Anthony Mackie Loves His Anonymity, for Now

The Gangster Squad star has stayed under the radar; playing a superhero in two new films may change that.

Anthony Mackie as Officer Harris in Gangster Squad (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Anthony Mackie as Officer Harris in Gangster Squad (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

(The Root) — Some actors court the limelight, while others, like Anthony Mackie, simply prefer to return home to New Orleans after an acting gig to sip on a fresh daiquiri and scarf down a hot oyster po’boy.

“I got into the game to be a working actor, not to be a celebrity,” Mackie told The Root. The Louisiana native honed his acting on Broadway (Topdog/Underdog) and in independent films (Half Nelson). “There’s a reason why I live in New Orleans or don’t go to certain restaurants and have my picture taken outside.”

Living beyond Hollywood’s TMZ cameras allows Mackie creative freedom and anonymity, which he cherishes and draws upon in his new film, Gangster Squad. In the movie, which hit theaters recently, Mackie plays Officer Coleman Harris, a cop in 1940s Los Angeles whose weapon of choice is a switchblade. Harris joins a secret group of policemen that include characters played by Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Peña and Robert Patrick. They’re charged with stopping New York gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) from taking over the city.

Originally slated to hit theaters last September, the film was held and re-edited in light of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., where armed gunman James Holmes mowed down numerous moviegoers during a Dark Knight screening.

“It was one of the first examples I remember of life imitating art — it was scary,” Mackie recalled.

Now that the freshened Gangster Squad is ready for action, Mackie is busy elsewhere bulking up for a new role. He will play Marvel Comic’s first African-American superhero, the Falcon (née Sam Wilson), in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year and later in The Avengers 2.

Subjecting himself to two daily workouts and a butter-free diet in a town known for its rich food, Mackie has shown serious dedication. And with a big-budget summer blockbuster on the horizon, the fame he so deftly sidesteps may come knocking anyway, po’boys or not.

The Root spoke to Mackie about joining the Gangster Squad, playing the Falcon and the awful possibility that there may never be another Morris Chestnut.

The Root: Ruben Fleischer, director of Gangster Squad, told the Daily News, “Mackie is on the path to stardom, and everyone in Hollywood knows it.” What do you say to that?