Colin Firth has said that his return from the dead in Kingsman: The Golden Circle was always the plan. The first film in the series, The Secret Service, was marketed on the Oscar winner playing a kick-ass, gentlemanly spy and showing young Eggsy how to become a Kingsman agent. Being the mentor, he was killed at the end of the film's second act by villain Valentine.
However, despite a gunshot to the high, Harry Hart is back in The Golden Circle, fighting alongside Eggsy and new intelligence agency cousins Statesman. The movie has a good explanation of how this can happen (no spoilers here) but it still feels like a sudden change of plan. Not so: according to the man himself, Harry's return was always on the cards.
Screen Rant recently talked with Colin Firth at the Kingsman 2 junket and asked when he found out he'd be back in the sequel, which led the actor to reveal he never thought he wouldn't:
"The conversation never really stopped. I feel like... the first shoot was a long one and then conversations were carrying on after the film was finished and before I knew it, it was coming out and we were doing press together and by that point we were already talking about number two and Matthew [Vaughn] had pretty much made up his mind that I would be back one way or another. So it feels like one long continuous process really."
That Harry would be back was first teased by director Matthew Vaughn a month or so after the first movie was released and tactically confirmed by a teaser poster just before the movie began production. However, there was at a time rumors Firth may not sign back on and that the franchise's creative team didn't have a suitable justification for his return.
As far as Firth sees it, once the possibility of a sequel was raised in the pre-release push for The Secret Service, he was at the center of it, and the depth of his arc and relevance to the bigger picture of The Golden Circle really attests the that. Now, it is, of course, possible that Vaughn originally imagined Harry staying dead outside that church in Kentucky and changed his mind after the reaction to the film and the character in particular, but that was still very early on and well before the sequel was actually green-lit.
Although a third film isn't official, all involved have clear plans for where they want the series to go next. You can get the full scoop in our interview with Firth and co-star Jeff Bridges, where they revealed their own wishes for the future of their characters.