How ScarJo grew to love her Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson loves her Avengers character, Black Widow, so much that she’s willing to squeeze into her tight black secret-agent leather even while pregnant.

The actress — and mom to 8-month-old daughter Rose — takes her turn as the red-haired, butt-kicking superheroine Natasha Romanoff for the fourth time in Avengers: Age of Ultron (in theaters Friday).

Black Widow has been on a mission of redemption to make up for her KGB past since meeting Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in 2010’s Iron Man 2. The Avengers sequel finds her coming to the rescue of quite a few of her fellow good guys, including pal Captain America (Chris Evans).

“She chooses good not necessarily because it’s the heroic thing to do but the right thing somehow for her,” the actress says. “Whether it’s part of her moral compass or not, she’s got this pull that always causes her to go in the right direction.”

Johansson, who hosts NBC’s Saturday Night Live this weekend, talks with USA TODAY about her new arrival, being the Widow and her next Marvel superhero project.

How did you deal with saving the world, being a woman of action and having a baby on board?
We front-loaded a lot of stuff, and I very fortunately have Heidi Moneymaker as my stunt double. She’s awesome, and we finish each other’s moves like other people finish each other’s sentences. She really took the blows for me, and I stepped in afterward and filled in all the pieces. I was very happy to be working, to be active. I never could have imagined this turn of events, but it was actually very uneventful.

What’s the most appealing aspect about Natasha this time around?
She’s had this very sordid past. She’s kind of like an orphan in a sense — this reluctant superhero who’s now finally going, ‘OK, I’ve put in my time and I deserve to make a choice for myself now.’ She doesn’t want to be recognized for it — she’s no Tony in that way. Whether it’s some maternal instinct she’s never gotten to play or whatever, it’s there.

Do you feel a sense of ownership with her at this point?
I have a much greater understanding of the character now. In the beginning, she was sort of ambiguous — there were just so many places she could go. The character has grown with the franchise and with the audience. And with me, also. When I did Iron Man 2, I was like 24, and I’m 30, and I continue to discover new things about myself and dig deeper as an actor and person. It feels like we’re growing together.

How key is Black Widow’s role in next year’s Captain America: Civil War?
At the end of this Avengers, you see her step into place as kind of a mentor figure, (which is) where you’ll see her in Cap 3. She has a greater sense of what’s wrong and right, not just for the organization she’s working for but for humankind. The responsibility falls more greatly on her shoulders this next go-round.

Will Rose be on set with you for it?
For now — until most of the teeth come in, anyway — I’m able to take her most places. And then I’ll have to settle down somewhere at some point. But I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m enjoying this time where I’m fortunately able to bring my family with me. Not everybody gets that opportunity.