John Walker actor Wyatt Russell, from The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, has revealed that the reason he joined the MCU was because he knew his character would be hated by fans. Russell made his debut in the Disney+ series at the end of the first episode, titled “New World Order,” when Walker was announced as the ‘New Captain America.’ Ever since then, Walker has not only been villainized within the series but has been shunned by Marvel fans viewing it.
Following the assumed passing of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), titular heroes Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) have to struggle with losing a friend while the rest of America struggles with losing their hero. The look on Sam and Bucky’s faces as they watch Walker’s dramatic introduction at the end of the first episode says it all; it was a massive disrespect to see Cap’s iconic shield, which was just donated to the Smithsonian by Wilson, immediately given to a ‘New Captain America.’ The events of the episodes to follow reveal that Walker is no Steve Rogers; he is portrayed as aggressive, impatient, and vengeful, which are all values that Steve Rogers morally stood against. At the end of episode 4, “The Whole World Is Watching,” Walker uses the shield to kill a member of the Flag-Smashers in a Latvian town square after his sidekick, Lemar Hoskins, a.k.a. Battlestar (Clé Bennett), was accidentally killed.
Sitting down with Esquire, Russell revealed that what drew him most to the role was knowing that fans were going to hate his character. For any actor, playing a villain successfully can be measured by fans’ positive or negative responses. As Russell says, that is how you know it is working. Check out the full quote below:
“It’s partly why I liked it. People were going to hate it. I knew it. That’s the reason you do it. That’s the point. You elicit that response and it’s like, Great, it’s working. I’m the kind of person [where] the gray area is a place that you must live. If you don’t live there, you’re going to have a very difficult time in your life trying to figure out who you are, because you’re limiting the kinds of questions you can ask yourself and ask others… What this character hopefully brings to people is the idea that there’s a gray area in him—and that in life, there’s gray area all around us every day.”
Marvel has never really seen an antagonist like Walker, which is another thing Russell considered in taking the role. As he explained, he really wanted to explore the character’s “grey area,” a unique character dimension Walker has which attempts to display his human side. In episode 5, “Truth,” when Walker is being stripped of all titles following the events of episode 4, he pleads that he was only doing what was asked of him and what the U.S. government trained him to do. Russell’s portrayal of a broken man trying to justify his own horrific actions shows audiences that his character is struggling with finding a moral backbone separate from what he was taught as a military man.
As the series approaches its final episode, fans are anxiously awaiting what Walker is going to do next, as his actions will be monumental for the end of his character’s arc. In the post-credits scene of episode 5, Walker is seen frustratingly welding together and painting his own version of Cap’s shield. This can only mean an ultimate showdown between him, Sam and Bucky, and the Flag-Smashers is on the horizon for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s series finale.