The wild card in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s second wave of movies (“Phase Two,” as it’s commonly referenced) is Guardians of the Galaxy; not just in terms of co-writer and director James Gunn’s twisted take on the comic book property, but also because it’s the installment lacking any pre-established characters in the MCU – be they displaced human pilots or raccoons wearing rocket boots.

Marvel has been testing actors for Guardians‘ human lead (Peter “Star-Lord” Quill), with the shortlist composed of up-and-comers and fan-favorites. Today, we have an update on the situation, which includes the announcement of another (and unexpected) contestant joining the race.

Variety is confirming that Eddie Redmayne and Joel Edgerton are no longer in the running, following on the heels of Redmayne joining the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending and Edgerton signing a deal to play the villain in the Natalie Portman western Jane Got a Gun. In fact, the sole previously-shortlisted candidate explicitly mentioned in Variety‘s report is Jim Sturgess, who’s fresh off multiple roles in the Wachowskis’ genre-blending Cloud Atlas.

The new addition is Zachary Levi, the fan-favorite alum of NBC’s geek-friendly spy action/comedy TV series Chuck. What’s curious about this revelation is that Levi already has a part in the shared MCU, playing Warriors Three member Fandral in next fall’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s taking over for Josh Dallas, who portrayed the character in Thor after Levi was forced to step aside (thanks to Chuck being renewed for a fifth season).

Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski from ‘Chuck’

Levi is said to have impressed Marvel with his Guardians audition and thus, that studio is giving serious thought to expanding its working relationship with the actor (beyond the Thor franchise). However, if Levi signs on, that would open the door for other minor MCU actors to follow suit. Hence, it risks complicating the cross-over approach that Marvel favors – though, it would also free up stars who’re stuck with a small role, despite having become a bigger name (see: Idris Elba).

Sources are urging caution when it concerns Guardians, as a third (and currently unnamed) actor could be testing shortly after the Winter Holiday ends. That seems to discount Lee Pace as the mystery competitor, given that he already tested for Star-Lord this month; previously-named candidate Jack Huston likewise does not appear to be an option, for similar reasons. Then again: is it possible one of these gentlemen is re-testing for the role after the New Year?

Lee Pace tested for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Pace was among the names Screen Rant Underground Podcast contributor Rob Keyes nominated in his “10 Actors Marvel Should Consider For Ant-Man”, in the scenario where he does not land the Guardians job. Many fans regard him as a natural fit for the MCU somewhere down the line – though, obviously, that does not guarantee anything. Either way, the casting process is ongoing and it’s best not to completely write off anyone yet (save for those signed onto other projects).

Here is the (unofficial) logline for Guardians of the Galaxy:

About a U.S. pilot who ends up in space in the middle of a universal conflict and goes on the run with futuristic ex-cons who have something everyone wants.

Iron Man 3 releases on May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.

Source: Variety