Shortly after the Marvel TV panel at Comic-Con on Friday, I was able to participate in a roundtable interview with cast members Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain de Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, and executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, Jeph Loeb, and Jeffrey Bell. If you watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you know there was a huge revelation about Brett Dalton’s character, Grant Ward. Many had wondered if Dalton would be returning for season two, but with his appearance at Comic-Con and having participated in interviews for the show, it’s safe to assume that he will be back. Also, with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. has all but been completely obliterated.
During the roundtable interviews, the actors and producers talked about how The Winter Soldier will affect the show going forward, when the rest of the Avengers will discover that Agent Coulson is still alive, the show’s relationship to the new ABC series Marvel’s Agent Carter, and so much more. Hit the jump to read the full interviews.
Note: We’re offering all five of the brief, separate interviews in one cohesive article below.
CLARK GREGG: Right?
How excited are you for that?
GREGG: I’m pretty stoked, I’ve gotta say. I’ve had a series of moments, you probably heard me say, with this thing, where it went from my neighbor calling me up and asking me to do a couple of lines in Iron Man to the immensely talented Sam Jackson handing me a little black cube and making me director of SHIELD and maybe an Avenger. Each one of these nearly killed me, but I think I may be most excited about the concept of a post-HYDRA reveal SHIELD where SHIELD’s outlawed and Nick Fury’s gone underground. They have no resources and Coulson’s had to lose Agent Ward to HYDRA. To rebuild SHIELD from that point of view, kinda brass knuckles, back alley, lo-fi espionage is very exciting to me, and though we just started shooting yesterday, to already out of the gate suddenly find the tremendously badass and really impressive Lucy Lawless at my side along with a much more ninja version of Skye, Agent May who I now kind of trust again, and Fitzsimmons, we don’t know what shape Fitz is in. to go forward with that team and probably as far as I can tell having to form some other teams and to be like a bunch of cells moving forward. It’s a really exciting way to go and it really works well for television, it puts so much more of what they do on their wits and their knuckles.
Do you think the Avengers will ever find out that you were alive again, now that you’re rebuilding SHIELD?
GREGG: It seems trickier. You know, as Director Coulson, you think someone’s gonna hear them say “Director Coulson” and someone’s gonna ask. The scene people seem to wanna see—I’m one of those people—the day of reckoning where it gets explained to them. I really have a lot of fantasies about literally bumping into Steve Rogers in the laundromat, and how can those exchanges get any more awkward. And I don’t get to decide where it’ll happen. The really fun thing about Marvel is, for all I know, it’ll be in Avengers 3, or it’ll be in this season of our show, or it’ll be in a run of the comics, it could be in a video game for all I know. Wherever it happens, I’m there for it.
GREGG: I’m very interested in seeing Carol Danvers, I’m very interested in learning who Skye’s dad is, as a fan, because I have a feeling I’m gonna be getting increasing levels of support from her. And as someone who apparently, I’m told, is up in the middle of the night writing in an alien language derived from perhaps a similar creature…it’s very interesting to see where that’s gonna go. So I did hear Bobby Morse today, that blew me away, that’s very exciting. As I said we’ve got Lucy Lawless. The idea of rebuilding SHIELD means we’re gonna have to seek out some old friends and find out if they were really were friends, or if they were HYDRA. Some of them probably will be HYDRA. Some of them will be supervillains. There’ll be new supervillains, there’ll be new villains, there’ll be new friends, hopefully some of them will be a little super too.
Chloe Bennet and Brett Dalton
CHLOE BENNET: Yes, we did! We cried, we kissed, he betrayed me, we yelled, I headbutt him.
BRETT DALTON: We flew in Lola, it was so awesome!
BENNET: You shot at me!
DALTON: I shot at you, but in a fun way!
BENNET: It’s fine.
So, what do you hope will happen with your characters? You left off on a pretty sour note, so where do you think your characters are gonna go, individually and together?
DALTON: I so desperately wanna answer this not seriously, like well, I think he turns into Iron Man and buys a suit.
BENNET: What we can tell you is, for my character, for Skye, she’s changed a lot, she’s grown a lot, she’s matured from the last season, she obviously went through a lot last year. I think you’re gonna see a different, more grounded version of Skye. And I think you’re gonna see a very different version of Grant Ward as well.
DALTON: Starting with the beard!
BENNET: He’s no longer Agent Ward. He loves to bring up his beard. Basically the difference is, I have bangs this season and he has a beard.
DALTON: I have a beard.
The beard means you’re evil, we know that from old episodes of Star Trek.
DALTON: Yes, and if I had a superpower, it’d be to grow a real beard.
BENNET: Hey, you have a great beard. Don’t ever underestimate your beard.
Are you concerned that you did such a good job getting people to hate you that they’re gonna get rid of you?
