NEW YORK — His suits are snazzier and his gadgets are flashier, but Gary Unwin is still the same old "Eggsy."
Everything and nothing has changed for the playfully nicknamed street-kid-turned-superspy when he returns in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (in theaters Friday), which arrives two years after Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service scored a box-office slam dunk with $128.3 million.
When the sequel picks up, Eggsy is forced to team with Statesman, the American counterpart to British intelligence agency Kingsman, after his fellow spies are killed by Poppy (Julianne Moore), a diabolical drug lord. Meanwhile, the cheeky secret agent is still reeling from the presumed death of his mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), whom he later learns survived a shot to the face.
Harry is the "Obi-Wan Kenobi figure to someone who didn't have anyone to guide him out of this dark place," says Taron Egerton, 27, who broke through in Secret Service and voiced a character in last year's animated Sing. After the first Kingsman, "that relationship (with Harry) felt like it was cut short. It felt like there were more daddy issues to be resolved."
Eggsy is a more experienced spy this go-around, exchanging blows with a failed Kingsman applicant in a dizzying opening car chase, and fending off Poppy's henchmen and robotic dogs with a machine-gun briefcase. His upward trajectory mirrors that of Star Wars Jedi Luke Skywalker.
"They're very similar in a lot of ways," Vaughn says. "The franchise is really the journey of Eggsy. We’d love to make one more where his journey gets to the final destination and this is definitely the middle chapter.”
The stylish Golden Circle throws a slew of new players into the ring, with Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Channing Tatum joining the cast as members of the whiskey-swilling, lasso-swinging Statesman.
Secret Service tapped into the iconography of debonair English gentlemen like Roger Moore's James Bond, and Kingsman's cowboy-like counterparts are "just an extension of that," Egerton says. "It gives (the story) history. It feels like these secret agencies have been there a long time and we weren't all aware of them."
Egerton says he has already signed on for a third Kingsman, but won't offer any intel about the plot except that it "subverts all expectations." He has since lined up roles in the upcoming Billionaire Boys Club and Robin Hood origins movie.
The latter has "shades of Kingsman," Egerton says. "The action is more grounded in reality. It's sort of medieval, but it’s got a very contemporary feel."
With the exception of a $19,000 David Bowie photograph that he recently splurged on, the British actor says he doesn't indulge in "glitzy Hollywood stuff." He lives in London with his girlfriend and credits his family for keeping him grounded, even taking career advice from his two young sisters, ages 4 and 7.
Before signing on for Moominvalley, a reboot of the animated children's show, "I sat my little sisters in front of Netflix and said, 'What do you think of this?' " Egerton says. "I played them the (original) series from the '90s and they absolutely loved it. That was enough for me."
Contributing: Bryan Alexander