As is the way of the run-up to every eagerly awaited blockbuster - especially sequels to previously eagerly-awaited blockbusters - even the most tenuous scraps of information about production can feel like feasts in times of famine. This is especially true of the “Phase 2” run of Marvel Studios films, as we come off the monumental success of The Avengers.
In the case of the sequel to Captain America, titled Captain America: The Winter Soldier, every tidbit of casting news has added to a veritable blizzard of plot speculation and rumors. After weeks of conflicting reports, various sources are reporting that British actress Jessica Brown Findlay is the current casting favorite for Sharon Carter - S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, possible Cap love interest, and niece of the original film’s Peggy Carter.
According to Express UK, Jessica Brown Findlay is currently beating out a swiftly narrowing field of possible actresses for Captain America: The Winter Soldier's lead female role. If she does indeed land the role of Sharon Carter, Findlay will be beat out a range of actresses that has been rumored to include Emelia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Imogen Poots (Fright Night), Anna Kendrick (End of Watch), Felicity Jones (Like Crazy), and Alison Brie (Community).
Jessica Brown Findlay is best known for her work on the ITV-produced smash-hit Downton Abbey. She has also played roles on other British series Misfits and Black Mirror—both of which make her no stranger to genre pieces. However, Downton Abbey’s immense popularity on both sides of the Atlantic may be the deciding factor in the casting. Wide audiences’ familiarity with Findlay (and, of course, her well-liked performance) may tilt the odds in the actress's favor.
In the Marvel Comics universe, Sharon Carter has been portrayed as a globetrotting, gun-toting Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and general badass. If the character will be portrayed anything like she is in the comic books (and given Marvel’s previous faithfulness to its source material), Carter will definitely be participating in her fair share of action scenes. This raises a significant question: although Jessica Brown Findlay will almost certainly be a match for Chris Evans as a romantic foil, will she be effective as a heroic one?
By all accounts, Findlay has proven her chops as a romantic and dramatic actress. However, does she have what it takes to bring the full physicality and forcefulness necessary to properly portray a secret agent as direct as Sharon Carter? Actors and actresses unfamiliar with action movie rigors have sometimes been known to attempt the transition and come off looking rough, inexperienced, and flat-out unconvincing. Though I’m admittedly unfamiliar with her work on Misfits and Black Mirror, Findlay isn’t exactly leaping through the air while firing two pistols during Downton Abbey (though there’s always Season 4 to look forward to...).
All that said, it’s not as if many of the other possible actresses for the role have had extensive action experience, either. Furthermore, pre-production for films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier almost always involves extensive training for any actors featured in physical sequences. As such, even someone completely inexperienced in the ways of guns, brawls, and explosions can look like an expert by the time the cameras start rolling.
Of course, without any official casting announcement these reports are but wind and ghosts. While Express seems certain that Jessica Brown Findlay is a lock for Carter, previous news stories have leaned heavily towards others in the running. Until Marvel releases a press release confirming the casting, we will have to continue to speculate and imagine just how well Findlay will fill out the familiar S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be in theaters on April 14, 2014.