The topic of whether or not Florence Pugh's Yelena would take over the mantel of Black Widow from Natasha has been a question from fans since Pugh was attached to Black Widow. Black Widow is a prequel to Avengers: Infinity War and is set before Natasha's death in Avengers: Endgame. The movie will also introduce the character of Yelena Belova as her assumed replacement.
Yelena is a character whom Florence Pugh has actually been nervous about fans liking, pointing to her Russian accent being a potential hurdle. This is not to mention her daunting decision to join such an enormous franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In her interview with Total Film, these concerns appeared again, but with Scarlett Johansson fully supportive of her future in the MCU.
GamesRader+ shared excerpts from Total Film's interview with actresses Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh discussing the future of the franchise, and Black Widow as a character and mantel.
Johansson was upfront about Pugh taking over the role in future movies, saying “I definitely felt that way from the very beginning,” and that “She [Yelena] stands completely on her own. She’s strong and different. She’s so different to Natasha." Johansson also dove into what makes Natasha different from Yelena, describing it as a “...generational difference, too, in how they react to things, and what they’re careful about, or what they’re careless about."
Johnansson even compared herself to Pugh and what makes them different from one another as people and actors:
“It’s so fresh, what she does. It’s very representative, also, of who she is as a person. She’s unapologetic, and confident in herself, and curious, and brave, and emotionally brave – far more than I ever was. And that stuff all comes through. It’s wonderful to feel like you’re witnessing something great happening.”
In contrast, Florence Pugh was far less open about her becoming the de facto star of the new franchise once Johansson formally departs the role. Pugh was also still concerned about fans reception of herself and her character in Black Widow:
“If that happens and I am lucky enough that people appreciate my character, that’s an exciting road to go on. I would be silly to not be excited by it. I think that being part of the Marvel club is a great honour. But we’ll just see if people like Yelena first.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
It is undeniable at this point that Florence Pugh will become the new Black Widow and that, if this movie is successful, it will lead to a new ongoing franchise where she has top billing. Regardless of the success of Black Widow, she will likely still have an ongoing future in the MCU.
By far the biggest way Pugh could potentially stay in the MCU is by her joining The Thunderbolts, a team that's rumored to appear in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Whether she will be appearing on the show is another question, but her becoming a member of The Thunderbolts would make sense for the character, especially since Thunderbolt Ross is set to make an appearance in Black Widow.