One of the most pivotal, but basically unknown elements of Marvel's Black Panther movie is Everett Ross, the CIA operative and former commander of the Joint Counter Terrorism Task Force, who signed up for superhero regulation duties in Captain America: Civil War. Ross is played by The Hobbit and Sherlock star Martin Freeman, and fans have been waiting for the character to expand into a much bigger role in Black Panther.
However, in Marvel Comics, Everett Ross turns out to be a character with many shades depending on the intentions of the agency pulling his strings. He's also been a ridiculous comedic relief character -- a white counterpoint to the mostly black characters of Black Panther comics, who was often played as a snarky joke by writer Christopher Priest.
So how closely will the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Ross hew to his comic book counterpart?
"I think we've all seen the idea of the goofy white guy among cool black people going, 'What the hell?'" Freedman said during a set visit last year. "I've seen that about four billions times today, so, I don't really need to do that again. I had early conversations with Ryan [Coogler] about that. Both of us were very keen that that wouldn't be the case in this, you know? He has moments of comedy, he has moments of levity and there was humor there, but that's not his purpose."
According to Freeman, making the character of Ross believable in a live-action setting actually takes much more logical approach to some very basic elements of the character.
"He's good at his job," Freeman added. "I think we're going as realistic as you can be in a heightened universe. It would be slightly incredible for him not to be good at his job and not to be competent at this position that he's at. He's good at his job. He's well traveled. He's well versed in the ways of the world. Wakanda is gonna be a surprise to him. But, in terms of meeting diplomats, kings, that's not particularly fazing to him."
The real pivotal point for Ross' character will be what choices he makes once he knows the secret wealth and prosperity of Wakanda. There's a very subtle but powerful message that director Ryan Coogler could explore when it comes to the potential plunder of an African country by white outsiders -- a theme that would hinge on what Ross reports back to his superiors about Wakanda. He could end up being one of the country's closest allies on the world stage, or the one who ultimately sells them out, setting Wakanda up for bigger invasions to come.
Black Panther opens on February 16, 2018. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Avengers: Infinity War on May 4, 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.