He may not be the most likable character in the Cars universe, but don't call Sterling a villain.
Nathan Fillion voiced the business car in Cars 3 and says Sterling is nothing more than a business professional.
"You know what, I think at his heart he's a business man first," Fillion tells ComicBook.com. "At his heart, he wants to protect his investment, which is Lightning McQueen. He wants to protect that brand. As it moves on, I think he shows his colors in that he...I think he also underestimates people. I think he also if you're not fitting into the mold of which he thinks this is where you belong, this is what you need to do, you don't have a lot of place in his world. Which is pretty structured."
Sterling bought Rust-eze only to have it purchased away from him by the time Cars 3 concluded. Still, Fillion thinks there's more to Sterling than what we've seen on screen so far.
"When I imagine it in my mind when a character comes on screen, they're coming from somewhere. A life that they had," Fillion explains. "And when they leave off screen, they're on their way to that life again. That we were just present for a snippet, a portion of that. That's in my mind.
"In my heart, Sterling has a like a huge, three picture deal with Pixar that is going to be pretty amazing. He's gonna be the Elon Musk of the Cars world."
In Cars 3, blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast cars, the legendary Lighting McQueen finds himself pushed out of the sport that he loves. Hoping to get back in the game, he turns to Cruz Ramirez, an eager young technician who has her own plans for winning. With inspiration from the Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns, No. 95 prepares to compete on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage.
Cars 3 is directed by Brian Fee and stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington and Lea DeLaria.
Cars 3 is now playing in theaters.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MEREDITH PLACKO