What You Don't Know About Anthony Mackie

It seems like Anthony Mackie has become a household name overnight, but his road to success hasn't all been smooth sailing. He's no stranger to hard work — he got his start on Broadway. Now, flash forward a few years, he is the first Black Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he's well on his way to becoming a living legend.

Most know Mackie from watching his character, Sam Wilson, kick major butt as Falcon in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" series on Disney+ (and, now, as Captain America), but people adore him for his easygoing personality and tenacity. He's pursued his dreams, and now it's finally paying off. This year, he's even co-hosting the CMT Awards with Kelsea Ballerini (per People), who is very excited to host alongside him.

Mackie is much more than a superhero, and he intends to keep breaking through that glass ceiling — whatever it takes. Here's what you don't know about Anthony Mackie.

Starring in a comic book movie has been the actor's dream

There's one thing Anthony Mackie has always wanted to do: act in a comic book movie. He did not, however, expect to actually portray one of the heroes. In fact, he set the bar pretty low at first, telling Variety, "I wanted to be in comic book movies so I could be the guy in 'Spider-Man' that goes, 'It's Spider-Man!' That was as far as my ambition could take me in that universe."

It's incredibly sad that a younger version of Mackie thought the only part he'd get in a comic book film would be that of a bystander watching the superhero do their work. It was not for lack of ambition, though. He was just, unfortunately, used to seeing Black people left out of the entertainment industry. With little to no representation, it was obviously hard for him to imagine he would ever be cast as the hero. "The fear of representing a country who doesn't represent you, you know, was something that's not only unfathomable, but hard to overcome," he told Variety. "There are limitations that we place on ourselves because of our surroundings."

Anthony Mackie didn't think portraying Captain America was a good idea at first

While it was Anthony Mackie's dream to be in a comic book film, he actually didn't initially take to the idea of portraying Captain America. He was already had some fears and uncertainties going into the Disney+ show "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." In fact, he admitted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he wasn't sure he wanted to do the show in the first place. "It was one of the first things about Marvel that I've been a part of that I've questioned," he said.

He had no idea at the time that the show would take the turn it did — providing some much-needed commentary on racism and other real-life issues — which presented him with the life-changing opportunity to become Captain America. In an interview with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Mackie explained that, in the beginning of the film's development, there were no talks of him stepping into the role of the iconic hero. And, during his first meeting with the creators, they told him the film would be "more about the idea or the archetype of Captain America, not you [Sam] becoming Captain America."

Mackie confessed to SAG-AFTRA that even the small prospect of portraying such an iconic character didn't fill him with excitement — it was quite the opposite. "I hated the idea. I thought it was gonna be an awful idea," he said.

He found out he was cast in Captain America 4 while at the grocery store

Marvel seems to enjoy keeping actors on their toes and letting the public in on the latest news first, which is exactly what happened with "Captain America 4."

Anthony Mackie had no idea if the fourth film would become a reality or if he'd be cast as the iconic hero, although he did mention in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that he'd be a little gutted if he didn't get the part. Though he ultimately landed the part, he didn't initially get the news from Marvel directly. Instead, Marvel broke the news of the fourth film to the public before confirming it with any of the potential actors.

Mackie, for one, heard the news while at a grocery store. He told USA Today, "I love working with Marvel, because you literally find out stuff from people at the grocery store. They didn't call me and tell me." He explained that the fan asked him if it's true he's the new Captain America and then took out his phone to show Mackie the news article he had read. "It's always a surprise,"  Mackie added. "I found out in the grocery store, buying red beans and rice."

The actor didn't immediately bond with his co-star-turned-close friend

Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie knew each other before becoming co-stars on "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." They made their debut on our screens way back in 2014 in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." It's no secret that they are the best of friends, and fans adore their relationship. What most might not know is that the two didn't bond immediately when they first met. There was no instant connection or good-natured banter — they simply shook hands (per Men's Health). This might be because Stan is the exact opposite of Mackie, who is a lively extrovert.

In fact, when BBC Radio 1 asked Mackie to describe Stan in three words, he said, "Boring, introverted, and a great sense of humor." He jokingly added that he thinks Stan probably spends most of his time in his living room, making conversation with his plants. He also told Men's Health that Stan has nailed the famous "resting bitch face."

Stan, for his part, has some quips of his own. He once described that working with Mackie is like "riding a psychotic horse into a blazing stable ... I just hang on." Mackie replied to this comment in his interview with BBC Radio 1, where he said he wasn't surprised by the comparison, considering that Stan is such a "hermit."

