San Diego Comic-Con’s Marvel Studios panel was almost too much, with huge reveal after huge reveal about Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two of the biggest announcements to come out it were Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becoming the new Thor, and Mahershala Ali joining the MCU as Blade. We talked with Marvel Studios Kevin Feige about how this all came about, how long these parts were in the works, and how Ali himself pitched Marvel Studios exactly what it wanted.

During a red carpet event following the Marvel panel, we asked Feige to tell us how he managed to get Portman and Ali into the next phase of the MCU. In the video above, he shared that these plans have been in the works for a long time, kept under total secrecy, to his surprise. For Portman, they continued to stay in touch and gauge her interest in coming back. Ali, on the other hand, came to them with the idea of being Blade...something Feige said was already on his wish list.

They came about, frankly, quite a while ago, and I’m very happy that they never leaked so that we could unveil it today at Hall H. It came about from the passion that we had for Blade, and had for years. Mahershala, coming off his second Academy Award this year, said he wants to come and meet. And I was like, “I hope he talks about what I think he’s going to talk about.” And he brought up Blade, and we were like, “We’re in. We’re doing it.”

And with Natalie, we’ve stayed in touch with her over the years. [Director Taika Waititi], who did such a spectacular job with Ragnarok, agreed to come back, had this idea of Love and Thunder and of tapping into that comic story.

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Feige also confirmed to io9 that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie will have an LGBTQ story in Thor: Love and Thunder. Thompson hinted at this during the panel, saying that Valkyrie will be looking for her “queen.” According to Feige, Valkyrie is just the beginning of Marvel Studios’ plans for LGBTQ-friendly storylines—something that’s a long time coming for the MCU.

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“The answer is yes,” Feige replied, when asked about Valkyrie’s LGBTQ storyline. “How it impacts the story remains to be seen—with that level of representation you will see across our films, not in just Thor 4.

Black Widow, the first film in the next phase of MCU films, comes out May 1, 2020. Here are the rest of the release dates announced during the panel:

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  • May 1, 2020 - Black Widow
  • November 5, 2020 - The Eternals
  • February 12, 2021 - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • May 7, 2021 - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • November 5, 2021 - Thor: Love and Thunder

Be sure to check out all of our coverage from the Marvel Studios panel, as well as the rest of San Diego Comic-Con.

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About the author

Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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