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‘You’re in the MCU for Life': Marvel Actors Break Down Their Unexpected Returns to the Franchise

“I love that they’re bringing all these characters back in,” Emily VanCamp told TheWrap

Kat Dennings hadn’t been seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” Yet if she was ever going to play Darcy Lewis again, “WandaVision” would have been the last thing Dennings’ would have thought for her long-awaited return.

Disney+ has allowed Kevin Feige to significantly expand Marvel’s billion-dollar movie universe into the streaming era. The TV series are meant to put the focus on some of the key supporting players in the movies like Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson, as well as introduce new characters like She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) that will appear in future films.

With more real estate than ever, anybody who has ever appeared in a Marvel Studios film is finding out they should keep that phone nearby. “Once you’re in the MCU, you’re in the MCU for life,” Dennings told TheWrap. “You never know when you might get a call, but I certainly didn’t expect it.”

Along with Dennings, “WandaVision” also featured Randall Park reprising his role as FBI agent Jimmy Woo from “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” a fairly minor character. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” brought back Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter, Daniel Bruhl’s Helmut Zemo and even Georges St-Pierre’s Batroc, a character that only appeared briefly in an early scene in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

In next year’s “She-Hulk,” it’s not much of a surprise that Mark Ruffalo will return as Bruce Banner/Hulk. But along with him will be Tim Roth reprising his role as Emil Blonsky/Abomination from 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” (the MCU’s second-ever film that actually featured a different actor playing Bruce Banner).

While it made more sense thematically for Sharon and Zemo (and even Batroc) to pop back up in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” given their history with Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s characters, “WandaVision” proved how elastic the MCU can be, which often sees characters jump between movies (and now TV shows).

“‘WandaVision’ was the last one I expected to be in, because Darcy has had absolutely no contact with anybody in the sphere of the show,” Dennings said. Park was even more surprised, mostly because his role in the “Ant-Man” sequel appeared to be one-off.

“After ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ I was so thrilled to be a part of it. And just thankful to have just touched the Marvel Universe. I wasn’t really expecting to come back,” Park said. “When they reached out and told me that they wanted me for one of these Disney+ shows, I was like, Oh, my gosh, yes, absolutely.”

Tim Roth (left) will return as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination in “She-Hulk” (Photo Credit: Universal)

Boarding a Marvel Studios project is unlike any other role in Hollywood. Samuel L. Jackson famously signed a 9-picture deal that stretched from his first appearance as Nick Fury in the end-credit tag in 2008’s “Iron Man” through his most recent appearance in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” What’s interesting is that in most of those films his role was somewhere between glorified cameo and supporting player, with one notable exception being “Captain Marvel” in 2019 when he co-starred with Brie Larson as a younger version of his character. He will co-star along with Ben Mendehlson’s “Captain Marvel” character Talos in their own Disney+ series, “Secret Invasion.”

Wyatt Russell, who debuted in the MCU on “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” as John Walker, said he signed on to the role with the knowledge that any Marvel gig is “something for potentially longer than just one.”

Feige previously told TheWrap one of the best parts of creating content for Disney+, aside from his desire to move the MCU into episodic storytelling, was that it would prevent some of the lesser-used characters from getting sidelined for too long. Without Disney+, it’s far less likely we would have seen Zemo or Sharon again.

Even VanCamp admitted she thought Marvel was done with her. “I sort of had thought just that they had put Sharon to bed, that was just sort of my my feeling,” she told TheWrap. “So it was a very welcome, awesome surprise to hear that they wanted to bring her back, because I was just as curious to know where she’s been and what she’s been up to and to explore that. And I love that they’re bringing all these characters back in.”

Sharon returned a much different character than her previous appearances in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War” while Bruhl loved getting to show a different (and very meme-worthy) side of Zemo. Even Park got to pay off one of the funniest gags from his “Ant-Man and the Wasp” role.

“It’s a good sign if they do not kill you. So after ‘Civil War,’ I knew there was a possibility, but then after a time you forget about it,” Bruhl said. “It was really a surprise when I finally got the call and you feel honored. Because first of all, you think like, okay, you weren’t that bad.”