CS Interview: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Head Writer Malcolm Spellman
As Disney+’s second Marvel Cinematic Universe series soars towards its premiere, ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s head writer Malcolm Spellman to discuss the buddy action series and the work that went into finding the right story to continue the titular duo’s journey.
ComingSoon.net: One of the things I loved about the first episode is that it really addresses a lot of the grounded, real world questions that I feel haven’t really been addressed in the MCU before such as, you know, how do they get paid and Bucky’s emotional state. How did those sorts of issues come to be a part of the development?
Malcolm Spellman: The first thing starts with tone. Marvel knew before I ever showed up that they want to do a buddy two-hander and a buddy two-hander doesn’t just mean two people riffing. If you think of you think of the history of these films, they often deal with real life issues that are of the moment, especially if you go to the originals, like The Defiant Ones or 48 Hrs., you know what I’m saying? Once we land on a tone on that spectrum, they’re getting more comedic as they go, we landed on Lethal Weapon as sort of having the right balance of humor and real world groundedness. That creates a universe for us, to allow our storytelling to bring certain issues to life. The bank scene has really surprised me at how much people are digging the fact that they get that they get into that and for Bucky, obviously as important as tone was real estate was super important in the fact that we’ve watched Bucky now for a decade go from one fight to the next. We all know what his backstory is and all the awful stuff he’s done and now he gets to take a breath, and we knew we knew were gonna have to confront that. We knew that was gonna have to be a very, very human struggle for him.
CS: So then, I love to how in order for Bucky to sort of grow and move on he has to make amends of sorts, almost like the 12-step program. So what were some of the real world sort of traumatic growth processes did you kind of utilize in order to address Bucky’s state?
MS: The first thing we wanted to do was create one story that kind of embodied all the people Bucky has killed over his time in the Marvel Universe, right? We are like, “We need to pick one story and position in a way that, whether he succeeds or fails at absolving himself of this one sin, it’s all of them are embodied in this thing.” We knew we didn’t want it to be easy for him because one thing Marvel does great is there are characters who are flawed who don’t overcome their flaws and then they go on different trajectories and handle business a different way. So we knew that storyline that you saw set up, we wanted it to force Bucky to have a confrontation that embodies his 90 years of being manipulated and being a hitman and being a soldier and all that.
CS: So since you mentioned character flaws and different trajectories, one thing I find really interesting that we haven’t really seen addressed just yet from the movies is how Rhodey was practically paralyzed from both Vision and Sam’s actions in Civil War, but yet we’ve seen Rhodey sort of almost move on. So I’m curious, do you think that’s more because Rhodey’s a soldier who understands friendly fire or do you think that or is that something that’s bubbling under that we might see addressed in the future?
MS: I probably shouldn’t get into Rhodey questions. [Delivers a knowing smirk]
CS: Fair enough. [laughs]
MS: That buys you more time, Grant. [Chuckles]
CS: I’ll take that extra time. [laughs] Another thing I feel we haven’t seen addressed too often that I’m curious if this show will address is Sam’s time as a fugitive? Yes, he was gone for five years from The Blip, but he was also on the run for some time before Infinity War so will that time and his pardoning be addressed in this show at all?
MS: Man, you’re good. I want to say this, Civil War is very important to the show. Very important for more than one character.
CS: Interesting, okay. So I’ve read how you were a little hesitant about your pitch how the meeting wasn’t quite as solid as you hoped. What is it been like for you, you know, seeing that your pitch went through and getting to work with Kevin Feige and everybody at Marvel to sort of bring your vision for these two characters to life?
MS: It was great. So the pitch story, I guess, is resonating with people, I get chronic migraines. My first pitch was to Nate Moore and Nate Moore was my partner all the way through this project creatively, so was Zoie Nagelhout. My first pitch was to Nate, I think Zoe was there too and they saw me in full bloom and knew how passionate I was, particularly about getting into Sam’s stuff, but about all of it. When I went to go pitch to Kevin, I had a migraine, man, and I didn’t do well. Nate is someone who does not bite his tongue and he straight up said, “You did not do well.” [laughs] The reason I’m here is a testament to how Marvel moves, which is they don’t care about your credits, they don’t even really care about how exactly you’re pitching your story, because they know of all that’s going to evolve. They care about why you’re here, your passion, the clarity on character that you want to bring and I’m quite sure Nate probably advocated for me behind the scenes. I got lucky that I got to work with Kevin, we had a standing weekly meeting at one point where, I probably shouldn’t get into specifics of what we’re doing, but it was a standard weekly meeting where I’m side by side with him and and it was great, because it’s easy up there. Those guys have been doing this non-stop now for over a decade, so they just they know how to vibe out with creatives and just keep it flowing and keep it easy.
CS: Was there a level of sort of intimidation coming into that atmosphere?
MS: [Chuckles] Bro, there’s nothing more terrifying, I’m gonna chew up of a lot of your time, but I’m gonna describe it to you, right?
CS: Please, go ahead.
MS: You grow up reading Marvel Comics. You then watch every single Marvel movie ever made, and some of them multiple times, right? You hear about peers who have gotten jobs writing for Marvel, or directing for Marvel, and I went in and pitched Deathlok a long time ago and didn’t land it, but you know that this is a place you want to work at once in your career and then you get the job. When you come to your first day of work, there’s a second floor of the Marvel building that is adorned, when I was there, was Thanos’ glove, the real glove, three suits of Iron Man’s armor from the beginning to the golden-red, right? You walk through security doors, the hall is lined with Thor’s hammer, the real hammer, Ant-Man’s helmet, you make a left the walls are now painted top to bottom with Marvel characters, shelves of Marvel Comics on the wall. Then there’s Captain America shield in glass, the real shield. You walk past all of that into your office, which is named after one of the Avengers, and when you open the door, they’ve done concept art and lined walls with concept art for the project you’re working on. In that moment, you say “Oh my god, am I going to be the person that ruins the Marvel Universe?” [laughs]
CS: That sounds amazing. You talked a lot about the the buddy films that influenced this, but since this is an espionage thriller of sorts, did you have any films or TV shows from that genre that also influenced the writing of the series?
MS: Grant, go back and look at every Marvel movie through this lens. Each one of their movies is a different genre of movie, Winter Soldier is an espionage thriller, right? This one is a buddy two hander. I would say this, the tone very much connects with Winter Soldier, as far as the level of humor, stakes and the grounded things, but they watched Three Days of the Condor. They watched espionage thrillers for that movie, we watched Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs., Bad Boys, that’s what we watched for this one, you know what I’m saying? Very open and muscular, it’s not plotty, it’s all about character and emotion and all about adrenaline.
After the duo came together in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame, in which one of the titular heroes was gifted the iconic Vibranium shield from a now-old Captain America, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier sees Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, going on a global adventure that will test their abilities — and their patience.
Alongside Mackie and Stan, the series will star MCU veterans Daniel Bruhl and Emily VanCamp, who returning as Helmut Zemo and Sharon Carter, respectively for the first time since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes, aka War Machine.
During the Marvel Studios panel at D23 Expo 2019, it was revealed that Wyatt Russell (Lodge 49, Black Mirror) has joined the series for the role of Marvel Comics character John Walker/ U.S. Agent. Miki Ishikawa (The Terror: Infamy), Desmond Chiam (Now Apocalypse), Carl Lumbly (Doctor Sleep, Supergirl), Noah Mills (The Enemy Within) and Danny Ramirez have also been cast for the series.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a six-episode series that is directed by Kari Skogland with Spellman serving as head writer and John Wick creator Derek Kolstad acting as part of the series’ writing/creative team.