Sebastian Stan Talks ‘Captain America’ Casting And His Year Ahead

With a role alongside Ashley Greene and Tom Felton in 'The Apparition,' the 'Gossip Girl' alum is one of MTV News' 11 for '11.

Sebastian Stan spent much of last year abroad, first shooting “The Apparition” opposite “Twilight” star Ashley Greene in Germany than shifting west to the U.K. for “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The 27-year-old returned to the States in December and promptly began 2011 with an astounding bit of personal and professional insight: His life is about to change in a big way.

That’s because after winning fans for his appearances on “Gossip Girl” and expanding into films as diverse as “Hot Tub Time Machine” and a small role in the Oscar darling “Black Swan,” Stan is set to attain breakout Hollywood status. First comes “Captain America,” the high-profile Marvel adaptation in which he plays sidekick Bucky Barnes. Then he teams with Greene and “Harry Potter” star Tom Felton for “Apparition.” It’s safe to say that when the year comes to a close, he’ll no longer be best known as Carter Baizen from “Gossip Girl.”

Where he goes from there is anybody’s guess. All we know is that he’s someone to pay attention to, which is why we named Stan as one of MTV News’ 11 for ’11. Stan recently called us up to talk about winning the “Captain America” role, bonding with co-star Chris Evans on set, and how “Apparition” is similar to “Black Swan.”

MTV: You’re coming off “Black Swan” and have “Captain America” and “Apparition” coming down the line. Has it hit you at all that 2011 is going to be a big one for you?

Sebastian Stan: I hadn’t thought about it too much until recently, but you’re right. Last year was a great one. Both “Apparition” and “Captain America” were in Europe. There were huge chunks of time that they required, and now it seems like time just flew by. I set some goals for myself with work, and now these films are coming out, and it’s exciting.

MTV: What sort of goals did you set?

Stan: I want to continue to work more extensively in films. I set a goal for myself that I was going to work in three movies this year that would continue to help me become a better actor and learn more about filmmaking, which is obviously different than TV and stage. I’ve had experience in all of that, but I’m more attracted to movies. And there’s just the particular aspect of having a job. I know what it’s like not to. Just to get a job is always really exciting to me. I do feel there’s a lot left for me to learn about movies, the subtleties of acting. That’s what I want this year.

MTV: Your profile is only going to rise this year. And if you’ve been feeling that spotlight on your personal life, your professional life, it’s only going to amp up. Have you learned anything in the last few years about how to deal with that attention?

Stan: Absolutely. You know, I live in New York and I love it, because it doesn’t make me feel like my life is always just about acting and that world of acting. I don’t have expectations. I just deal with it as it comes. I try to remain present and in the now. With the life I’ve built here and having close friends here, I feel like that keeps me grounded and it won’t change.

MTV: Tell me about the casting process for “Captain America.”

Stan: It was interesting, because I was in Germany, so I was making tapes [for an audition]. One thing about living in New York is I always end up making tapes. I read this article about Vera Farmiga, and apparently she used to do these incredible tapes, and that really encouraged me. Sometimes in an audition room, it’s hard to get there. I like making tapes. Anyway, I was in Germany and I made a tape before I left New York in early January, and then I made about two or three other ones from Germany. I got a good response. I’m originally from Romania, and after I finished “Apparition,” I was going to go to Romania but I had this feeling that I needed to go to L.A. And thank God I did, because I went into the room with the guys — at the time, I was auditioning for the actual Captain America role — so I screen-tested for that role. Usually with screen tests, you can be very nervous, the stakes are high. But this one was actually really chilled out. I think a lot of that had to do with [director] Joe Johnston, because he brings such a good atmosphere on set. I felt very calm. I wasn’t nervous. I felt like, for four or five hours, I was just playing. It was fun. Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard over at Marvel asked me to sit down with them and they talked about the comic books and Bucky and his entire arc, and I was really attracted to that. I thought there’s a lot to play with, so I was very happy.

MTV: There have been many different versions of Bucky over the years. What can you say about your Bucky?

Stan: I didn’t know anything about the comic books. Even when I auditioned, I didn’t. And I liked that, because I didn’t want to have particular ideas. I wanted to find the characters and connections naturally. And I did. Steve Rogers and Bucky are both orphans and kind of like brothers. They kind of grow up together and look after each other. It’s a very human, relatable thing. And growing up in the Army is a very specific thing. There’s a certain way these guys carry themselves, there’s a certain etiquette, a certain body posture, the way that they interact. So I went back and read the comics and watched a lot of documentaries on World War II. “Band of Brothers” was very helpful. I wanted to make sure I respected the themes in the comics that people related to about Bucky. But at the same time, in my head, we were shooting a movie that takes place in 1944 and it is about a bunch of guys going to war and how they’re going to look out for each other. Bucky always protects and looks out for Steve Rogers. I also wanted to look out for how their relationship changes once Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. There’s always a competition and they’re always one-upping each other. I paid attention to how Bucky is affected by Steve’s change and suddenly Steve is this leader.

MTV: How’d you handle the action scenes?

Stan: There’s a lot of CGI stuff and working with a green screen. I hadn’t done that too extensively before. That was very challenging, because you’re just there surrounded by green walls, but there’s explosions going off around you, so you have to factor that in and maintain that in your imagination. It helped to go back to the monitor or to check out the boards with pictures of what it was going to look like. Also, the stunts were challenging. You want to do the stunts yourself, so you feel like you accomplished it. But sometimes it’s important to step back and let the real professional guys do it because you don’t want to hurt yourself.

MTV: Let’s talk “Apparition” for a minute.

Stan: It was amazing, We were all included creatively in the process. Todd Lincoln, who wrote and directed it, wanted that. We had rehearsal time when we could come together and sometimes rewrite things for the better. We had time to improvise and see what we were missing. We discovered a lot of stuff that way. Both Tom and Ashley are coming from such huge franchises themselves, they’ve sort of experienced every corner of celebrity or hype, so I kind of felt like I was more on the sidelines to that.

MTV: Don’t sell your time on “Gossip Girl” short!

Stan: Oh no, never! I’ll always be grateful for that show. The exposure for me has been huge.

MTV: Where does this one fall in terms of tone?

Stan: To me, it was a mixture of “The Strangers” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Poltergeist.” Todd had a huge list of movies he wanted us to watch. We saw how horror was done in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s into today. It’s definitely more psychological than just “get scared!”

MTV: That’s kind of like “Black Swan.” There are horror elements, psychological-thriller elements.

Stan: Yeah, I think a lot of “Apparition” is similar to that. As an audience, you’re trying to figure out if something is happening or if you’re a witness in somebody’s dark thoughts.

MTV: Most people are used to seeing Ashley in her “Twilight” world. What are people going to be surprised about when they see “Apparition”?

Stan: It’s different than how anybody has seen her before. Both of our characters are very simple, relatable kids. Just to finally play somebody who’s more relatable rather than a vampire, somebody with flaws and dreams and goals and is struggling with life — that’s amazing. These kids don’t know what they want to do with their lives, just that they want to start living a simple life. There are great arcs in the characters and the story lines, and it’s going to be great for people to see her play that out.

Check out MTV News’ 11 for ’11 — actors, musicians and TV stars who are about to have a huge year — all week long.

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