Don Cheadle has delivered plenty of outstanding performances over the course of his three-decade career, and even when he shows up in something that isn’t great, he’s a reliable presence and frequently elevates the projects he’s in.
But even as a fan of the actor’s work (seek him out in No Sudden Move, which is currently on HBO Max), it’s just plain ridiculous that Cheadle received an Emmy nomination for his two-minute cameo in Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And I’m far from the only person who thinks so: Cheadle himself tweeted a befuddled reaction to the news of his nomination earlier today.
“Thanks, well wishers. Sorry, haters. Agreed, [shruggers],” Cheadle tweeted Tuesday afternoon after he learned about his Emmy nod. “I don’t really get it either. Buuuuuuuuuut on we go…”
This is Cheadle’s eleventh Emmy nomination, and it’s also the most puzzling. While his work in shows like House of Lies and Black Monday and ER was all worthy of deeper attention, his appearance in the premiere episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is, to be frank, not. You know how people joke that it can sometimes feel like an actor shot their entire role in a single day? Cheadle’s part in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier felt like Marvel caught him during a 30 minute layover while he was at the Atlanta airport and asked him to do them a favor by showing up and saying a couple of lines to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that brief performances can’t be incredibly impactful. But in this case, Cheadle’s James “Rhodey” Rhodes essentially only does two things: he questions Sam about why Sam didn’t take up the Captain America mantle after Steve Rogers gave him the shield, and he talks about how the world is an unstable place. Yes, it’s meaningful that two of the most prominent Black characters in the MCU outside of Wakanda get to have a conversation in this show. But it would have been far more meaningful if that conversation was longer and more complex – and even moreso if Rhodey had actually floated back into the show and crossed paths with Sam again later on. As it stands, though, Rhodey’s presence feels more like an Easter egg than a vital component to this story.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming now on Disney+.
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