During my recent trip to L.A., I was part of a select group of bloggers invited to visit the filming location and live active set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was an amazing experience to be there, to watch a scene being filmed, and to have the opportunity to talk with and interview several of the series creators, and cast members. Truly, it was an honor.
Based on Marvel’s fictional government organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., this series shows that not all heroes have to be super.
Like all good things, this is my third and final (official) blog post about my set visit. I’m excited to share highlights from our interview with actors Clark Gregg, and Ming-Na Wen, and Co-creator & Executive Producer Jed Whedon, and Executive Producer Jeff Bell. As well as the scoop on this season’s two part finale.
Being a major Marvel movie geek, I have been a Clark Gregg fan for a very long time. A while back I was in LA to attend the Thor: Dark World Event, and I remember trying to walk very slow on a portion of the red carpet, just to get a glimpse of him. I mean – hello! He is Agent Coulson, and when it comes to the Marvel Universe, it doesn’t get much cooler than him. So yeah, this was a special day for me.
I’m happy to share that Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen were both a lot of fun to interview. Very relaxed, easy going and generous with their answers and time. Below are a few of the highlights..
After hearing that our group of bloggers had attending a screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron the night before…
MING-NA: You did not! [LAUGHTER] Okay, well, let us ask you questions then. What happened?
CLARK: Okay, be honest. Am I in it?
MING-NA:Is he in it? Seriously because I keep bugging him that he’s in it. And he’s not telling anybody.
CLARK: No one believes me. See then now someone can– it’s like you’re secretly in it, and you’re not telling us. I’m not!
MING-NA: It’s so crazy that you’re not in it because it’s…
CLARK:I didn’t want to be in it. It’s too scary. I mean I haven’t seen it.
MING-NA: Okay. So you weren’t lying. Well, I’m glad–
Do you ever get to ad lib your lines?
CLARK: I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not a lot of them. My god, I’d love to claim more of them. But a lot of them are our terrific writers. From the get go, Joss in the pilot and these writers, one of the reasons I think they brought Coulson back to life is that to their surprise in a super hero movie like the first Avengers and the ones leading up to it there was something that the audience really connected to in the super hero world. Someone who was quite vulnerable, who this was kinda their job… and got to have some kinda snarky lines. It’s always been something that people really responded to about Coulson. And they give me some great ones. They’ve accepted the fact that at the end of most scenes where that’s appropriate I’m gonna do one extra pass and throw in a couple. Um, boo-ya might’ve been mine.
How much of your own personality goes into your character?
MIN-NA: Oh! (LAUGHING) 100%
CLARK: I mean for us it’s hilarious to watch the taciturn and lethal Melinda May and then hang out with the giggly and hilarious super sweet Ming. I mean you don’t want to mess with Ming either.
MIN-NA: Yeah, if I’m hungry.
Will we see more Avengers make cameos?
CLARK: I’m always happy when those friends come to play. I’ve always felt that Coulson was kind of the crazy uncle of the Avengers. And he never likes to choose favorites. It was very nice when in this episode last year, the 22nd episode when director Fury showed up and handed me this spectacular cube, which does a lot of grooming things that no one even knows about. When he showed up and made Coulson the director of SHIELD that was a big day.
I love whenever, Maria Hill, Cobie Smulders comes to play. We’ve had Lady Sif a couple of times. Robert Downey and Jeremy Renner have been really cool online saying how much they wanted to come play. They’ve been a little busy doing this independent film that you guys saw the other night. [LAUGHTER] At some point I’d love to see all of that. I gotta say, for me, what was really exciting this year was people asking less that question and more, oh, Dear Lord, how is Fitz? How is his brain? Is he okay?
I really think a lot of this credit goes to the writers and some of these actors, the way people have really kind of been concerned about Skye and Chloe Bennett and fascinated by Mockingbird and this Mack and this SHIELD too. And having people like the magnificent Edward James Olmos show up. What we’re doing here is getting to bring new stuff, the inhumans into the world. And at some point, I do think the flow will become a little more porous. But I’m glad we’ve gotten room to kind of set up our own thing.
Show Co-creator & Executive Producer Jed Whedon, and Executive Producer Jeff Bell were also very generous with their time and answers. Below are a few of the highlights from our time together.
We have the Marvel cinematic universe and the TV shows. Are you limited to what you can and can’t do?
