Danny Ramirez is ready to take flight
The star of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier talks the pressures of the MCU, working alongside Tom Cruise, and making the transition from indie circuit to fully-fledged Blockbuster.
As a kid, Danny Ramirez wanted to play sports for a living.
“It was all I saw myself as,” the Chicago-born, Miami-raised actor says today. “I couldn’t see myself interact with the world any other way.”
His goal was to be a slot receiver in the NFL. Then, realising that he was neither big enough or fast enough for the role, he began playing soccer. That’s when the injuries started to pile up.
“I ask every athlete that ended up doing something else if they remember the moment they knew they had to find another dream,’ Ramirez states matter-of-factly. “For me, it was about a year.”
The current star of current Disney+ ratings smash, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is talking to us live from New Zealand, where he’s shooting a secret movie, full of secret information that needs to remain secret longer than the hour we spend together over Zoom.
The 28-year-old is in great spirits, dressed in a clean black T‑shirt and a New York Yankees baseball cap gloved over a luscious head of hair. The spring sun is peeking gently through the window, and he reveals that he’s been passing his obligatory quarantine by (wait for it): learning the keyboard, taking photos on a medium format camera, practicing French through Duolingo, reading books on acting, completing a script, playing soccer, and becoming closer to himself through meditation. Which is all fascinating enough until you learn that this is just the quiet before the storm.
Ending last year with a coveted spot on The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Talent list, Ramirez is, in 2021, starring in two of his most prominent roles to date with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, followed by Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to Tom Cruise’s ’80s mega-smash, Top Gun, out this summer.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place six months after Avengers: Endgame and continues the story of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) following the aftermath of Steve Rodgers forgoing his role as Captain America.
Ramirez stars as Joaquin Torres, a young lieutenant who attempts to uncover the mysteries of the Flag Smashers: an emergent extremist group driven by conspiracy theory-charged beliefs. In the first episode, we see Torres go undercover, encountering an individual who may happen to be the group’s leader. It’s a promising role, with plenty of trademark Marvel Cinematic Universe humour shining through. But did newcomer Ramirez feel the pressure of MCU fan expectation?
“First, I thought I did feel pressure, getting the jitters,” he admits, careful not to rattle the House of Mouse publicist lurking on the call, camera-off, ready to leap on any spoilers. “But once I landed and got off the plane, it just felt like it was game time. Sebastian and Anthony took me in and walked me through the ropes. It was definitely an amazing experience to be brought in and all the stress left the moment I stepped on set.”
Ramirez, who is of Colombian-Mexican descent, and previously appeared in Netflix’s Latinx-centering On My Block, acknowledges the importance of his character as a significant moment for representation in the MCU.
“I think it’s the awareness and the foundation of how important these roles are and what it means to kids watching it,” says the actor. “Giving the kids someone that looks like them, and they can say, ‘I can do that too.’ I don’t take it for granted how important something like that is. Knowing that someone will look at my role and say, ‘Oh, we’re repped’. That’s a win for me.”
What’s more, those same kids will see themselves repped this summer when Ramirez steps into his first fully-fledged blockbuster alongside Tom Cruise, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly in Top Gun 2.
Ramirez play’s Fanboy, a weapons system operator and an enthusiast of all things flight. Having previously appeared in festival circuit darlings such as Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation (2018), Katherine O’Brien’s Lost Transmissions (2019), and David Raboy’s The Giant (2019), it’s a bold first move into Blockbuster-land for an actor who was told by Cruise “to prepare for the big leagues”.
“Have you ever had a job, and the first couple days you’re there, the boss comes to you and says, “if you ever have questions, don’t be afraid to ask; my door is always open?” Ramirez continues. “And sometimes the door is not open, and it’s closed? Well, with Tom, every single time I’ve had a question, concern, or comment on set, he would be there.
“He said to us that, ‘You seven [Ramirez is one of seven new “Young Guns” in the film] were picked because we think you are the next movie stars. And I’m not saying that lightly. I love what Top Gun did for my career, and I feel it could do the same for you all.’”
If it sounds like the Young Guns were in need of a pep talk, Cruise needn’t have worried with Ramirez. As our call draws to a close, he jokes about the now-famous story in which NBA legend Allen Iverson asked the late Kobe Bryant what he was doing that evening as he made his way out to the club. “I’m going to the gym,” came the reply.
“It’s always going to be about the work,” Danny Ramirez states firmly. “And the cool thing is that in sports you can lose. Going into telling a story with acting, you can’t lose. If you have good people around, you get to have a good time and tell a story. That’s the most you could ever ask for.”
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier airs Fridays on Disney+