In Marvel Studios’ “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Amy Aquino plays Dr. Christina Raynor, a no-nonsense military therapist tasked with the unenviable job of rehabilitating Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) from spending roughly 70 years as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed assassin for Hydra. In Episode 2 of the show, Dr. Raynor even intervenes in the contentious relationship between Bucky and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) by forcing them into a form of couples therapy.
Aquino learned she landed the job on “FAWS” while shooting “Bosch,” the Amazon series starring Titus Welliver as an L.A. police detective and Aquino as his immediate superior. As she explained to Variety, the veteran character actor (“Working Girl,” “Picket Fences,” “ER”) was completely unfamiliar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and needed some assistance from one of her co-stars.
Your character has to know a lot about Bucky. How much of a Marvel person were you before the show?
Well, I was not a Marvel person at all before the show. I got quick tutoring by my co-star Titus Welliver on “Bosch,” I was doing on that other streaming service, because once he heard that I was doing a Marvel show, he was like, “Okay, here’s what you have to do.” He started explaining it and, oh my god, I’m so in over my head. I mean, just giving the shortest possible explanation for what happened just goes on and on. I watched “Winter Soldier” and talked to [Titus], but I felt like it actually helped me in a big way not to be super involved and deeply enmeshed in the Marvel universe.
As Dr. Raynor, I’m dealing with this person in front of me. I’m not dealing with the superhero. I’m dealing with a wounded individual who’s been through a lot of the same experiences that I have as a soldier, and I’ve seen way too many vets be consumed by PTSD. What I want to do is save this guy, this person. So the fact that I hadn’t been watching Sebastian and Anthony for years and years and, you know, been idolizing them, also helped because then I’m just seeing these two guys. They were lovely to work with. They couldn’t have been more generous and kind and welcoming, but it gave me the kind of perspective and distance that I think a therapist needs to have — even a terrible therapist that he said I was.
Did you model your approach to Dr. Raynor on anyone?
Not specifically one person. I’ve had therapists in my life and I’ve played therapists my life. If there’s somebody that crept through, it probably is a detective that I work closely with, Mitzi Roberts. She’s broken major cases, but I just love her persona, the strength she’s got. She’s a really smart, top-notch detective. I’m always like, “Oh I wish I was her,” because I’m tough and I can be real bossy and everything — that’s not a problem for me — but underneath it all I’m kind of a mush. She’s not super bossy on the outside, but underneath it all, she’s like a rock. So I have used her as my model on the other show, and I think there were elements of her in this.
Dr. Raynor doesn’t seem to have a lot of patience for shenanigans, and Anthony and Sebastian love to get into shenanigans. What was that dynamic like for you on set?
It was super thrilling to be able to just sit and watch these guys play off each other, these two actors who’ve known each other for so long and work together so much. And they did play. So much of that had to be improvised. It was in the script that I’m going to do this couples therapy thing with them, but you couldn’t do it any other way. You couldn’t choreograph the whole thing. So that was super fun to be able to do that, and my big challenge — both as the actor and as Dr. Raynor, I guess — was when to cut it. They were so funny and it was so natural, and I knew it was going to be super fun for the audience. You wanted to see it happening. But at some point we actually did have to get down to the actual therapy. So it’s like, “When am I cutting? OK, all right, now stop it!”
Your character’s hinted that she knows how to handle herself on the battlefield. I’m wondering if we’re gonna see any evidence of that on the show?
Yeah, me too. Nice try, Adam!
Okay, I’ll take another stab. She also mentions in the second episode that she’s worked with John Walker, Wyatt Russell’s character, in the past. Is that something that we might see evidence of?
Sure, we might. I would hope so. I have no idea. Honest to god, Adam, you know, really? Really? No, I don’t — I hope so. I don’t know. I can’t answer that.
How does working on a Marvel Studios show compare with what has been such a long and varied career for you?
It’s a delightful cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. Sort of the last thing I expected was to be dropped into this extraordinary company and universe at this point in my career. And the second-to-last thing that I expected was to get the series that that I just finished doing on Amazon, “Bosch,” at that point in my career. It’s just such a gift. It’s such a lovely gift, and I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but god bless.
What do people most recognize you for at this point?
Depends upon where I am, but “Everybody Loves Raymond” is a big one, even though it was a while ago. I played another woman in uniform — a girl scout leader. Tough broad. It’s that, it’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Bosch” a lot — and more and more so. “Bosch” is a different animal, because it was on Amazon and it was streaming. But I get recognized a lot for that. And then when “Working Girl” is on, amazingly — that was over 30 years ago when I shot it and people still will recognize me from that [laughs]. I like to say in my family, I looked 40 when I was 14, I looked 40 when I was 24, and now it’s like, hey, payoff time!
So are you prepared for a whole new kind of fan now that you are a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
No, I am not prepared on any level for that. Because the second episode just aired a couple of days ago, I have not been out in public except hiking — I don’t know what to expect. But I’m looking forward to it! I think it would be great. And if Dr. Raynor can help people feel more comfortable about therapy and about mental health issues and actually getting help for your mental health issues the same way you get help for physical health issues, then that’ll be great. And if I can help promote that, that would be fantastic.