Why did Anthony Mackie replace Joel Kinnaman in Altered Carbon Season 2?

Mackie was Laeta Kalogridis’ personal pick for the role of Takeshi Kovacs in the new season

A little over two years after the first season of Altered Carbon premiered on Netflix, the cyberpunk drama has finally returned on the streaming service for its second season on Thursday. And if you hadn’t come across any news or teasers for the new season during the show’s hiatus, then you were probably shocked to find out that Anthony Mackie replaced Joel Kinnaman as the primary sleeve of Takeshi Kovacs in the sophomore run of the series.

Since the most interesting aspect of Altered Carbon is its concept of re-sleeving, Kinnaman left the role of Kovacs to allow the series to play around and explore that concept even further.

“That was always the intention of the show, and I thought that that was a very cool concept, that the character would continue, but a new actor would play him for each season,” Kinnaman told Digital Spy last March when asked about the recasting. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if, in another season, we see a woman playing the same character. That’s the possibility when people can change bodies.”

And since Kinnaman’s exit from Altered Carbon didn’t really leave him jobless — he’s currently on Apple TV+’s sci-fi series For All Mankind and shooting The Suicide Squad with director James Gunn —  there’s definitely no bad blood between him and the producers of the show.

As for how Mackie ended up as Kinnaman’s successor, Alison Schapker — who took over the showrunner job from Laeta Kalogridis for Season 2 — said that casting Mackie as the latest sleeve of Kovacs was a dream come true for the series.

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“When I came aboard Altered Carbon, Laeta Kalogridis was already imagining Anthony Mackie as Season 2 Kovacs,” Schapker told TV Guide. “So his casting was sort of baked in as a dream get from the time I arrived at the show and I completely concurred. I mean, he is just a phenomenal actor. And he can do the action and the physicality of the role of Kovacs so well, as we all have seen in his Marvel roles. But he also can bring a depth of character to the performance, and you see that in all the roles he’s done, so we just were huge fans.”

But because Mackie is best known for his role as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, some viewers can’t help but see Mackie more like Falcon in the role than the Kovacs fans have come to know and love.

“Mackie nails the required action sequences, love scenes, and sci-fi techno jargon that the role demands, but there’s something missing from his performance for me,” Decider’s Meghan O’Keefe said of Mackie’s portrayal of Kovacs. “He never quite nails the louche arrogance that previous Kovacs actors like Kinnaman and Will Yun Lee (Kovacs’ birth sleeve) embodied. Kovacs is a man deeply haunted by his past, but he also has a darkly grim sense of humor that Mackie never quite shows.”

In addition to Kinnaman, Mackie, and Lee, Kovacs has also been played by Bryon Mann in Season 1 and by South Korean singer-actress Jihae at the beginning of Season 2.

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