Harbour's involvement in Phase 5 was announced at 2022's D23 Convention, along with the rest of the titular team's roster. While Harbour reprises the role of Red Guardian, as seen in 2020's Black Widow, he will be joined by the likes of Florence Pugh (Yelena Belova), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Val).
The actor had been prepared for a busy summer, splitting his time between filming both the fifth season of Stranger Things and the MCU's Thunderbolts, but both projects are currently delayed due to the Screen Actors Guild's ongoing strike.
Strike Leaves Thunderbolts Plans Uncertain
In comments to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike beginning, David Harbour shared that he does not know what the plan for Thunderbolts will be once the strike eventually ends.
Though the strike didn't begin until July 13, both of Harbour's planned summer projects (Stranger Things' fifth season, and Thunderbolts) were already delayed.
While Harbour knew that no matter what, Stranger Things would "shoot for a year," he expressed uncertainty to THR about where Thunderbolts "will have to live ... within that:"
"There will be a little bit of a push difference, but 'Stranger Things 5' will shoot for a year. So 'Thunderbolts' will have to live somewhere within that, but the whole thing [the then-impending SAG-AFTRA strike] is crazy speculation at this point."
Harbour then explained that in the chaos preceding the strike, he didn't "know what anything is anymore," adding that he "really wish[es] that somebody in charge could tell [him] what’s going on:"
"I just don’t know what anything is anymore. I don’t know what we’re doing. I really wish that somebody in charge could tell me what’s going on, because I get tons of phone calls every week that say, 'Oh, this is what’s gonna happen.' And then it just doesn’t happen. So nobody knows."
The actor then discussed the strike itself, and the many issues that led to it happening. He expressed disappointment that "we can’t resolve these things," but admitted concern and bewilderment at the artificial intelligence concerns his fellow actors raised:
"I’m just so depressed that we can’t resolve these things. I don’t know what the endgame of any of this is. It seems so insane to me that there are these sticking points, and of course, I don’t know the nuance of any of this. But I’ve heard that there are no guarantees that AI won’t replace you, and it seems so insane to me that human beings would enter a room and say that to each other. The whole thing seems wild."
He concluded, saying that while he "really want[s] to get back to work, [he] also really want[s] people to be paid their due:"
"So I really want to get back to work, but I also really want people to be paid their due. I really want them to feel good about how they work in this industry, and I really want us all to get back to work, because it’s exhausting to not work."
Unfortunately for Harbour and fans, reports indicate that the strikes (the aforementioned actors' strike and the Writers Guild of America strike) could last into 2024.
The actor is now sitting on exciting plans for Red Guardian in the delayed movie. In an interview with Josh Horwitz, also conducted prior to the strike, Harbour discussed some of these plans, praising Marvel writers for their "incredible, epic stories:"
Horowitz: "Do you have a good handle on where Red Guardian is and are you happy with kind of the role he plays in that team?"
Harbour: "Yeah, I started working on it already. And it’s phenomenal. Again, it’s hard to talk about these projects, because I sound like such a dumb idiot, because all I say is like, ‘That’s great. Script is great.’ But it’s true. I’m blessed to work with The Duffers, who write some of the greatest scripts on television and these Marvel writers, who are writing incredible, epic stories."
He continued by teasing that his character will get to "do stuff that he's never done before," as well as exploring "that relationship with Yelena" further, before ending with a joke about the fact that both Thunderbolts and Stranger Things 5 are still in a state of limbo.
"And they’re letting the Red Guardian do stuff that he’s never done before. That relationship with Yelena is like… we get to go into that more. And it’s funny and satisfying in a real emotional way. Yeah it’s just… I’m just really blessed with these two amazing projects that aren’t shooting (laughs)."
The State of the MCU Following Major Delays
But, the MCU has always relied on its continuous nature. If one project is delayed, that likely pushes everything back along with it. As such, these highly anticipated productions will require longer and longer waits from fans.
Long before the strikes, rumored plans for a quality-over-quantity shift in the MCU were circulating, and many of the upcoming Disney+ shows from Marvel had their release windows removed. So, it is possible that Marvel has plans in place for how to handle major plans shifting like this.
However, the continued uncertainty regarding Thunderbolts indicates trouble when the strikes do eventually end. Several movies and shows were well into production when the strike began — how easy will it really be for them to just pick back up when the strikes are over?
The answer to that question likely won't be found until the strikes actually do resolve, leaving fans and actors both unsure about the future.
Thunderbolts is currently set to release on December 20, 2024, but due to the strikes, it is very possible that this date could change.