How ‘Black Panther 2’ Sets Up MCU Character for ‘Thunderbolts’ Movie

The following contains mild but arguably insignificant spoilers from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, now in theaters.

Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (now in theaters) caught us up on an MCU character we first met in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series, and who had only been seen one other time since.

You previously knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ character as Countess Valentina Allegra “Don’t Call Me Val” de Fontaine, but as revealed during Wakanda Forever, it is now CIA Director de Fontaine to you.

Oh — and Director de Fontaine is also apparently the (flirty) ex-wife of veteran CIA operative Everett Ross (played by MCU vet Martin Freeman)! We will discuss the long-term significance of that in a moment….

Falcon Winter Soldier Valentina

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘

Near the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s run, eight-time Emmy winner Louis-Dreyfus made her debut as Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, an enigmatic woman of considerable means who befriended a disgraced John Walker fka Captain America (played by Lodge 49‘s Wyatt Russell) and wound up refashioning him as U.S. Agent.

Val next popped up in the Black Widow movie’s mid-credits scene — which originally was intended to be the character’s first appearance in the MCU — to hand assassin Yelena Belova (played by Florence Pugh) her next assignment: Clint Barton. Yelena wound up pursuing that target in Disney+’s Hawkeye series.

Black Widow Valentina

‘Black Widow’

As announced in September, Pugh, Russell and Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Sebastian Stan have been cast in Marvel’s Thunderbolts team-up movie, continuing the character arcs for Yelena Belova, John Walker and Bucky Barnes.

Louis-Dreyfus, along with Black Widow‘s David Harbour (as Alexei/Red Guardian) and Olga Kurylenko (as Antonia/Taskmaster), and Ant-Man 2‘s Hannah John-Kamen (as Ava/Ghost), round out the cast.

With Val now heading up the CIA, that puts her in a unique position to — as many speculated she was doing with John Walker — groom, recruit, assemble, outfit and deploy the titular Thunderbolts, a Suicide Squad-esque team of antiheroes. Especially given how in Black Panther 2 she was hankering to square off against Wakanda, had Everett Ross not stepped in.

Jake Schreier (Lodge 49, Kidding) will direct the Thunderbolts movie, off a script by Eric Pearson (Black Widow). Shooting starts next year with an eye on a July 26, 2024 release, where the movie will close out Phase 5 of the MCU.

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