Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo made the first impression, in Captain America: Civil War, he put Captain America and Iron Man against each other and almost managed to take down the Avengers, but it’s even better the second time around, literally dancing his way back to the MCU.
In The Falcon and the Winter SoldierIn the third episode, “Power Broker”, Zemo returns to the fold when Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) break him out of prison to help him find a red super soldier serum. This time around, we meet Baron Zemo – the son of European nobility with comical precision who dons a purple mask as he performs his villainous exploits.
But about the dance. The trio set out for Madripoor in search of a lead, and found themselves at an elegant gala party with a particularly loud soundtrack. And Zemo does what Zemo is going to do: punch his fists, about a second of now iconic images that have inspired Falcon and Winter SoldierThe best memes so far.
Over Zoom, the newly mustachioed actor (“This is not a personal hipster pick,” he laughs. “I started shooting a movie set in WWI, so that’s what I got”) spoke to ET’s Ash Crossan about improv on the dance floor and why viewers should support Zemo.
ET: We haven’t seen Zemo in quite a while. Did you think you would go back to the MCU? Or did you think that Zemo’s story was over?
It’s always a good sign when they don’t kill you, so I was always looking forward to a possible return. But I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know about any plans they had in mind for Zemo, so it really took me by surprise when I got the call. I was in Hungary filming another program, I spoke with the director [Kari Skogland] and I think a week later, he came to Budapest with a very original looking suitcase where my mask was presented to me in a very ceremonial way. I was totally excited about this show, because I thought that not only could I revisit a character that I really liked, but I could also do something else with him. I can wear the iconic mask. I can show your aristocratic origin. There is a lot more humor in it, for me. I did not have the impression of repeating myself.
Instead of a briefcase full of money, they came with the mask.
Yes! And she said she had to take it with her, so it was hand luggage. Obviously some security guys in Hungary said, “Well, can we take a look?” And imagine a woman traveling in that purple mask. [Laughs]
Zemo made a good re-entry, especially with your little dance move moment. Have you already seen the reactions and memes?
It’s crazy! That was such a strange choice that I made that day. It was not written. It was improvised. I was there, I saw the crowd, I heard the heartbeat, I thought Zemo needed to show his movements. You need to vent after being in an unreliable German prison for years. And all the chances of annoying Sam and Bucky are good, so I decided to do this little dance. I was 100 percent sure they would cut it so I’m excited that they kept it in the final cut and to see the reactions, I mean. Some of my friends texted me and put on their own dance tunes. Is Really funny.
I want to party with Zemo!
And you should!
He’s done a lot of very bad things, but the public is really starting to support him, even John Walker. Did you ever think that people would love Zemo and hate Captain America?
It `s hilarious! Everyone should join Team Zemo. I think it is a good choice. [Laughs] No, but what is established in Civil war Already and what I loved about Kevin Feige’s reinterpretation of that character was that he is not a cliché, a one-dimensional evil guy who does these creepy things for no reason. He does it out of a very human motivation. It has suffered serious losses. So while I always disagree with Zemo’s radical methods, I identify with him, knowing where he came from. And that ambiguity remains on the show as well, so you can’t completely dislike it.
Was there anything that surprised you to learn about Zemo this time? I love that we are getting a glimpse of his rich boy life.
Well lots of cars and a private jet, I didn’t know that before either! There were many surprises when I opened these scripts. It was just a different version of this character. And again, it’s fun, because it doesn’t get redundant. It doesn’t get boring. Also, to have that triangle, I always loved these scenes between these three because they couldn’t be more different. They all come from very different places, obviously what I always liked is that underneath everything there is a mutual understanding and almost a respect – well, maybe not a respect but an understanding for the traumas that each of them had. They are all haunted by demons from the past. They’ve all been through a lot, they’ve lost people very dear to them, so this dynamic between the three of them, getting to know each other, becoming a boy band, was something that I really enjoyed.
There are many theories about Zemo’s mask, some people think that the mask is meant to look a bit like Thanos, will we get more background on why he wears the mask in the next episodes?
Well, as my character Zemo, I love being opaque, mysterious, reserved, and enigmatic, and I won’t tell you anything! You will have to check it out. I could not and did not want to answer that question.
Fair enough. We end in suspense in this most recent episode: Wakanda is coming for Zemo. That can are you joking about the rest of the season?
I’m the master of spoilers, so I’m scared to death when it comes to these questions. [Laughs] I’d rather not say a word. You really have to look at it. It’s still fun. What really impressed me is that they managed to maintain that cinematic level on the show. It really does look and feel like a long movie, like a 6 hour show, and there will be very interesting twists and turns, I can assure you, but I’d rather not say anything!
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stream Fridays on Disney +.