Marvel Studios takes a lot of inspiration for its projects from Marvel Comics. The vast majority of its characters have roots in ink and paint; while the studio stays away from directly adapting comic storylines, it definitely uses elements from them, and sometimes even their names.
This is very much true for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as the series mashes elements of several comic runs plus some original ideas together. There have also been some changes made to certain characters in their translation from page to screen, including Erin Kellyman's Karli Morgenthau, who was originally a male character named Karl Morgenthau. The Morgenthau in the comics was a diplomat's son who became known as the Flag-Smasher.
AN MCU CHANGE
When asked about her character's change in gender during an interview with ET, Kellyman said "It was really brave of them to make the change and make the Marvel show more inclusive in that way."
"It's so important. I feel like young women and girls are going to have this character to look up to and relate to now, which they wouldn't have done if it were played by a man. Or not in the same way, at least."
Kellyman further explained how the gender swap changes the character, commenting on how "different" their life experiences are.
"Our experiences are very different. I'm never going to know what it's like to be a middle-aged white man, so already our outlooks on life immediately are going to be very different and so then our actions after that are also going to be different."
Even though she "had a little Google" to research the source material for her role, Kellyman didn't do a lot of research on the original version of Morgenthau before filming the series.
"There were a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. He was essentially fighting for a similar thing [that the Flag-Smashers in the series are]."
Kellyman also commented on the sympathetic nature of the MCU's Morgenthau and her fellow Flag-Smashers, saying she "[hopes] people understand them more" as the series continues.
"Hopefully, as the series goes on, that [sympathy] will just increase. I hope people understand them more and learn more about them more. And there's more to unpack there. So, when that happens, hopefully even more people will be rooting for them. I'm rooting for them!"
VILLAINS WITH A POINT
Kellyman brings up a good point of the two versions of Mogenthau having very different life experiences. The original version was rich, white, and male, while the MCU's is a younger woman of color. The difference in age and race (and possibly socioeconomic status) means that Karli's motivations may be very different from Karl's.
The disappearance of half the universe thanks to Thanos in the comics' Infinity Gauntlet story versus the way it plays out in the MCU also potentially gives more heavy meaning to the latter's Flag-Smasher storyline.
The Flag-Smashers are being presented as antagonists for series leads Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to go up against, but, like the other "villains" in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, they appear to be being set up to be presented as at least somewhat in the right. While their methods are questionable, the idea that a world without (or at least with less) borders is a better one has been explored in previous MCU installment Black Panther and will likely play a big role here as well.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's first two episodes are now available to stream on Disney+.