Morgan Freeman gave him solid career advice

Anthony Mackie has brushed shoulders with some big names in the industry, including Morgan Freeman, who somewhat punched the living daylights out of him while they worked together on "Million Dollar Baby." The film, which features quite a bit of boxing, actually caused Mackie to take a few for the team, according to The Guardian. But ducking punches is not the only thing Mackie learned from Freeman: The veteran actor provided him with some solid (and, possibly, career-saving) advice while they worked on the film. 

Mackie explained how he had come to a fork in the road in his career. He had two opportunities to choose from: a film he described to The Guardian as "awful" but which paid a lot and a play which paid much less. He couldn't decide between them, so he went to Freeman for advice. Freeman told Mackie to "do the play." His reasoning? "'When Hollywood wants you they'll come get you. And when they come get you, they'll pay for you,'" as Mackie recalled him saying. This gave Mackie "a massive amount of confidence" and had a big impact on his career going forward, as he expressed to Variety. "[Freeman has] been a huge influence on me," the actor said.

Amazon's Solos was one of his most challenging projects

Anthony Mackie is afraid of comfort zones. This is why he took on a challenging role in "Solos," an Amazon miniseries. He told Gold Derby reporter Riley Chow that he wanted to prove to himself he "still got it" even after 21 years in the business, since he was afraid to become stagnant. As he told Chow, he didn't want to become too comfortable with the entertainment industry, explaining, "It's like, 'Hey, you're an Avenger. You can show up, say your lines and go to Jamaica for a week!'" The actor saw "Solos" as an opportunity to rediscover himself and find his way back to the person he was when he first dipped his toes in the industry. 

It turns out that "Solos" was the perfect show to help him accomplish this goal. He portrayed the roles of both Tom and Edward in the episode and had to learn 30 pages' worth of lines, which mainly consisted of several monologues. He told Chow that, when he first read the script, it terrified him. Interestingly, this is what made Mackie decide to take on the role. "I was nervous about this role and I took it because of the overwhelming opportunity to fail," he said. Unsurprisingly, he delivered a stellar performance.

After appearing in Eminem's 8 Mile, he was only offered gangster and rapper roles

There's one thing most excellent actors try to avoid at all costs: typecasting. "8 Mile" saw Anthony Mackie working alongside Eminem, portraying the role of rapper Papa Doc. The film features what is probably one of the most iconic rap battles between Mackie and Eminem's characters (via Entertainment Weekly).

The film's success landed Mackie more job opportunities than he could count. The only problem was they were all for the same type of character he portrayed in "8 Mile": a gangster or a rapper. He told Jemele Hill on her podcast that, thanks to the great team he works with, he was able to avoid being put in a box. "Instead of trying to make me the best Black actor out there, they wanted to get those roles that would make me the best actor out there," Mackie told Hill. So, he ended up auditioning for a wide variety of roles and turned down a lot of opportunities to ensure he'd have a diverse career as an actor.

Anthony Mackie originally wanted to become an engineer

When Anthony Mackie joined the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts, he had no idea that the course of his life was about to change forever. He always looked up to his older brother, Calvin, an engineer, and considered following the same career path. Mackie had big aspirations, too. He told The Guardian that redesigning one of America's biggest cities was at the top of his list: New York City. "The design ... it's like a whole city built on stilts, first of all, and second of all, nothing works!" he explained.

However, he then discovered Shakespeare and fell in love, so to speak, mostly thanks to "King Lear," the first play he ever read. "It kind of changed my perspective on race, on the world, on everything," he told The Guardian. Mackie also loved Shakespeare because the themes in his plays are still relevant today. Shortly after, he saw a Shakespeare play on stage and knew without a shadow of a doubt that "I wanted to do theatre and I wanted to be an actor," he said.

He honed his craft by studying at Juilliard

Anthony Mackie was destined to be a star. He studied at Juilliard and went on to perform in several Broadway productions before embarking on the film industry. He credits his time at the prestigious school for many of his accomplishments.

While at Juilliard, he had the privilege of studying under the guidance of the school's famous movement instructor, Moni Yakim. He credits Yakim's excellent training for his ability to make his character Falcon's flying scenes look realistic (via Entertainment Weekly). Speaking on a panel for the magazine, Mackie explained how he incorporated Yakim's teachings to create the bird-like characteristics Falcon would need. He started studying birds more closely, noticing how they move, then incorporated what he learned in his studies, explaining to Entertainment Weekly, "The physicality of that directly stems from the work — the physical work, the clown work, mime work, the body inhabitance — that we learned in Moni's class." 

