In the scene from The Falcon And The Winter Soldier where Sam Wilson—splendiferous in his customized new superhero threads—busts through a high-rise window to save the day, he’s greeted by some random white dude essentially asking for his ID. It’s a real, “Just who the hell do you think you are?” moment, to which Sam, brushing past the ungrateful, still-alive functionary, asserts, for the first time, “I’m Captain America,” before getting down to business. Damn right, he is.
Appearing on the first Late Show after the The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s Friday finale, former Falcon, new Cap, and MCU superhero superstar Anthony Mackie told Stephen Colbert, “It’s humbling and exciting, really.” Mackie did also paraphrase an old Eddie Murphy SNL bit, by allowing himself to boast, “I’m Captain America, dammit!,” but, hey, it’s not everybody who gets to be Captain America, dammit. As every Marvel Comics/MCU fan knows, Mackie’s onscreen transformation from Falcon to Captain isn’t just a matter of some new, vibranium-winged duds, but a momentous torch-passing from the defrosted and shenanigans-aged (and whiter than white) Steve Rogers to pal and former sidekick Sam Wilson as the star-spangled symbol of American excellence and patriotism.
Taking much of this Disney Plus season’s story arc from Robert Morales and Kyle Baker’s seminal and character-redefining series, Truth: Red, White & Black, about the American government’s pre-Rogers, Tuskegee-style super-soldier experimentation on unwitting Black men, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier delved into just what it means to be a Black superhero in a nation where Blackness and heroism are seen as antithetical by far too many (white) people. Mackie, recalling an encounter with a child who’d fashioned his own Captain America helmet from a cereal box back when he first took up the Falcon mantle, told Colbert that his time slinging the red, white, and blue shield will continue exploring the issues raised in the series in the recently announced, Sam Wilson Captain America movie.
Plus, as Mackie told Colbert, that montage of Sam getting super-shredded in preparation for finally accepting the responsibility of following in pal Rogers’ blue-booted footsteps was no CGI trickery. “There’s no muscle suit,” admitted Mackie of the sort of superhero shape he got into in line with Wilson’s rededicated physical fitness regimen, calling his triangular, shoulders-to-waist transformation, “the Dorito.” Colbert, noting to the genuinely shocked Mackie, “I work in TV—they give me things,” then produced the very first, all-posable Sam-as Cap action figure. (Don’t worry, as Colbert told Mackie, he’s keeping one figure pristine in the box.) Mackie was suitably tickled at the soon-to-be-ubiquitous mini-Mackie, complete with removable shield, foldable wings, and, as the actor exclaimed on first seeing his own, plasticized, merchandised new self, a face that looked a little more like Jamie Foxx than he’d have liked. That’s what you get, Marvel, for not taking Cap’s notes before release.