'The Avengers': Morena Baccarin, Cobie Smulders on short list for 'sidekick' role

avengers-shortlist.jpg "The Avengers" is adding another female face to its mostly male cast, and the four women up above are the current front-runners.

Morena Baccarin ("V") and Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother") are among those testing for the role later this week, according to The Hollywood Reporter. So are former "Melrose Place" star Jessica Lucas and Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"). (From left in the photo above: Baccarin, Smulders, Lucas and Winstead.)

Whoever wins the role will be playing Nick Fury's "sidekick" -- so says Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson. He was a guest on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" Wednesday (Feb. 2) and told Fallon that he was set to do screen tests with "about five" actresses on Friday. (The interview is below; Jackson also talks about shooting brief scenes for "Thor" and "Captain America" and about his upcoming HBO movie "The Sunset Limited.")

The HR also notes that the part comes with a multi-picture deal, likely meaning that the character would appear in future movies featuring "Avengers" characters.

Until now, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow had been the only major female role in "The Avengers," which will bring together Iron Man ( Robert Downey Jr.), Thor ( Chris Hemworth), Captain America ( Chris Evans), the Hulk ( Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye ( Jeremy Renner).

Joss Whedon is directing "The Avengers," which is scheduled to begin filming in April.
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