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September 07, 2018 at 01:34 PM EDT

For more on Captain Marvel, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, or buy it here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Captain Marvel may introduce Brie Larson’s pilot-turned-superhero Carol Danvers, but it’s also an origin story for another character.

The March 2019 film marks Samuel L. Jackson’s ninth big-screen appearance as Nick Fury, but with the story set in the mid-‘90s, this younger Nick is different from the espionage expert we’ve met before — so different that there were times Jackson himself didn’t recognize him.

“I’ll read something, and I’ll read it as present Nick Fury, and I’ll go, ‘He would never do this,’” Jackson says. “And I go, ‘Oh, wait a minute. He’s not in that place yet.’ ”

After 10 years, Jackson admits that he’s become protective of the character, but he enjoyed exploring Fury’s origins as a fresh-faced S.H.I.E.L.D. desk jockey with two eyes and zero extraterrestrial experience. (The 69-year-old actor was digitally de-aged for the role.)

“The Nick Fury we meet is sort of a bureaucrat in an interesting sort of way,” he explains. “He hadn’t become jaded or a slave to the cynicism that we normally see. He sort of respects the people that are above him, more so than the Nick Fury that people are used to.”

© Marvel Studios 2019

Captain Marvel also includes Fury’s first meeting with Clark Gregg’s rookie agent Phil Coulson — and there are other surprises, too. “He has a greater sense of humor in this than anything I’ve done before,” Jackson says.

But it isn’t until Fury meets the part-Kree, part-human hero Carol Danvers — a.k.a. Captain Marvel — that he realizes the world might be a whole lot bigger than he originally thought. (Remember the end-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War, when Fury paged Carol in his final moments?)

“This is a mind-changing, attitude-changing moment for him that leads him to become the person that we know,” Jackson says. “He [now] understands that there are these other things out there. He understands that they’re not all enemies, and we do need to find allies who have specific kinds of skills that humans don’t have. And trying to convince people above him is a difficult task because they haven’t seen it or experienced it.”

Captain Marvel also marks a reunion for Larson and Jackson. The two starred in last year’s Kong: Skull Island and have become friends since then. (On the day EW was on set, the pair hadn’t seen each other in a while, and when Larson stopped by to say hello and show off a costume, Jackson jumped up in the middle of an interview to give her a hug.)

“She’s got the strength of the character,” he says. “She’s an interestingly iconic figure in the world of Me Too and women’s strength and everything that’s going on in the world right now. She’s a pivotal figure in that. And to put her in this position in this particular role in a film like this that is driven by feminism in a very interesting way… it’s just the right choice.”

For more on Captain Marvel, check out EW’s cover story, on stands now.

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