This doesn't mean he nailed it immediately, however — he actually face-planted straight into the dirt on his first landing, leaving the rest of the cast and crew howling with laughter.

The actor built and managed his own bar in Brooklyn

In 2011, Anthony Mackie opened his very own bar (named NoBar) in Brooklyn, New York. He told HuffPost that he's always been a bit of a handyman because his dad was a carpenter and that, when he was a kid, he would work with his dad every summer. That work served him well: He basically built his entire bar himself, apart for the chairs.

Even though he owned the place, he worked just as hard as his employees. For example, if there was a backed-up toilet, Mackie would fix it because he said he wanted the people who work for him to see that he works as hard as they do — a lesson he learned from his father. "If all the people who work here as employees see me, the movie actor, working hard, they have nothing to complain about," he explained. "Besides, I consider myself to be a man's man. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty just because I'm in a movie now and then."

The bar also wasn't aimed at attracting high-profile clientele. Mackie told Grub Street that NoBar is a "cool, cheap neighborhood hang" and not one of those "multimillion dollar, basement nightclubs, filled with 'who's who' type places." Unfortunately, the bar closed its doors in 2015 (per Meaww) for unknown reasons.

Anthony Mackie loves to go fishing

When he's not busy building stuff, Anthony Mackie uses his spare time to relax at the pond, lake, or wherever he can go fishing. Appearing on "Hot Ones," he said that, while filming "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame," he'd slip away between takes to go fishing. There were ponds and lakes on the property, so Mackie's inner fisherman just couldn't withstand the temptation. And off he went — to the dismay of some of his cast members. "I bought an outdoor grill for my trailer, like fresh fish right on set, which some people had a problem with until they taste the fish — then they understood my situation," Mackie said.

In the interview, he also described catching a huge alligator garfish while working on "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in New Orleans. It was so big, in fact, he had to tie the fishing line to the bumper of his truck to pull it out of the water.

He met his ex-wife in second grade

Anthony Mackie is a very private person, and he hasn't given the media much to write about when it comes to his love life. The only partner he's had during his time in the spotlight is his ex-wife, Sheletta Chapital. Even though the pair is no longer together, their story started as a classic fairytale.

In an interview with Queen Latifah, Mackie talked about how they first met in second grade when he transferred to a new school. "I walk in and I look and I see this girl with these little ratty pigtails and skinny legs and I was like, 'Wow!'"

The pair dated for years and married in a low-key ceremony in the Dominican Republic in 2014 after already having two children together (per Page Six). Sadly, the couple filed for divorce three years later, per TMZ, the first media outlet to break the news. The exact reason for their split is unknown.

The actor's fame doesn't impress his kids

Anthony Mackie has four kids ranging from ages 4 to 11, and they don't seem to be very invested in movies. Instead, Mackie says, they have a love for video games (via People).

Are they impressed with their dad's superhero shenanigans on TV? "They're pretty much really not into me as an actor at all," he told People, saying it's "shockingly funny how much they couldn't care less about me being in movies." His 11 and 8-year old sons have a better understanding of what their dad does and the work that goes into it, but Mackie says the youngest two don't understand how he can sit with them on the couch and be on TV at the same time. He told USA Today, "The five of us were watching [the show] together, and the two little ones looked at the TV, they looked back at me ... and they're like, 'Dad, you could be Captain America.' I was like, 'I know.'"

Anthony Mackie credits his late mother and a former teacher for his success

Anthony Mackie experienced heartbreak early in his life. When he was 15, his family received the devastating news that his mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, as Mackie told Variety in an interview. She died shortly after her diagnosis — specifically, the day before Mackie would celebrate his ninth-grade graduation. As the youngest of six siblings, his mother's death hit him pretty hard. Racked with grief, Mackie started acting out at school, but, thankfully, he had a teacher, Ray Vrazel, who was determined to help him make it through that difficult time. It's thanks to him that Mackie ended up at the University of North Carolina School of Arts in his senior year.

Despite the pain her death caused, Mackie says it helped him shape his life for the better. "If my mom wouldn't have passed away when I was so young, I wouldn't be where I am today," he told Variety. "Everything I did, I did for my mama ... She was my best friend. Losing her gave me a kind of strength, and a desire to succeed."