Early rumors reported that Don Cheadle’s War Machine would spend most of Iron Man 3 sidelined after being brutally attacked by the Mandarin. While the rebranded Iron Patriot does endure a nasty altercation with Mandarin’s soldiers, he’s hardly sitting on the sidelines – and no one is happier about it than Cheadle himself.

The surprisingly tough Oscar-nominated star of Crash loves doing stuntwork, and here, he gets to do more than ever – much more than Iron Man 2 (when War Machine was in costume, Cheadle had to let stuntmen do all the cool stuff). In Iron Man 3, Iron Patriot is now officially a key military weapon, and has been repainted from brutal black to cheery red, white and blue. While fans want to watch him fight the Mandarin’s army, they also want to know where Cheadle’s Iron Patriot might pop up next. Avengers 2? Captain America: The Winter Soldier? His own Phase 3 spin-off?

Cheadle has previously talked about possible future appearances for Captain Rhodes (as either War Machine or Iron Patriot) – even teasing his idea for a potential standalone film. During a press day for Iron Man 3, we talked with the actor about the latest entry in Marvel Studios’ shared cinematic universe as well as where his character might turn up next.

In return, Cheadle requests a letter-writing campaign to help ensure he gets to step into the armor suit again.

Your character switches his name from War Machine to Iron Patriot to sound less aggressive. That’s an interesting propaganda move.

 The switch was more so the president’s design. It wasn’t up to Rhodey at all, or even something that he was that interested in. I think when it comes up in the movie, he just kind of brushes it aside like, “Yeah, a focus group liked that name better.” To him, I don’t think it matters. You call it whatever you want to call it, as long as I get to do my job. But the propaganda aspect of it with regards to the Mandarin, I thought was really effectively done, and it’s clearly something you see in the real world. I thought it was interesting that we can do something like that in this, which is really 99% about entertainment, but is not afraid to bring in elements of the real world that everyone sitting in that theater is aware of.

I couldn’t help but think that if we now have Iron Patriot standing next to Iron Man, it sort of implies that Tony Stark is less of a patriot.

 I don’t know if he’s less of a patriot, but he doesn’t have to bear the weight of being in the military in that sort of chain of command. He’s on his own, whereas Iron Patriot is the public sector superhero. He’s not weighted with the same sense of responsibility that Rhodey is.

So much of Iron Man 3 is Tony Stark questioning who he is without the suit. Do you think Rhodey wrestles with the same issue?

 No, I feel like Rhodey knows who he is. Rhodey is a little more serious than Tony, a little more sober about himself. He has other demons, but I don’t think that’s one of his.

Does he think Tony is a whiner?

A whiner? I don’t think he’d use that word, but I think he thinks Tony is a loose cannon.

Tough question: would you trust the real life government to own an Iron Patriot suit?

‘Trust’ and ‘government,’ those two words are mutually exclusive.

The word ‘trust’ is on our money.

 Oh, yeah. But things are happening with our money all around the world that I don’t know that we’d necessarily sanction. No one’s asking us about it—they’re just doing it.

Do you see Rhodey as someone who can help turn the image of the government around, at least for a generation of kids?

 No. I think it’s a movie. It’s pure entertainment. I don’t think that a summer tentpole movie is where we go to find out how to comport ourselves in real life.

What was your favorite stunt?

 Just that whole third act. All that flying stuff, the containers, that stuff with the president – all that stuff.

Get any bruises?

 Yeah. But it’s all good. I’m tough, I can do it.

You’re also a producer. Does knowing the production side of things give you a deeper respect for what Kevin Feige and the team have pulled off in this gigantic, interwoven franchise?

 I understand that it is a huge undertaking. It is an awesome challenge. Keeping all of those moving parts moving in this whole family of Marvel movies, it’s ongoing. It’s not like they’ve done it – they’re still doing it. The period remains to be placed.

At Comic-Con, you said there was some talk of a Rhodey appearance in Avengers 2. Any update?

 No. But I think if you get a letter-writing campaign, there’s an opportunity to make that happen.

Kickstarter?

 I don’t know what you’re going to get with a Kickstarter budget! But that chapter is wide open – we’ll see.

Thinking larger, does Iron Patriot have a role to play in Marvel’s Phase 2 or Phase 3?

 It’d be the same answer: We’ll see, we’ll see.

You half-joked that during your upcoming visit to the Captain America set, you might shoot a cameo. It would make sense: Rhodey and Cap seem like they have a lot in common.

 I don’t know because I’m not really a Captain America guy. I saw it, but I don’t know. Maybe? It’s hard for me to make that judgment from inside of the character, but maybe they have a lot in common.

What’s it like to be in the middle of a frenzy of fans asking you what’s next for Rhodey, while still wondering about it yourself?

 I expect the questions. This is not my first picnic. This is what this is, and we’re out here trying to support the movie, so I get it. But I don’t think it’s annoying that people keep asking if I’m coming back – it’s better than people going, “I’m so glad that this is it, and that you’re never going to return.” It’s better than that.

Stay tuned for updates on War Machine (and/or Iron Patriot) in Marvel Phase 2.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013

The Avengers 2 will hit theaters (with or without War Machine) on May 1, 2015