In Anthony Mackie’s words:
“I had been contacting Marvel a lot about Black Panther. […] I had written them letters. I was trying to find a way to make them make ‘Black Panther.’ And I wanted to be Black Panther because growing up I f***ing loved Black Panther.”
Director Ryan Coogler would ultimately make “Black Panther” in 2018, although actor Chadwick Boseman was selected for the titular role. That doesn’t mean Mackie missed out entirely. Mackie recalls getting a call from his agent about meeting with Antony and Joe Russo, who wanted to suggest he play a secret role in a secret project. Mackie remembers the ritzy Malibu home where the meeting took place, as well as how frustratingly oblique the Russos had to be. Luckily, he was game for whatever it was.
It was the Falcon, a character with significance all his own. Mackie recalled:
“I’ll never forget, Joe Russo said, ‘Listen, so we’re doing this movie. We want you to be in it. We can’t say what character you’re playing or who else is going to be in it. Would you do it?’ And that was it. I was like, ‘You know what, I like y’all dudes. I’ll do it. I’ll go on this ride with you.'”
For several weeks after the meeting, Mackie was in limbo. During those few weeks, it seemed entirely likely that he would be cast as the legendary Black Panther. When they revealed he would be playing Sam Wilson, Mackie merely said “I’m like, ‘Really?'”