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EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Mackie on 'Gangster Squad' and Being the First Black Superhero

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Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Actor Anthony Mackie may have been flying under your radar the past few years, but he's ready to take center stage in 2013. With five films slated for release this year, Mackie is sure to be a household name in a matter of months. Today, his first film of the year, Gangster Squad, hits theaters. He plays a police officer fighting to bring down crime in Los Angeles in the '40s.

ESSENCE.com caught up with Mackie to gab about all things gangster, including what brings out his inner badass and playing the first Black superhero in the new Captain America film and more.

ESSENCE.com: How does it feel to be the only Black man in a '40s gangster movie?
ANTHONY MACKIE: It's great! My goal when I started to be an actor was to do a gangster film and a Western. If I could do my whole career in Westerns I would be happy. When this came up I was really excited to knock that off my list.

ESSENCE.com: The film has a lot of badass characters, but your character is a no-nonsense cop. How would you describe your inner gangster?
MACKIE: There are so many facets to the term "gangster." There are so many different periods of people being gangsters. In the 1940's being a gangster was all about style and charisma. They were celebrities. The newspapers and everybody would make them larger than life. It was more so about the show and personality than it was being a hard ass. My thing is when someone does or says something slick to a young lady I'm with then I have to have a conversation with them.

ESSENCE.com: How did you prepare to play Officer Coleman Harris?
MACKIE: For me, because we weren't doing something character specific, it was more so about the story. I just listened to a lot of music. If you listen to the music in the '40s and '50s it was very different than the music in the Fight the Power [era] that came out in the '60s and '70s with the Civil Rights Movement. It was about the music to get the feel of where we were as a people at that time.

ESSENCE.com: What did you like most about doing this period piece?
MACKIE: For me, it was 100 percent about the clothes. At that time people really cared about the way they looked. When you left your house it was said that you were presenting yourself to society. When women went to the grocery store they wore dresses. When men went to the bar or the movies they wore suits because they wanted to present themselves in a quality way. I just love wearing a fedora, a nice top hat and a nice suit.


ESSENCE.com: The film was originally set to come out in September 2012 but was pushed back because of the Aurora, Colo. shootings. Now that Newtown, Conn. is on everyone's mind, how do you think America will respond to the heavy violence in the film?
MACKIE: We took that [theater shooting scene] out of the movie and changed it up. I know we did that to be responsible for our obligation to society. It would have been wrong to say the show must go on, and we're going to present this movie the way we shot it. We are obligated to give people a good product and be sensitive to what happens in their day-to-day lives. I don't think the people in Colorado or anywhere will be turned off or hurt with the finished product.

ESSENCE: You're set to play the first African-American superhero, The Falcon, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, are you feeling the pressure?
MACKIE: Not at all! I want kids and my son to go to the movies and see someone who looks like them. I want my son to be excited about buying a costume for Halloween—picking the person they most have something in common with. I'm excited about it. I don't feel pressure at all.

ESSENCE.com: Are you bulking up and hitting the gym hard for the role?
MACKIE: I'm definitely shooting in the gym. Working out and trying to get my body right for some spandex!

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