Heck, audiences seem to love Baron Zemo more in the Disney+ series.
Audiences are built to adore superheroes, especially ones who unmask themselves, come with medals and when they replace a dead, beloved predecessor.
Just don’t tell actor Wyatt Russell, who plays the new Captain America aka military man John Walker, in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Since his debut at the end of the first episode, audiences have derided his looks, judged his character, referenced the character comic book history, and of course, compared him negatively to the original, Steve Rogers.
Luckily for the 34-year-old actor, he has remained unawares of all the negative sentiments and memes that have flooded social media. In an interview with Geek Culture, Russell says he hasn’t been keeping up with the weekly reactions and comments.
“It’s kind of a disappointing answer but I haven’t heard anything from fans. I purposely, obviously, don’t look up stuff on the internet. I think it’s poison for the most part, and it doesn’t help me be better at my job or feel better, certainly doesn’t help anybody feel better about themselves,” said Russell.
“So I don’t read anything, I don’t look up anything, I just live my life. I guess no one recognizes me, it’s great. I like to keep it that way.”
On screen during the video interview, Russell looks nothing like the version of himself seen in the Marvel Disney+ series. In the series, the son of actor and fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe alumni Kurt Russell is always clad in the Captain America uniform, shield in tow and a clean shaven face with a little bit of stubble going on as the episodes progressed.
Now, at his most comfortable, Russell has grown out a moustache, a long beard and is seen wearing a baggy hawaiian shirt. In fact, he is almost unrecognisable compared to his biggest acting role to date, and he wants it that way. Having been the talk of the fandom and fansites, Russell has had numerous conversations with journalists who’ve compared his character and Steve Rogers’ Captain America. As much as his beard is meant to mask his identity, being “unrecognisable” as he claims, also masks the fact that he doesn’t know that much about Marvel at all.
“It feels really great to have collaborated with [Marvel] on certain aspects of the character and for them to be as responsive as they were. I get a lot of questions about being Captain America right now and I don’t know. I just stay in my house a lot, no one recognises me because I probably have this huge beard, mask on all the time,” joked Russell.
Russell comes from a family of actors with half-siblings Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson being frontrunners in some of Hollywood’s best-known comedies (Bride Wars, Grown Ups 2, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days). Russell even had a run with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in the hit comedy 22 Jump Street, but the family member that most geeks would recognise is father Kurt Russell who’s acting credits include movies like MCU’s very own Guardians of the Galaxy and horror-sci fi classic The Thing.
Playing Ego, a living planet with manipulation abilities, Kurt Russell’s character is possibly one of the most powerful antagonists in the MCU, even more powerful than finger-snapping Thanos himself. Having played such a big role in the MCU, Kurt has given some words of advice for his son when taking on the character.
“No matter what you’re wearing, acting is still the same. You’re still doing the same thing with the same people, while you’re wearing a crazy superhero suit or a t- shirt and jeans, it’s all the same. So his advice is always the same, which is like ‘If you like it, and you think you can be good in it, and you can help the project be better, then do it’,” shared Russell.
Hate aside, Russell Senior has got a point. Walker may not be the most likeable character in the series, but Russell’s great acting and lack of MCU experience and knowledge has led to the successful portrayal of the character.
Walker is meant to do everything that the original Super Soldier won’t do. Without any preconceived notions of what makes or doesn’t make Captain America, Russell is able to focus all his energy into delivering the character he received on the scripts of paper.
For fans, taking on the role of Captain America is a big responsibility, but for Russell, it’s a new acting gig that he wants to flourish in, even if it’s a totally new world that he’s venturing into.
“You’re going to forgive me because I don’t know a ton about the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Russell states, in a semi apologetic manner.
“But when I landed the role, I was nervous that they got the wrong person because I didn’t know who they wanted me to be. They thought that I was, you know, right for the role and that I could do a good job and I thought about it for a little bit and then thought ‘Yeah, I think I can do something interesting with it’.”
Despite not being familiar with the MCU franchise, Russell was keen to do a good job and is excited to see where this character can take him, even if none of the people close to him care about his Marvel gig.
“To be totally honest, my friends haven’t watched it yet, which is why they’re my friends. They don’t really care too much that I’m Captain America but when someone does I will clock it and remember what they thought,” laughed Russell.
“I hope [to continue the role of John Walker], that sets up tomorrow but that’s up to Disney, it’s above my paygrade, I have no idea. But I hope that people like it, and it was well received in the way they don’t hate the character like the character whatever it is. I’d love to be able to work in the MCU again! It was a great experience, it was fun, great actors, loved, loved to do that.”
*Spoiler alert: In the comics, John Walker eventually steps away from the role of Captain America, but wears a darker variant of the uniform and shield, and eventually takes on the role of U.S.Agent.
Although Russell isn’t on social media, he doesn’t entirely live under a rock. He’s only seen one meme of his character kindly sent to him by a friend when the first The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode premiered.
“I don’t have Twitter or anything but my friends who do have it, sent me the only one that I’ve seen – the old man from Up. That to me is like, whoever did that, they should be given an award, whoever’s in charge of the internet should bestow upon them and award them because it really was like a stroke of genius, I mean it’s perfect,” said Russell.
“I don’t need to see anymore because this one is definitely the winner.”
Catch Wyatt Russell as John Walker in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier every Friday on Disney+.