The Falcon And The Winter Soldier packed a number of surprises into its six-episode run – from the introduction of Isaiah Bradley, to the appearance of the Dora Milaje – but easily the most delightful was the arrival of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. While very little was revealed about the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of the comic book character, she immediately charmed audiences with her sly demeanor and sinister attitude. Clearly the franchise has some big things planned her, and while we don’t quite know what those plans are just yet, the filmmakers behind the Disney+ original are teasing a “Pandora’s Box to be opened.”
With the Falcon And The Winter Soldier finale arriving on the streaming service this past Friday, I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to director Kari Skogland and head writer Malcolm Spellman this week during a post-release virtual press day and discuss the series in depth. One of the thing that I asked both of them about in separate interviews was working with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and developing Val as a character, and what they described was the Seinfeld and Veep star very much getting into the role. Said Skogland,
It was a lovely to work with her. She's very, as a person, very generous and kind and sweet, and obviously talented. And we worked out just all of her quirky things; of course she has a purple streak, the earrings, and the glasses. Really every detail was worked out with her and she embraced it and was very full of ideas.
Val is only featured in the last two chapters of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and only appearing in two scenes total, but she makes a lasting impression – and a massive part of that is her demeanor. She has been established as thoroughly mysterious figure, and it definitely sounds like she is up to some nefarious business. I asked Kari Skogland about throttling the gas pedal in that respect, and she explained,
That's the thing: you don't want to [give away what her intentions are]; you want to let it just be organic. I think with her, which was great, was she sort of does this, 'Maybe, maybe not, I don't know.' And she does it so glibly that you fall in love with her, and you have no idea how she is going to be, or not, but there's certainly a Pandora's Box to be opened.
What will that future entail? Could it possibly lead to the introduction of the Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers? Will Valentina Allegra de Fontaine’s story continue in the developing Captain America 4 starring Anthony Mackie? We have a wide variety of questions right now, but sadly few answers.
Speaking to the opportunity to bring Julia Louis-Dreyfus into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Malcolm Spellman noted that he was a big fan of hers long before he had the opportunity to work with her, and that knowing what she could do as an actor had an important influence on the way that Val was written into The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. Said the writer,
I'm a massive, massive fan way before this, from Veep to Seinfeld, to a million other things she's done. I think she's a genius. And so as soon as we knew it was going to be her, we knew the writing of the character had to give her room to work her magic, you know what I'm saying? Like you couldn't just have her being a regular suit. And so we kicked around Val's personality a lot, and a lot of it was really aimed more at the actor because it's like, we only have Julia for a couple of scenes. What can we do to really let her stunt on people? You know what I'm saying? And that, that sort of drove the creative.
What the series was able to pull off with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in such a short amount of time is impressive, and it all starts when she slinks out of the shadows following John Walker’s dishonorable discharge. Kari Skogland discussed the process of filming that moment, giving Wyatt Russell a lot of credit for maintaining the heightened emotions from the court martial scene that precedes it and not falling into the trap of trying to generate a certain comedic rhythm with his co-star. Said the filmmaker,
I think if I remember we kind of shot it in sequence, so we knew what had happened in that [previous] scene, and where [Wyatt Russell’s John Walker] had gone to, but then in comes this quirky character. And to his credit, he stayed with where he needed to be, because it's so easy for two actors to start to have too much fun. We made sure that he stayed where he was, so that her performance, the two of them, she could come in with her quirkiness and he's kind of waking up to something, but doesn't know what that something is going to be. But he's still very mired in the devastation of what he's become, because he still has a whole bunch of work he's got to do while still in that mindset, you know?
By the end of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has begun the process of rebranding John Walker as U.S. Agent, including getting him a new suit, and clearly she is recruiting him for some kind of bigger project. Needless to say, we’ll be paying very close attention to any and all developments regarding her character going into the future, and it seems fair to assume that we won’t have to wait very long before she pops up again.
While we wait for more exciting future Marvel Cinematic Universe developments, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+ – and to keep track of everything that is coming up on the small screen for the franchise, be sure to check out our Upcoming Marvel TV Shows guide.