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It's been a long time coming, but Marvel fans are finally getting a Black Widow movie. Of course, back when the Marvel Cinematic Universe first kicked off, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff was one of its few prominent female characters, and certainly the only female Avenger.
Though Cobie Mulder's Maria Hill represented S.H.I.E.L.D. admirably, Johansson says the addition of Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff (AKA the Scarlet Witch) in Avengers: Age of Ultron, proved to be a very welcome one. (The character had previously been glimpsed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.)
"It was basically [Smulders and me] holding down the fort," Johansson told Jess Cagle during an appearance on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Podcast with Julia Cunningham. "And then when Lizzie came on, it semi-balanced out. It was very heavy on the testosterone for a very long time and now [it] has calibrated, [and] finally caught up."
She continued, "[Olsen] created this mystical, beautiful thing that had such strong feminine energy. And it was much needed."
In the years since, more female characters have joined the fold, many even taking center stage and going on to helm their own movies. Evangeline Lily's Hope Pym was the first female Avenger to be featured in an MCU movie's title with Ant-Man and the Wasp, while Brie Larson's Carol Danvers not only got her own solo movie with Captain Marvel, but the upcoming sequel, The Marvels, will feature some of the MCU's newest female heroes: Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel (played by Teyonah Parris and MCU newcomer Imani Vellani, respectively). Elsewhere, Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie — technically the MCU's other major bisexual character — will be returning for Thor: Love and Thunder.
Marvel's TV strategy, in particular, seems to really be highlighting the MCU's female line-up. Olsen's Wanda isn't just at the heart of Marvel's first TV series, WandaVision, but she'll make her next appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Meanwhile, comic fan-favorites Kate Bishop, Jennifer Walters, and Kamala Khan will all be getting their own shows in Hawkeye, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel. Even Black Panther's Dora Milaje had a significant storyline in The Falcon In the Winther Soldier. And Loki currently features a female-presenting version of the genderfluid character.
Black Widow, while probably serving as a swan-song for the titular hero (considering her Endgame ending), will also be introducing audiences to a new female super spy in Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, a character who seems to have an almost sisterly bond with Natasha.
"[Florence] and I just really genuinely like each other so much," Johansson told Cagle. "I find her to be so endearing. And all of that stuff it really added to the dynamic between the two girls, because their relationship is two women who have this shared trauma. And that is, in some ways, what binds them, but they also love one another. Even when they're seemingly trying to kill each other."
She went on to add, "It's so emotional. These people know each other. It's like when you see brothers that fight each other to the death and it's not just two guys fighting. There's so much stuff in there... Everything that you see on screen is also based [on] our affection for one another off-screen. It really makes it feel very authentic."
Black Widow will premiere in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on July 9. Here's everything you need to know ahead of time.