New Orleans native Anthony Mackie will reign as Bacchus XLVIII on Sunday, riding high above streets he once scoured for beads and doubloons.
He’s the superkrewe’s first black monarch, and the first since John Larroquette (1995) and Harry Connick Jr. (1993) to know the childhood magic of being on the receiving end of a keepsake tossed from a passing float.
“Every Mardi Gras, we were the scavengers, the kids who were under your legs, scraping up cups and doubloons,” he said of his family’s annual rite of acquiring curbside bling.
“We would always have a massive amount of cups, and we would always get each doubloon in each color. That was our job. Our dad made sure that was our job. We would look in the paper and watch the news and see what the throws were and see what color the doubloons were.”
Mackie grew up in Gentilly and attended Warren Easton High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He later studied drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the Juilliard School. He has starred on Broadway and in films ranging from “8 Mile” in 2002 to the Academy Award-winning “The Hurt Locker” in 2008.
The worldwide box office for 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” in which Mackie portrayed Sam Wilson/Falcon, has surpassed $700 million. He’ll again star as the Wilson/Falcon character in the Marvel/Disney sequel “Captain America: Civil War,” premiering in May.
The HBO movie adaptation of Robert Schenkkan’s Tony Award-winning play “All the Way,” in which Mackie plays Martin Luther King Jr. to Bryan Cranston’s Lyndon B. Johnson, debuts the same month.
And due for release later this month is the heist film “Triple 9,” in which Mackie co-stars with Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor and others.
Mackie’s participation in Sunday’s parade wasn’t finalized until late in the season, due mostly to his busy work schedule, he said.
“We had been talking about it for a while,” he said. “Working in Hollywood, you never know when you’re going to be available or if you’re going to be busy. My schedule opened up at just the right time. Once I knew it was solidified, I turned down every job I had for the month of February. I won’t be working because I’ll be celebrating this for a month and a half.”
Mackie’s selection as the first black monarch of Bacchus “says a lot about the city and where we’ve come from and where we’re going,” he said.
“It shows a lot of progression,” he continued. “To me, it shows more about my career achievements as opposed to my race. When I was out there on the neutral ground hustling for cups and doubloons, I was right next to the little white kids doing the exact same thing. I was right next to the little Vietnamese doing the exact same thing.
“What’s great is, all of us can now celebrate the idea that all these public school kids, if you work hard ... you can really make it to whatever your dream is. Really, I’ve been dreaming about being in this position since I was in sixth grade. More important to me than being the first African-American king of Bacchus is the idea that I’m 100 percent truly from New Orleans.”
Bacchus is scheduled to roll at 5:15 p.m. Sunday on the traditional Uptown route, territory Mackie knows well from his childhood.
“We all have our stories and our memories, all of my siblings and I, but our greatest memory was that my dad’s friend rode a horse in Bacchus,” he said. “My dad had six of us, and he used to make the older kids put the younger kids on their shoulders, and he would pull us up on the horse and he would just go in circles. That was my greatest memory of Bacchus, up until I got too big. We always looked forward to Bacchus, when we could get up on a horse and go around in circles.
“I always used to marvel at the institution, and also the history, of Mardi Gras. All of the krewes. To be a part of that is pretty remarkable. To have the opportunity to go from the street level looking up at the people and marveling at the kings to becoming one of them is major in my book.”