JED: We definitely have free reign but it does limit us in that we can’t kill Captain America like we plan to each week. No, obviously there’s guidelines. They have these huge tentpoles and we sort of move between them and there are things that are off limit to us for sure because they have either big plans for them or have already shot stuff that’s gonna use them. But in terms, we don’t feel limited by it. It’s sort of a fun puzzle for us and we get big toys to play with because of it. It’s sort of a privilege to live in that universe and the fact that when something happens on our show it is cannon. It exists.
JEFFREY: The only challenge really was when we first launched we knew that Hydra was the big bad guys in Cap 2. There was one word we were not allowed to say on S.H.I.E.L.D.. We called it the H word and so we knew that was coming. We knew we were building to that. We knew we were gonna reveal Ward that way, and we knew it was gonna blow apart the team but it might have been helpful to have said the H word earlier for big comic fans. They’re going ‘who are these bad guys?’
If we said, ‘well, he works for Hydra’, ‘he works for Hydra’, ‘she’s with Hydra’ people would have said, ‘oh, they’re doing Hydra, that’s cool’. But we couldn’t say that. That was really the only limit but the upside was it just exploded in our show and having ward turn like that and letting Brett do that and become that, that was awesome and then it really depends on each movie. Like Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t have much for us to tie in with.
JED: And you can consider it a limitation to have a film that literally destroys the organization that your show is named after.
JEFFREY: Cause when we first wrote it it’s like episode seventeen, do we still exist? Agents of hmm?
Do you do season two different in the way you did season one?
JED: I think that the big advantage we have now is that people know the characters. A huge disadvantage for us was that they were original character which most Marvel properties launch with something that you are familiar with.
JEFFREY: We knew Coulson but no one else.
JED: Right. That was new for all of Marvel and new for the Marvel fans so I think that initially people reacted to that. They were saying, ‘okay, well I’m not seeing things I know of and this has a big Marvel flip at the top of it’. But, as time goes on and you get to know the characters you start to become familiar with them. Skye becoming who she became was more rewarding because you spend a year with her getting to know her and it wasn’t like the first episode, here’s this character you’ve heard of. You had to spend some time with them but I think there was a little barrier to entry because these were new names, new faces.
JEFFREY: And from our perspective, though, part of that was we’re an ABC network show. We’re not a sci-fi show. Our mandate was not just to do a show for hardcore Marvel fans. Our show was to try to get as many people in as possible and so it was an opportunity for a lot of people to come in, characters they didn’t know and so if you’re not a big Marvel fan you don’t know that Skye or Ward were not part of that cannon. But for the diehards they’re like, ‘well if Mike Peterson isn’t Luke Cage we don’t like him’. And then we go, ‘oh, but we’re building him to Deathlok and you have to be patient to do that because we’re doing 22 episodes’ and they were like, ‘oh, that’s cool’.
JED: So our approach hasn’t really changed. It’s just been easier. You know, you don’t have to spend the time. Initially, you have to spend time introducing the characters and now you can just throw them into trouble. Everyone goes, ‘oh, no’ and they’re making their way into comics. FitzSimmons are now in the comics which to us is so fun and it starts to just weave together and who knows where stuff started and where it ends.
Are there any cameos we could expect?
JED: That falls in the category of questions we can’t answer. That is always a possibility. It would be cool if that happens.
Who would you like to see?
JEFF: All of them [The Avengers]. There’s just one episode. They were all in it.
JED: We don’t really have favorites in that department. There’s a lot. There’s fun to be had with all of them.
The scoop on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.season two finale!
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – “S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” – S.H.I.E.L.D. puts everything on the line to survive a war that blurs the line between friend and foe. Coulson and his team will be forced to make shocking sacrifices that will leave their relationships and their world changed forever, on the two-hour season finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” TUESDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
“S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” – S.H.I.E.L.D. puts everything on the line to survive a war that blurs the line between friend and foe. Coulson and his team will be forced to make shocking sacrifices that will leave their relationships and their world changed forever, on the two-hour season finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” TUESDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
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Official website: http://abc.go.com/shows/marvels-agents-of-shield
Watch past episodes: http://watchabc.go.com/marvels-agents-of-shield/SH55300807
FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to press events for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (#ABCTVEvent, #AgentsofSHIELD), all opinions shared are always honest and my own.