The creatives behind Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have revealed if they were ever forced to incorporate Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ Val into the MCU movie’s storyline.
The character was first introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where she came up to Wyatt Russell’s John Walker to recruit him for a secret initiative—which fans now know to have been for the Thunderbolts.
From there, she went on to be seen in Black Widow‘s post-credits tag. It’s here where she sent Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova on an assassination mission to take out Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.
Her next appearance surprised many fans, as she showed up in the latest MCU movie entry, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her role in the proceedings revolved around her ex-husband, Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross, who she eventually got arrested for secretly working alongside the Wakandans.
Many, however, can’t help but think her storyline was forced into the movie to strengthen the outing’s MCU ties. But was that really the case?
Was Val Forced into Wakanda Forever?
In an interview with The New York Times, director Ryan Coogler and co-screenplay writer Joe Robert Cole revealed if Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ role was forced upon them by Marvel Studios.
Cole shared how he’s “never had a conversation where [he] was asked to incorporate something that didn’t feel organic:”
“Ryan will have a different perspective as the director, but I’ve never had a conversation where I was asked to incorporate something that didn’t feel organic. The dynamic of the U.S. being an instigator and Western powers being an instigator, that always existed. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, we need to find a reason to make this character exist.’ It was, ‘Oh, this is already in here and there’s this wonderful actress available.’ It always starts from the story and the ideas.”
Coogler ended up revealing how Val’s role in the movie was plotted “before Black Widow,” with the character being in “there from the beginning:”
“Yeah, nobody was shoehorned in or asked to be put into the movie or anything like that. Actually, in this version, [Louis-Dreyfus’s role] was pared back in order to make space for dealing with T’Challa’s death. And we had Val in there before she even appeared in any of the other movies, before Black Widow and [the series] Falcon and the Winter Soldier. People assume that we were told to put her in, but she was there from the beginning.”
When asked if Namor was still the villain in previous versions of the script, Coogler confirmed that was the case but that Val herself “was much more active:”
“Yeah. But it was a combination. Val [the C.I.A. director, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus] was much more active. It was basically a three-way conflict between Wakanda, the U.S. and Talokan. But it was all mostly from the child’s perspective.”
Forced Creative Connections Is Not the Norm
Based on what Coogler revealed about Val, it seems that her appearance order has shifted quite a bit from what was originally planned on multiple occasions.
Before Anthony Mackie’s Disney+ show, she was supposed to be seen by the world first in Black Widow. However, had Chadwick Boseman not passed, it looks like it would have been the Black Panther sequel where she made her debut.
It all goes to show that the MCU itself is highly malleable.
Hopefully, Val’s naysayers are a little quieter with this confirmation—after all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, and always has been a connected, cohesive storytelling world. So, all of these connections are pretty important in maintaining that sense.
This is also further evidence that forcing elements into various projects isn’t the norm at Marvel Studios. Though it obviously happens every once in a while—one of the biggest examples being all of the changes and added scenes for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in Thor: The Dark World.
As for when viewers will see Louis-Dreyfuss’ Val again, the latest would be 2024’s Thunderbolts, which lands in theaters on July 26 that year. However, there’s every chance she’ll pop up somewhere else before the big team-up event.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theaters worldwide.