One-eyed, no-nonsense S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) will have his hands full with a whole crew of Marvel super-powered types in next year’s eagerly anticipated The Avengers – and as it turns out, he won’t be doing the job all by himself.

Jackson has revealed that Fury will have a female sidekick, an all new character in Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie. Marvel execs might not be pleased with the actor for dropping that tidbit, but he’s already signed a nine-picture deal with the studio and besides – he is SLJ, after all. ;-)

[Mild SPOILERS Ahead]

A guest last night on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jackson mentioned that he would be filming his parts (or rather, brief cameos) for both Thor and Captain America over the next couple of months before production on The Avengers gets underway this spring. As Jackson put it, Fury will essentially act as a “connective tissue” that links this summer’s Marvel character solo outings to Whedon’s unifying ensemble piece – though it’s not clear whether the S.H.I.E.L.D head will show up in the actual films or in a post-credits scene, a la Iron Man.

[End SPOILERS Alert]

On the topic of Avengers in particular, Jackson mentioned that he would be screen testing with around half a dozen actresses or so (he mentioned no specific names) who Jackson says are vying to play “this new character that’s like my sidekick, she’s with me all the time.”

To see more, and to hear Jackson talk briefly about his involvement in HBO’s The Sunset Limited, watch the clip from his interview with Fallon below:

Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff/Natalie Rushman (a.k.a. Black Widow) was sort of an aid to Fury in Iron Man 2, but she’s clearly destined for bigger and better things in The Avengers – not to mention, a potential solo movie for the character. There’s been early speculation that Fury’s aide could be Janet van Dyne (a.k.a. The Wasp), but there’s nothing solid to back that idea for now.

Heat Vision is listing four actresses as possible contenders who will test on Friday for the role: Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World), and Morena Baccarin (V).

Baccarin seems like a frontrunner, simply because she’s worked with Whedon before on his short-lived cult sci-fi series Firefly and its spin-off feature film, Serenity – not to mention, the actress was long rumored to be Whedon’s top choice to play Wonder Woman back when he was onboard to helm that comic book adaptation. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them collaborate again on The Avengers.

What are your thoughts on all this? Who do you want to see play Nick Fury’s sidekick?

Thor arrives in theaters this year on May 6th, followed by Captain America: The First Avenger on July 22nd.

The Avengers will make their way into theaters on May 4th, 2012.

Source: NBC, THR