The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is coming to an end, as a decade's worth of blockbusters has come to a head with Avengers: Infinity War. The Russo Brothers' untitled Avengers 4 will complete Phase Three, with the future of the shared universe a complete mystery thereafter. Many of Marvel's biggest stars are coming to the end of their contracts, with fans left to wonder: what's next?

Captain America actor Chris Evans is one of the stars who seems to be exiting the MCU after Avengers 4, so a new character may take up the mantle. Captain America: Winter Soldier actor Frank Grillo recently spoke to Evans' departure, possibly revealing that the studio may be looking at either a woman or person of color to be the next Cap. He said,

I don't know, but there have been rumors that Captain America could be African American. It could be a woman. You know? So they're looking.

While not an actual confirmation, Frank Grillo seems to think that the next Captain America might not be another white male actor. And while his character Crossbones bit the dust in Captain America: Civil War, Grillo could have some inside information from his co-stars and collaborators within the MCU.

Frank Grillo's comments from Larry King Live are sure to start endless fan theories, regarding who might take Cap's shield once Chris Evans retires from his acclaimed role as Steve Rogers. And considering the MCU's recent focus on inclusion and diversity, almost anything is possible.

Chris Evans' departure from Captain America has been expected for quite some time, so there's already a handful of rumors regarding who could take on the shield and the responsibility. Chief among them are Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who have worked alongside Cap in the majority of his appearances.

Anthony Mackie's Falcon has been a strong supporting character of the MCU since Captain America: Winter Soldier, and was welcomed into The Avengers quickly after his first appearance. He's got military training and superhero experience, and it would be great to see his character get some more attention and complexity. Plus, it would likely be a significant moment for Captain America to be a person of color, with representation being a major topic of conversation in the film industry.

Sebastian Stan's Bucky seems like another great choice, although the status of his contract with Marvel is a bit more unclear. Bucky has had quite the redemption arc since he was brainwashed as a villain, so it would be a significant narrative moment to make him a bonafide hero, let alone a leader of The Avengers. Of course, both he and Falcon would need to be brought back from the dead, as they were victims of Thanos' finger snap of death in Avengers: Infinity War.

If Captain America was going to end up becoming a woman, it's a little less clear as to who could take on the mantle. Perhaps the most obvious choice is Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, although it would be hard for fans to see her take on a different superheroic role. But with the Black Widow solo movie in active development over at Marvel, ScarJo might end up sticking around the MCU for a while more, and continuing to be the most profitable actress in Hollywood.

Another option might be Emily VanCamp's Agent 13/Sharon Carter. Sharon had a supporting role in the last two Captain America movies, although she was noticeably absent from the events of Infinity War. If Steve Rogers falls in battle in the final conflict against Thanos (as fans have been predicting for years), then it would be powerful to see his former lover (and Peggy Carter's great niece) step up to the plate to continue his legacy. If VanCamp is interested in a larger role in the shared universe, that is.

It should be interesting to see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues without some of its stars. In addition to Chris Evans, both Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. are coming to the end of their contract with Avengers 4. Disney has been keeping tight lipped about what the future looks like, mostly because it has the potential to spoil the events of the upcoming blockbuster.

RDJ has already been shown to take on additional projects outside his contract, like his role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But considering he's been playing Tony Stark since 2007's Iron Man, the 53 year old actor might want distance from the armor. Chris Hemsworth seems more likely to stay, as Thor: Ragnarok was a game changer for his iconic superhero character.

If the MCU's next Captain America is a person of color or a woman, it would be a major change for the franchise. The superhero genre has been criticized for only focusing on characters that are male and white-- an observation that can certainly be seen in the first few phases of the MCU.

But Phase Three has been changing things up, putting women and POCs in larger roles. Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel are the first movies to feature female protagonists, and the still developing Black Widow movie will finally give Scarlett Johansson's character the spotlight she deserves.

Ryan Coogler's Black Panther also made history when it was released, and for a few reasons. The hit movie featured an outstanding cast of black actors, and its title character broke new ground as a black lead in the MCU. Furthermore, Black Panther's box office performance was record breaking, proving that casual moviegoers and the hardcore fandom alike will show up to protagonists of all colors, shapes, and sizes.

We'll likely get some answers when Avengers 4 arrives in theaters on May 3rd, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.

RELATED: Thor Almost Had A Totally Different Quest In Avengers: Infinity War

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