Sebastian Stan on ‘Captain America’ and How Theatre Acting is Like “being on a train that will not stop”


If you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, you might not want to read this post just yet.

Readers of the Captain America comic book over the last several years already knew the identity of the Winter Soldier in this month’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, even if you didn’t it’s likely you could have figured out his identity by seeing an actor who portrayed a seemingly “dead” character listed prominently on cast lists: Sebastian Stan, who played Captain America’s best friend James “Bucky” Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger and plays a revived cyborg version of Bucky codenamed The Winter Soldier in the sequel. Stan spoke to Moviefone about playing such a “robotic” character in the sequel and the differences between acting in film and on the stage.

When asked if he felt the Winter Soldier was a tragic character, Stan answers yes, but explains why he didn’t let that affect his performance. He says, “I did, but you can’t play that, you know. It’s not something that you can really use. Me as an outsider looking at a character like that I would say tragic, yes. Me as the actor kind of playing him, I saw him as a real viable threatening weapon.”

Instead, Stan focused on what would go through the mind of a programed assassin. He says, “I think there was a lot of research that I did in the months before we started shooting, where I was able to kind of observe certain — I watched a lot of documentaries on post-traumatic stress and a lot of army documentaries about the training programs and some of the extreme sort of circumstances that some of those guys that are training to be Navy SEALs and some who are a part of it go through. I was trying to understand what it is, what it means for someone to be desensitized, to no longer question hurting something. I did as much research on all that stuff as I could in order to kind of know what that was like. And then my stepdad actually has Alzheimer’s, so there were parts about watching and studying that kind of disease, also, observing people like that that kind of helped me a little bit.”

What made it even more difficult was that Stan was playing a character who had few lines and spent most of the film with his faced obscured. He confesses, “It’s really hard. It is hard because there’s always going to be that voice in your head that’s going, ‘Are you sure they’re going to get it? You sure you don’t want to do a little bit more? Maybe you should use more facial expression or be more angry and do more, do more.’ You have to kind of keep that voice in check. The more stillness the character had, and the more sort of nonchalant attitude about what he was doing, you know, the better it was going to come across. Everything to him should have felt like a typical day, a walk in the park.”

Though he might be best known as a Marvel sidekick-turned-supervillain, Stan actually is an experienced stage actor who has studied acting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and has appeared on Broadway. When asked about the differences, Stan answers, “They’re definitely very different but, if anything, I would say it’s your stamina. There’s something about being on stage every night, eight times a week that, if you survive that, you kind of feel like you can really survive anything… almost. It’s like being on a train that will not stop. So if you jump off that train, you’re jumping off while it’s at full speed… I mean your voice is gone, you’re going tired. I mean, maybe you’re getting sick even. I was acting sick at one point. I mean, you get a phone call — distressing news -– but you’ve got to go on stage. Life is happening but, you know, that saying ‘the show must go on’ is really true.”

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