Good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is three steps ahead of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Introduced with a blank business card in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the mysterious Val recruits John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the soldier she revamps as the black-clad U.S. Agent. Val returns in Black Widow at the grave of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), contracting Natasha's assassin sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to take a shot at Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in Hawkeye. And like her business card, Val's future is a blank slate.
"There's a lot of mystery in terms of her background, and whether she's a good guy or a bad guy remains to be seen… she's sort of living in a gray zone," Louis-Dreyfus says in Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The Art of the Series book. "And I like the idea of a female mastermind. I think it's about time, by the way, not to get too political on anybody. But I'm all in favor of it. And I'm delighted to be able to do it myself."
She continued, "And the other thing that's really fun is sometimes you think maybe she said too much, and then maybe it seems as if what she said was intentional, and she wanted you to think she said too much, but she didn't. It's all a plan. She's about three steps ahead of everyone, and that's gobs of fun to play."
Marvel producers have likened the mysterious manipulator to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the shadowy super-spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. Director who connected the first phase of the MCU with appearances in Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
"Whenever we talked about Valentina, even in the writer's room, she was sort of a more acerbic, funnier, but darker Nick Fury," Falcon and Winter Soldier executive producer Nate Moore told Marvel.com. "Someone who knows her secrets, who's not afraid to operate in the moral gray area, but maybe who isn't as inherently altruistic."
Whether Val is assembling her own Avengers in the form of The Thunderbolts or has plans of her own, Moore teased, "Having a character like Valentina in the show, and actually in the MCU, is really interesting because I think she'll be making more waves sooner rather than later."
All episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are streaming now on Disney+.