The new Captain America has mechanical wings, ringing some truth to the oft-misappropriated cliché that “not all heroes wear capes.” Beyond the big role as a Marvel superhero, Anthony Mackie has deep-seated roots when it comes to real-life heroism. A lifelong New Orleans resident, Mackie grew up in the city that’s been repeatedly devastated by hurricanes over the past decade. Now he’s committed to rebuilding his hometown—one roof at a time.
“When I was a kid, I used to get up with my dad on Saturdays and, if the old lady down the street had a roof that leaked or a friend’s gutters were clogged, we’d help them out,” says Mackie. “The 7th Ward was truly a middle-class neighborhood where everybody helped everybody. I’m carrying on that legacy in the name of my dad. He taught me a lot of great lessons. Now, as an adult, I bring those lessons back home.”
Mackie, who moved to New York City at age 17 to study theater at Julliard, has had a long-spanning successful career in film, with roles including 8 Mile, The Hurt Locker, Notorious, The Adjustment Bureau, and the role of Falcon in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe—a character that evolves into the new Captain America. Featuring his first lead in that sphere, Captain America: New World Order is scheduled to premiere in 2024.
But saving lives on screen isn’t Mackie’s only priority. This week, GAF, America’s largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer, announced its partnership with Mackie to help rebuild the communities hit by natural disasters and left vulnerable to future crises. The partnership is committed to rebuild or repair 500 roofs in the Gulf Region, starting in his own neighborhood—New Orleans’ 7th Ward.
On a virtual call with Mackie, Men’s Journal learned more about his community initiatives. We also got some intel on Mackie’s tailored workout and dietary routine for his new role as Captain America.
Men’s Journal: What can you share from your personal experience as a resident of New Orleans and what the city has been through in terms of hurricane disasters?
Anthony Mackie: New Orleans is a very unique and resilient place. But it’s been very challenging here the past few years, especially with the lack of resources and time lapse since the devastations we faced from Katrina and Ida and all the hurricanes in between. Our city has now become synonymous with blue tarp-covered roofs. When you fly into the Gulf Coast, you can see them from the sky. Those are homes that have been affected by wind damage from these hurricanes, where shingles have been blown off and the homes are extremely exposed.
Can you tell us about this rebuilding program you’ve co-launched with GAF to repair and rebuild damaged roofs?
GAF and I got together and partnered in this community initiative to replace 500 roofs—150 of which are in my neighborhood in the 7th Ward of New Orleans. We’ve got to get rid of those blue tarps. There are a lot of people who are living check to check on low or fixed incomes and don’t have insurance. It’s hard to come up with $10,000 or more to put a new roof on a house.
As the son of a professional roofer, how has this experience been for you?
Amazing. I got up on a few roofs, pulled some shingles and installed some new roofing. We started the process with the first five houses and now we’re rolling it out. And it’s not just me—there are hundreds of workers and volunteers out there rebuilding homes every day. Kudos to all of them. They’re learning a trade and helping in their own community.
It must feel great to utilize skills from your family business and give back to the community where you grew up and still live.
It feels absolutely incredible. It’s so rewarding. The fun part is helping people that either know me, one of my siblings, or my mom and dad. They’ve seen me grow in my career and as a person. All of this is really an ode to my dad. I wanted to be able to give back something to the neighborhood that was organic and pure—and something that I would enjoy. So when GAF approached me with this opportunity, it was a no-brainer for me to step in and do what I can. It’s been really heartwarming and brought back a lot of good memories of my dad going up on roofs and doing his thing to provide for his family.
The initiative also provides trade skills and employment. Can you elaborate on that?
GAF is training young people in the roofing trade so that, one day, that person can provide for their family or lend an extra hand when needed. And if there’s another disaster, we as a community can step up and help ourselves. That’s what’s so important and why I’m excited to be a part of it. Plus I really enjoy it. As I always say—I was born in the 7th Ward, I grew up in the 7th Ward, and right now I live in the 7th Ward. Anything I can do to help, I’ll do it.
Beyond real-life superhero work, you also play one in film. Your character, Falcon, has recently evolved into Captain America. What sort of dietary and training regimen is necessary for this character?
The most important thing is diet. I go to a lean protein and veggie diet of fish, chicken, and turkey with assorted vegetables. I don’t really need carbs for energy. I have high energy already. So I just kick out all the bad stuff. I’ll do that for three months—eating five to six meals a day so I can get some bulk on my frame. Then I’ll carb-load for about a month.
And how about the physical stuff? How are you training?
For me, it’s impossible to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. One of them has to be sacrificed, so I try to put the muscle on my frame first, because I have the muscle memory. After that, I strip all the water and fat out of my system by doing lightweight, cardio-heavy workouts in the morning then cardio again in the evenings. So, the first three months, I lift as heavy as possible—literally everything I can pick up. And that last month, that’s when I’ll just run and burn as much fat as I can.
What exercises are you doing in the gym for this role?
I love doing legs. I’m into deadlifts, squats, lunges, and burpees. Anything with legs—I’ll do it. When I switch over to the high-cardio workouts, I’ll do more explosive leg workouts with lighter weights—like five or 10 pounds—so I can still get those delts and traps during my training.
Do you have a secret weapon part of your workout that you can share?
Yes! You want to build those caps. You can look mediocre, but if your shoulders are looking great, everybody’s like, “Oh, he has nice shoulders.” So that’s my biggest thing when I’m leaning out—focusing on my shoulders. Once you get those caps on, you’re good.
Caps for Captain America—makes sense. Does the physique need to change between Falcon and Captain America?
No, I’ve always been core-strong. From doing all the flying stuff, there are times when I need to stay in a plank for a long time, pull myself up, or throw my feet under me. So core strength is always the foundation of my workouts. That’s what really matters, y’know, because everybody in the audience is waiting for that scene when you take your shirt off. [Laughs] You gotta get your cores and your caps ready!
I’d imagine you also have a lot of specific training for things like throwing shields, fighting, and some of the athletic maneuvers required for the role?
Yeah, definitely. But I also have a great stuntman for that—he’s like a 17th-degree jiu-jitsu samurai. He teaches me all that stuff and if there’s anything I can’t do, he’ll do it. When it comes to all the flipping and spinning stuff, I’m too old. He can get out there and do it.
What can we expect to see in Marvel’s Phase 5 of the Cinematic Universe? Between your Captain America and say, Chris Evans’ Captain America. Will yours be better?
Mine will be different. What you have to realize about Sam—he’s a superhero who is not really a superhero. There’s no secret serum. There’s no this or that. I just have wings on my suit that I got from the military. So everything that I do, I do as a common man. When you see me, you might think, “Oh, I can be a superhero, too.” Whereas if you look at Hulk or any of those guys, you can’t compete.
Speaking of those heroes, and with your characters excluded, do you have a favorite?
Definitely Hulk. Since I was a kid, I’d always wanted to be The Incredible Hulk. But now, if I could play another superhero, it would be Panthro from ThunderCats—the blue dude. Yeah, I’m big on ThunderCats—that’s my one superhero. If they ever make that movie and I’m not him, I’m shutting that shit down.
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