of moralistic superhero world,” Russell says of Walker. “He's been thrust into this role as Captain America and he's going to do it his way, and he wants to do it right. But his way is a very specific way that he has learned through being basically a trained human hunter. I mean, that's what Marines are. They're not Steve Rogers, they're not the same. They're not like Boy Scouts anymore. They're a little bit more gnarly."

Kurt (left) and son Wyatt Russell now are both a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While Steve Rogers was infused with super-soldier serum during World War II, John Walker is a different Cap for the times.

“There's always an element of reality (in the show) where it's like, well, sometimes you need that guy, and it's not always pretty,” adds Russell, the 34-year-old son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (who joined the MCU in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"). “It’s fun to play those characters because they're always at odds with themselves. They're always at odds with their own abilities and with their own moral compass. They know what is right, kind of, but they also want to win and they battle with that.”

Walker's a grounded character with a complicated history, Stan says. "A lot of times (soldiers) go out there and put their hearts and bodies on the line, they come back missing limbs, they come back with PTSD. That's some of the Bucky stuff (and) a lot of that is also part of John Walker's story."

While it might look cool, wearing Captain America's superhero suit wasn’t exactly enjoyable for Russell. “Hot. Very difficult. Painful,” he says, describing the “stiff” outfit. "My shoulders kinda got screwed up and things started to hurt just because of the position that the suit would put you in all day,” adds the actor, who already had shoulder issues from “another life” as a former professional ice hockey player.

He also went through the mighty Marvel fitness routine, but took a “different direction," seeking a more realistic physique for Walker in this larger-than-life superhero world. “He’s strong, but he's not a super soldier. I wanted him to look normal, in shape,” says Russell, who found the workouts “unbelievably physical.” 

Chris Evans wore the suit and mantle of Captain America for several Marvel movies, including 2016's "Captain America: Civil War."

Russell has a lot of respect for what Evans did for most of a decade.

“He did have an unreal, unbelievable job,” Russell says. “That was a really different version of Captain America, with far fewer problems. He was fighting Nazis and he had fewer internal issues to deal with because everyone thought he was perfect. That's just so hard to play, and he did such a great job of actually bringing some conflict with the character.

“He’s perfect. Who else can play Captain America like Chris Evans? Nobody. And what's good about this show is that it takes that in hand, where it's like, ‘Well, who else is going to (expletive) play Captain America? This guy?' "

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