Marvel Studios' Phase 4 slate has introduced a wide range of new heroes and villains into the MCU; but within that ever-growing roster, there are a few characters who don't quite fall into either category. In addition to Yelena Belova, Abomination, and even Baron Zemo, U.S. Agent John Walker - who first made his debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - is an MCU antihero and one who Marvel audiences are expecting to see again.
Masterfully portrayed by Wyatt Russell, John Walker was introduced as the government replacement for Captain America and quickly became the new MCU character that the fan base loved to hate.
Throughout the Disney+ series' run, Walker slowly began to crack, resulting in him taking the super-soldier serum and brutally murdering a member of the Flag Smashers with Cap's shield. But even though his career as Captain America was short-lived, it was implied that Marvel Studios had other plans for Walker.
While Marvel fans have their ideas of what those plans will look like, as for Wyatt Russell, there's only one thing he wants to see from U.S. Agent John Walker in the future of the MCU.
Wyatt Russell Shares His MCU Hopes for John Walker
In an interview with Collider, actor Wyatt Russell not only discussed John Walker and his potential future in the MCU, but also the one hope he has for his character.
When asked if he would like to see more of Walker's villainous side in the event of a reprisal, Russell admitted that there "are so many different ways that you can go with it," but stated that his one hope is that "whatever [his future] is, is continued along this line of this struggle of self:"
"I haven’t really even thought about, if the character comes back, what I hope he becomes. There are so many different ways that you can go with it. I just hope that whatever it is, is continued along this line of this struggle with self. That is something that I can do, as well as I think it needs to be done. As long as he has that conflict within himself, he can have a change of mind and he can go through therapy. There are lots of different ways you can go. I only ever hope that it goes an interesting way, but a certain way, that’s not up to me."
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Walker's story ends with a new beginning when Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Val recruits Walker under a new persona, U.S. Agent. Now that Marvel's Thunderbolts movie has been announced, U.S. Agent seems like an obvious choice for the film's ensemble, even though the cast has yet to be revealed.
When Russell was asked if he's heard anything about the future of the character and if they keep members of the cast in a secret Marvel training camp, the actor said "No" while also acknowledging that the studio does a "really good job of keeping it secret:"
"No, you never know. They do a really good job of keeping it secret. It’s part of the allure. You always hope that you can come back and you hope that you’ll get the phone call. If I pick up the phone and it’s Marvel on the other end of the line, you’re like, 'All right, cool. Let’s go to work.'"
Russell also admitted that it's going to "take a lot of runway to get back in shape" if he is asked to return to the MCU because, in an effort to avoid being typecast, he has always played "different people with different looks:"
"As for the Marvel secret training camp, that was two and a half years ago, or almost three years ago no, that we like actually shot [The Falcon and the Winter Soldier]. All of the training and everything that I’d done, if I do get the phone call, it’ll take a lot of runway to get back in shape like that. I’ve lost every ounce of muscle and physique that I had, but that’s the fun part. Honestly, that was a big part of taking the role, as well. I’m an actor who makes my living playing different people. Part of my fear in doing Marvel was that I don’t wanna be one thing. That hasn’t worked for my career. I’ve always played different people with different looks. But they really embraced the fact that he’s different. I don’t have to stay on the diet of 14 chickens a day and seven eggs, every nine seconds, and waking up at five and going to work out for seven hours. I don’t have to keep up with that, thank God. That’s just too much. I can only go in spurts. I’m gonna be 36 years old and I’ve had an entire professional sports career, so I don’t know how much longer I have, doing action films. Everything had broken down before I started acting."
When asked about being cast as John Walker and the experience of playing a character within the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, Russell shared that he's "a difficult character to pull off." However, he embraced the role because he was allowed "some ownership of the character" since he wasn't a copy of Chris Evans' Captain America, saying,
"It’s a difficult character to pull off. And when you have somebody who was so good at it, just do it, who’s so beloved, you’re going, 'I don’t wanna play that guy. That’s impossible shoes to fill. No. No way. I’m just not your guy.' And then, they were like, 'No, no, no, it’s this other character.' He turns into this anti-Captain America and bizarro world Captain America. As we started talking about it, I was like, 'Okay, I can have some ownership over this character because I can make it what I want, in certain ways.' They gave me the leeway to really do that and put a stamp on it. The working experience was so great because they really listened and they took into account the ideas that you had. Hopefully, I was presenting concise and clear ideas, so that I wasn’t being confusing. I ran with the character and was really happy with the way it turned out. They gave the character some pathos and it was an interesting character in the MCU that hadn’t been done before. It’s always great to do somebody that hasn’t been done before because you get to really put a stamp on it. I had an amazing time. They’re amazing to work with."
Lastly, when Russell was asked about what he had heard from others about working in the MCU and whether it compared to his experience, the actor said the person that he called was Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn.
According to Russell, he leaned on Gunn's "opinion of what the character was" and the director's confidence in Marvel Studios is what led him to "feel like 'Okay, we can make this good:'"
"I knew a couple of people who had done it. The person that I called and that I really listened to the most was James Gunn. We became friendly because he produced a movie that my wife (Meredith Hagner) was in, called Brightburn. James is just a great filmmaker, and I’ve always deferred to great filmmakers. They’re the ones who are making the movies and they’re the ones who have their hands on all the buttons, so they have contact in every area and experience in every area. I really did lean on his opinion of what the character was. I didn’t know much about the character when I got it, and he just gave great advice. He said, 'Look, they’re great to work with. They make sure that it’s good.' Coming from him, that vote of confidence really did make me feel like, 'Okay, we can make this good. I can make this character fun. I can make him interesting. I can make people enjoy hating to watch or enjoy watching this character because he’ll have many different things going on. And they’re allowing me to do that. They want the conflict.' That was really the person I leaned the most on."
John Walker's Almost Certain Future
In addition to Yelena Belova, John Walker's role in Marvel Studios' Thunderbolts seems like a given. Not only was he too recruited by Val, but he was a member of the military and a creation of the government.
In addition, Wyatt Russell's portrayal was one of the highlights of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. Marvel villains are often praised for having relatable motivations, but John Walker is arguably on another level. He's been put in an impossible role and wants to do right, but he simply isn't right for the job and gives in to those pressures and shortcomings. He is a prime example of how fine the line is truly between hero and villain.
Of all the villains and/or anti-heroes on the table, not continuing Walker's MCU story would be a huge missed opportunity.
And, as Russell said, there are "so many different ways" that Marvel can take such a complex, layered character; and at the heart of his conflict is, as the actor expressed, that "struggle of self."
Given how well Russell seems to understand John Walker and the job he's done so far, it seems safe to say that he will be given the freedom to keep exploring that struggle. And, now that Captain America 4 has found its director and is moving forward, it wouldn't be surprising if there's room for his character in that story as well.
Lastly, it's fascinating to learn that James Gunn is who Russell "leaned the most on" in choosing to work with Marvel Studios. In addition to Gunn having worked with Russell's wife, the director also worked with Wyatt Russell's father, Kurt Russell, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Who knew that a director from the cosmic corner of the MCU had such an impact on one of the franchise's more grounded properties?
As for further news about the Thunderbolts or Wyatt Russell's future in the MCU, Marvel Studios is expected to make announcements and discuss their future slate at San Diego Comic-Con on July 22 and 23, as well as at the D23 Expo on September 10.