This story was originally published Dec. 24, 2018.
Welcome to TV Guide's 12 Days of Chris-Mas, a festive celebration of famous dudes named Chris. Every day leading up to Dec. 25, we will honor a single Chris, counting down to the best Chris of the year. Today, that honor goes to Chris Evans, the second best Chris.
After Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters earlier this year, I saw someone on Twitter commend Chris Evans for refusing to be objectified since he's been shirtless in exactly one Marvel movie: Captain America: The First Avenger. I found it an odd thing to say because although Evans might not be the most naked Chris in the MCU, he has been shirtless in a number of films since first breaking into Hollywood in 2001's Not Another Teen Movie, a film in which he pretty famously stripped down.
It was the kind of comment someone might make if their only exposure to Evans has been through his role as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And although some people might find such limited knowledge of Evans frustrating if they count him as their favorite of the four Chrises, which I personally do, it's actually totally fine. Not everyone is going to be able to recite entire scenes from The Perfect Score, and also nobody should do that anyway. Still, the comment got me thinking about the man and actor Chris Evans was before Marvel came calling and the man and actor who will almost certainly walk away from it all after the upcoming fourth Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgame.
Right now Evans' image is heavily influenced by the fact he's been portraying a courageous superhero who's morally good, loyal to his friends, and steadfast in his beliefs for the better part of a decade. To say that people love Captain America, and love Chris as Captain America, is a massive understatement. My entire theater not only gasped, but also cheered when he finally made his entrance in Infinity War. And while I'm 80 percent certain half of those people were cheering because of how good Chris' beard looked on the big screen, the other half of those people were definitely just excited because Cap had arrived to kick some ass.
So yes, Cap is, without a doubt, a career-defining role for Evans, an actor who wasn't a major box office draw prior to suiting up (I say this as someone who not only owned Not Another Teen Movie on VHS [!!!] until *mumbles incoherently*, but definitely also paid to see Sunshine in theaters, so don't come at me with your pitchforks). Evans' popularity since taking on the role has only been elevated by the fact it sometimes feels like the Cap persona has begun to bleed over into the real world through Evans' actions and tweets. Whether he is directly (and often hilariously) taking aim at President Trump via his Twitter account, where he has more than 10 million followers, or voicing his beliefs about the benefits of diversity or how to better our world, Evans has inspired and won the hearts of millions of fans through his own words. But to expect him to carry on the Cap identity offscreen puts impossible expectations on him -- ones that no human being could ever live up to -- and also pigeonholes him to the detriment of both Evans and his fans. That's because Evans is so much more than Captain America.
Although this role has no doubt brought many, many more people to Team Evans, we should not lose sight of the fact that he did have a career before it, one in which he also memorably, if briefly, played a pretty fun villain.
Furthermore, he's obviously going to still have a career after it. He made his Broadway debut earlier this year in which he played against the hero type as a manipulative police officer, and he's lined up a number of new projects already that will take him further and further away from the Cap identity. He recently wrapped the Rian Johnson film Knives Out, described as a modern day murder mystery; the only thing we really know about it at this point is that Chris gets to wear really comfortable sweaters. He's also signed on to star as a corrupt sheriff in The Devil All the Time, based on the book of the same name, and is set to star in and produce a series for Apple about an assistant district attorney who discovers his son is a suspect in a murder he's investigating.
While Evans is busy diversifying his résumé to include more morally murky roles, there's also a lot more to Evans than just what he's done on-screen. For instance, did you know Chris is a giant nerd who loves space? What about the fact he is also a big kid who can't get enough of Disney movies and also Disney World? It's downright impossible to forget he's a dude who loves sports, but I better go ahead and say it just in case too.
We're so quick to define the Chrises by a single trait because so much about them is the same, and a lot of people want to assign Evans the label of being the wokest Chris because of his apparent similarities to Cap or because of his eagerness or willingness to speak out on various issues, but if we relegate him to a single role or basic characteristic, we lose the rest of him. And I definitely don't want to ignore the fact that Chris can tap dance, has a great sense of humor, or that he used to sing Neil Diamond's "Heartlight" to his brother Scott when they were younger so Scott could fall asleep, a fact I'm pretty sure Chris is still mad Scott revealed on Late Night with Seth Meyers earlier this year but which I will laugh about for the foreseeable future.
If we're going to put any one label on Evans, it should be that he's well-rounded and relatable. Hemsworth is so good-looking and so funny that it is hard to believe he's real. (I'm still not totally convinced we haven't all been tricked by an incredibly realistic cyborg someone cooked up in the lab.) Pine, meanwhile, is the most talented actor of the bunch but he's also an eccentric oddball in real life and sometimes that keeps him at arm's length. And although Pratt is also very, very funny and charming, his boneheaded comments and actions offscreen keep us from completely engaging with him on a personal level.
If you watch enough of Evans' interviews or follow his career for long enough, you realize that yes, he apparently shares some of Cap's admirable traits, but he's not Cap, and we shouldn't want him to be. Let him be Chris, a guy with a stupendous beard who loves jelly beans, never wants to meet his heroes, struggles plugging in USB cords, and has a seriously cute dog named Dodger. It'll be much better for us and probably a bit easier on him in the long run, too, since he won't have to live up to such crazy high expectations of being a superhero on-screen and off.
Also, did I mention his dog is cute?