While fans don't know when Namor will return, Riri Williams is set to take center stage in the Fall of 2023 with her own solo Ironheart series on Disney+.
Despite being a newcomer to the MCU, Riri Williams' story is tied to the franchise's original hero - Tony Stark's Iron Man.
And, in a case of life imitating art, Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. had a few words of wisdom for Ironheart's Dominique Thorne ahead of her big-screen debut.
Iron Man's Advice for Ironheart
In talking with Screen Rant, Dominique Thorne revealed that she had the chance to speak with Robert Downey Jr. towards the end of filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever:
“I wasn’t able to speak with RDJ before we got into filming or anything, but right toward the conclusion of the film, I actually had the chance to speak with him through FaceTime. A cast mate over on Ironheart had actually done a show with him and connected us."
The Iron Man actor had some key pieces of advice for continuing the legacy of Tony Stark, telling his successor that "Riri Williams is and should always be her own person:"
He had some beautiful words to say about how much he believes that Riri Williams is and should always be her own person, her own thing. That this legacy is headed in the right direction and all the beautiful encouraging things that you hope to hear from the Iron Man himself.”
This exchange is particularly interesting given that, in the comics, Tony Stark's Iron Man served as AI mentor to Riri Williams as she developed her own suits and technology.
This isn't the first time Downey has offered encouragement to MCU newcomers.
Moon Knight's Oscar Isaac admitted to having talked with Downey "a lot" about joining the MCU:
“I did talk to Robert Downey Jr. quite a bit. I talked to him a lot. I mean, he’s a friend already, and so just talking to him about it and just what his sense of it is and how his process has been and he was such a great great person to talk to, obviously about the whole thing."
While Isaac and Downey are friends, the Moon Knight star also sees him as "the biggest inspiration:"
And also for me, the biggest inspiration, because to this day, still, that first Iron Man movie is just so good.”
Will Downey's Iron Man Also Mentor Thorne's Ironheart?
Even though Robert Downey Jr. has seemingly retired from the MCU, he and the character of Tony Stark are forever linked.
While his on-screen return remains to be seen, through his mentoring of Marvel's new stars, he's actually carrying on Stark's role in real life.
But again, his exchange with Thorne is different, especially since he could make his Marvel comeback as Riri's AI, just like in the comics.
Still, while Wakanda Forever noted her suit is akin to that of Iron Man, Thorne has also suggested that the sequel only showed "one sliver... of who [Riri Williams] is."
If so, a character study of the real Riri Williams would likely be overshadowed by Downey's involvement.
However, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen in a future project, especially now that Iron Wars is headed to theaters instead of Disney+.
Regardless of what transpires on-screen between Stark and Riri, it's great to know that Downey is continuing to support new talent behind-the-scenes as the MCU continues to grow and expand.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters worldwide now.