The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for bringing together some of the most beloved superheroes under one sky and weaving their complicated storylines together. But if you ask Anthony Mackie, the one thing that the MCU isn’t exactly known for is its diversity, and in the times we’re living in, that just shouldn’t be the reality.
Mackie sat down with fellow actor Daveed Diggs for a quarantine-style edition of Variety's annual Actors on Actors conversation, and the two opened up about their roles and experiences working in Hollywood as Black men. The Marvel star has enjoyed the enviable comfort of securing his place within the superhero world zeitgeist as Falcon, the comrade to Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) Captain America, but even he admitted that the franchise has struggled with employing a diverse workforce to film its movies.
To be fair, the MCU has been working to diversify its onscreen roster. As it stands, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Falcon are the only Black superheroes to lead their own stories — Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali is slated to join them as vampire hunter Blade — but Simu Liu will soon make his debut as Shang Chi, and the Eternals cast boasts actors from all over the world. The MCU is trying, at least, to tell new stories.
Unfortunately, Mackie says that that dedication to diversity isn't reflected behind the scenes, where there professionals on set are largely white men.
“It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white,” Mackie shared with Diggs.
“We’ve had one Black producer; his name was Nate Moore,” Mackie continued. “He produced Black Panther. But then when you do Black Panther, you have a Black director, Black producer, a Black costume designer, a Black stunt choreographer. And I’m like, that’s more racist than anything else — because if you only can hire the Black people for the Black movie, are you saying they’re not good enough when you have a mostly white cast?”
Only two MCU fillms, Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, have been directed by men of color (Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler), and no woman has ever been scouted to sit in the directors seat. These facts shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who follows the superhero space closely — the genre tends to be dominated by white men. Films like Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, and the upcoming Netflix original The Old Guard are some of the few women have been recruited to be in charge of direction, and of those directors, Gina Prince-Bythewood will be one of the first Black women.
If you ask Mackie, the solution to changing the status quo of superhero sets is simple: hire the best person for the job.
"My big push with Marvel is hire the best person for the job," the actor explained. Even if it means we’re going to get the best two women, we’re going to get the best two men, fine. I’m cool with those numbers for the next 10 years. Because it starts to build a new generation of people who can put something on their résumé to get them other jobs."
"If we’ve got to divvy out as a percentage, divvy it out," Mackie continued passionately. "And that’s something as leading men that we can go in and push for."
The next phase of the MCU promises to feature a host of brand new faces with new stories to share with fans — with its production team reflect that? Only time will tell.