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Marvel Studios has been one of Hollywood’s biggest powerhouses for over a decade now, cranking out numerous blockbuster hits ranging from The Avengers to Guardians of the Galaxy. In the past, the studio had, however, been noted for its lack of diversity amongst its roster of characters. With the releases of Black Panther and Captain Marvel along with upcoming projects like Ms. Marvel and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, things are gradually turning around in that direction. But franchise veteran Anthony Mackie still believes there’s more work to be done behind the scenes.
Anthony Mackie, who’s played Sam Wilson/The Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2014, recently recalled his experiences working on the movies and admitted that he was bothered by the fact that there weren’t many people of color working on the sets:
When The Falcon and the Winter Soldier comes out, I'm the lead of the show. When Snowpiercer came out, you're the lead of the show. So we have the power and ability to ask those questions. It really bothered me that I've done seven Marvel movies now, every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white. We have one producer, Nate Moore, who’s black.
While speaking with fellow actor Daveed Diggs on Variety’s Actors on Actors, Mackie noted that Black Panther did involve a mostly Black cast and crew but questioned the rationale of only aiming for Black employees for a Black project:
But then when you do Black Panther, you have a Black director, Black producer, you have a Black costume designer, you have 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?
The actor went on to say that Marvel Studios and other entertainment entities should seek to hire the right people and ultimately, lay a foundation for the next generation:
So my big push with Marvel, with everybody, is, you know, hire the best person for the job… Because it starts to build a new generation of people that can put something on their resume to get them other jobs. If we gotta divvy up percentage, divvy it up.
There’s no doubting that it took a while for Marvel Studios to hire a non-white director for a project and to produce a film not headlined by a white, male lead. Some may know that much of this stemmed from the oversight of Marvel Entertainment head Ike Perlmutter, whose antiquated views and constant battles with studio head Kevin Feige caused him to be shifted from film development.
Anthony Mackie makes fair points in that POC employees should be hired on merit and shouldn’t be shuffled into specific projects. And as he mentions, this could help lead to a more diverse workforce moving forward.
As Marvel Studios heads into its Phase 4 slate, things are looking up. For instance, Black Panther producer Nate Moore, who also served as a producer on two Captain America films, will also serve as a producer on The Eternals, which is directed by Chloé Zhao. Destin Daniel Cretton is also helming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, while projects like WandaVision and What If…? are being overseen by women.
While things are slowing moving in the right direction, Anthony Mackie is correct in that there’s still more work to do and, hopefully if the powers that be commit to change, we’ll be looking at a more even playing field in the years to come.