By Darren Franich
February 03, 2011 at 08:24 PM EST
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Image Credit: Marvel EntertainmentSamuel L. Jackson dropped an Avengers bombshell on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night: After chatting about his cameo appearances in the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies, the actor told the host, “I’ve got to screen test like five actresses on Friday. They have this new character that’s, I guess, my sidekick who’s with me all the time.” Cue rumor mill explosion: Could this heretofore unknown S.H.I.E.L.D. agent be Sharon Carter, an occasional love interest for Captain America? Could she be the Wasp, a founding female Avenger who was surprisingly left off the cast list announced at last year’s Comic-Con? Or could it be some new character invented by Avengers director Joss Whedon?

To make matters more confusing, the Hollywood Reporter claims that Morena Baccarin, Cobie Smulders, Jessica Lucas, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are all on the short list to play the “sidekick.” I’m hard-pressed to think of actresses with less in common — Baccarin is such a magisterial presence, Smulders is more comedic, Winstead has more of an ingenue’s screen presence, and Lucas’ main claim to fame is that she’s played a character named “Riley” on two shows in a row. So who is this mysterious sidekick character?

Hearing that Morena Baccarin is in the mix makes me think we might actually be looking at a version of the Contessa (full name: La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine), a sultry S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who basically never leaves Nick Fury’s side. (They actually had a thing back in the ’60s. Man, the ’60s were awesome.) It’s true that Jackson calls the sidekick a “new character,” but it’s not clear if he means new-original or new for this movie. It seems a bit bizarre to me that they’d introduce the Wasp in such a backdoor way — probably better to save her and Giant-Man for the sequel. And Sharon Carter would make sense — she’s the niece of Peggy Carter, the love interest played by Hayley Atwell in the upcoming Captain America movie — but all the women mentioned by the Reporter are brunettes, not blond. So, therefore, extremely fragile geek science points to the Contessa.

PopWatchers, any theories you want to share about the sidekick? Am I missing any obvious possibilities? See if you can parse any other factoids from Jackson’s interview below:

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