Director Ridley Scott's 2012 film Prometheus remains a divisive entry among devoted Alien franchise fans. Even so, the quasi-prequel/spinoff to Scott's 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien was successful enough to warrant a sequel, with plans for an eventual trilogy in motion now too. The followup, titled Alien: Covenant, takes place ten years after the events of Prometheus and revolves around the crew of the spaceship Covenant, as it finds its way to a world believed to have once been a paradise. However, that planet is now a desolate wasteland, whose sole inhabitant is the android or "synthetic" known as David (Michael Fassbender).
David, you might recall, has his head ripped off his body during Prometheus by one of the Engineers - the alien race responsible for creating humanity - and eventually wound up traveling with the sole human survivor of the Prometheus mission, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), into space in search of the Engineers' home. A set photo has now been released, confirming that David's head is back on his body in Alien: Covenant - but as there's no mention of Elizabeth in the official Covenant synopsis, it's been unclear whether she's doing as well as David by the time the Covenant crew arrives on the Engineers' planet... or if Rapace is in the movie at all.
Deadline reports that Rapace is in Australia - where Scott is currently in the midst of production on Covenant - and that she will be on the movie's set for more than a single week; though, Deadline's article is otherwise vague about exactly how long Rapace will be on set, making it difficult to gauge just how significant her role here will be. Scott previously indicated that Rapace either wouldn't be returning for Covenant or, rather, that she wouldn't be serving as one of the film's lead characters. The role of protagonist in Covenant appears to fall instead to Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs, the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), who is playing the Covenant crew member known as "Daniels".
One possibility is that Rapace as Shaw will appear primarily in the third act of Covenant (similar to Guy Pearce's role in Prometheus), after being presumed dead when the Covenant spaceship crew first arrives in "Paradise" and finds David seemingly alone. Another possibility is that Shaw will show up in the Prometheus sequel through flashbacks or footage recorded from when David and she first arrived on the Engineers' home planet, before she met her untimely demise for some as-yet unknown reason. Either way, the fact that Shaw is specifically not mentioned in 20th Century Fox's official Alien: Covenant plot summary indicates that there's some twist to her role that's being held back for the actual movie - and that she hasn't simply been hanging out in "Paradise" with David for the past ten years.
In addition to Waterston, Fassbender, and Rapace, the Alien: Covenant cast includes Carmen Ejogo (Selma), Danny McBride (This is the End), and Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), among others. As with any Alien installment, odds are that most of the human characters in Covenant will be dead by the end. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen just what role Elizabeth Shaw and the other humans in Covenant play in helping to pave the way for the original Alien - including, how word about their experiences in "Paradise" eventually gets back to their sponsors at the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (and inspire the company to send the USCSS Nostromo on a mission that secretly involves recovering the Xenomorph that was - seemingly - created by the Engineers).
Alien: Covenant opens in U.S. theaters on August 4th, 2017.