Serious question: Who in Congress has not yet met Chris Evans?
Every time you turned around before the pandemic, it seemed like Captain America was roaming Capitol Hill.
The actor played the Marvel superhero in “Avengers: Endgame” and a string of other movies, and then kept showing up in Washington. No matter how many times he came, he set off a minor frenzy.
“It’s not every day you get to see Captain America in America’s capital,” tweeted Rep. Debbie Lesko this winter, except it felt like the opposite.
He was there in February, chatting up everyone from Sen. Chuck Grassley to Sen. Bob Menendez. He was there in January, running a gauntlet of star-struck reporters as he tried to go to the bathroom.
He was there the previous winter too, rubbing elbows with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (who wore a helmet with a giant “A” on it), palling around with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (who showed off a glass eye inspired by the superhero’s red, white and blue shield), and distracting members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee (who heard rumors that Evans was just outside the room).
So when his face popped up again last week, it wasn’t a surprise. This time he appeared in virtual form, on a Zoom video call with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers. They wanted to know more about the launch of “A Starting Point,” his latest project and the whole reason he’s been hanging around so much.
And well they should. Evans has been filming interviews with lawmakers for a while now, destined for a website meant to boil down tough policy questions into easy to understand soundbites. But the launch has been pushed back multiple times. Wired reported that parts of the website, a kind of “Schoolhouse Rock for adults,” were supposed to go live in February, but that month came and went. Then the project missed a planned debut at South by Southwest in March, thanks to the pandemic. Next organizers scuttled a date last month, as protests raged following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. That postponement came “out of respect” for planned memorials, according to Fast Company, which had planned to mark the launch with a celebratory webinar.
Now there’s a new target date for the webinar: July 14. Apparently getting off the ground is hard, even for Captain America.
So no, “A Starting Point,” hasn’t launched yet, but yes, media critics have already panned it.
Evans knows Congress pretty well, since his uncle is Mike Capuano, the Democrat from Massachusetts who served in the House for two decades until Ayanna Pressley ousted him in the 2018 primary. But he found himself craving something simple. In a teaser promoting the project, he wonders: “Why isn’t there a place I can go to hear both sides of an issue in a succinct way that I can trust?”
Getting politicians from both sides of the aisle to weigh in briefly — emphasis on briefly — on contentious topics was the goal for Evans and his “Starting Point” partners, including actor and director Mark Kassen.
For some critics, that approach is part of the problem. “Fixing partisanship with partisan chit-chat is a bit like trying to cure diabetes with Skittles,” wrote Justin Ray for the Columbia Journalism Review last April.
Still, the project felt worthwhile to lots of members of Congress. As of April, Evans had interviewed 160 of them over the course of nine trips to Washington, he told Esquire.
Asked about it this week on the Hill, some said the aim was still fresh in their minds. “It was fun,” Democratic Rep. Katie Porter recalled. “The project, I think, really is there to educate people.”
There was another perk too: the endless jokes, metaphors and puns that members could deploy as they basked in the patriotic glow of Chris Evans, fictional avenger.
“My first impression was ‘kinda short for a superhero,’” Republican Rep. French Hill quipped.
Doug Sword contributed to this report.