DALTON: Thank you for saying I did a good job being a bad guy! I was absolutely concerned, and then I was equally concerned at the end of the show, what does that mean? But I’m definitely in season two, and I think we can only take this one step at a time. And it seems that the fans are really enjoying this turn, so I hope that that means something. I hope they want to see it being explored as much as I do.
BENNET: This is the Marvel universe, so when people are bad, that doesn’t mean that they’re—I mean, Loki is bad, and he’s adored! I think people give you just as much love for being bad as they do for you being good.
What do you think he’s going to have to do to redeem himself? In terms of the team and the audience?
DALTON: Work with sick children.
BENNET: Season one, episode one, we go down to him and say, you need to wear this tutu and dance around, and then we’ll forgive you.
DALTON: All right, I’ll do it. But they don’t come down for like a week, and I’m still dancing.
Do you prefer good or bad? As far as when you play him.
DALTON: I think it’s more fun and more interesting bad. I think there’s a depth and an unpredictability to the badness. Is he bad? Does he really enjoy being bad? Is he still a good guy under there? That’s what makes it interesting, I feel like with good guy Agent Grant Ward, he doesn’t really have personality skills, it’s okay, but this has such richness to it that I prefer it.
Do we discover more of her mysteries in this new season?
BENNET: Definitely yeah, I think we’re gonna find out a lot more about Skye’s origins and what her being in 084 means and what her being injected with GH-325 and just kind of living when other people were injected with it and bad things happened to them.
Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain de Caestecker
ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE: Day 1. Yesterday was the first day.
Are you excited to come back? Is it like coming back from vacation?
IAIN DE CAESTECKER: It’s like coming back to school, a little bit. It feels like we never left, but at the same time we’re all a bit—
HENSTRIDGE: Nerves are high, we’ve all missed each other.
DE CAESTECKER: Yes, we’re all kind of catching up and things like that, but it also feels like we don’t leave.
HENSTRIDGE: Yeah, it’s a very comfortable place. But we don’t know very much at the moment.
Being as spoiler protective as you need to be, what’re you excited about? You had a game changing run for a new show, so coming into season two, what’s got you excited?
DE CAESTECKER: There’s gonna be a lot of new characters and things, and obviously in the first season there were a lot of Marvel characters introduced, so the idea of more of them coming into the show is exciting.
HENSTRIDGE: It’s gonna get mixed up. SHIELD is having to start again, so there’s gonna be a lot of new people coming in and out and introducing new characters. It’s not oh, the six solid ones and nothing’s gonna happen to them, they’re gonna be saved at the end.
How many scenes do you have with Triplet?
HENSTRIDGE: In this next one? I can’t say, I can’t tell you. But we love BJ Brett, he’s the best, he’s so. Hopefully, they’ve got 22 episodes, they’re gonna do a lot of cool stuff this year.
You had a pretty dramatic last episode last season. You had a romantic moment; are you hoping to have more of that? What are your hopes for your character in terms of that development?
DE CAESTECKER: I think we often said we didn’t think it would or should have happened, and now we find out as well. We don’t find out too far ahead what’s going to happen. It takes so many twists and turns and things you don’t expect every time you turn the page, when you’re reading it, you just don’t know. It’s being explored a little bit, which a lot of people are asking about, in season one whether it would or wouldn’t, and it’s being explored a little bit.
HENSTRIDGE: I think the hope too is that we’re going to see Fitzsimmons develop separately too, because they’ve been through so much together and sometimes when something that huge happens it’s not that easy, like there’s no way for them to go back to how they were before after that huge near-death experience. So I think it’s going to be a lot of not just jumping back to that place, but maybe trying to regrow the relationship. Because they’ve been through trauma and it’s difficult to mend yourself after that.
Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
JED WHEDON: It was fun to hear them cheer for something they knew about as opposed to something they were hoping for.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: And we love Comic-Con, we’ve been here a number of times with a number of different projects and every time we come, it’s such a joyous thing for us because it’s very nice to hear that people actually like the work you’re doing. But it was very gratifying to hear people respond to our actors this time around.
WHEDON: And fun to see them get that, last time they were [clapping] WE SAW YOUR PICTURE ONCE! This year they’re doing, FITZ!! That’s fun.
At the end of the last season, SHIELD as this ragtag team does not have the resources, authority, anything they had last season. Can you tell us anything about how this is going to proceed?
TANCHAROEN: We’re absolutely embracing them being underdogs and them being sort of driven underground. Coulson was tasked with rebuilding SHIELD; how do you do that when something’s completely fallen apart? We’ll explore that, explore his new role as Director and what that means and how that in turn affects the rest of the characters.
WHEDON: At the end of last season he learns that the people he thought he could trust, he couldn’t trust. This season he has to go in knowing he has to work with people he doesn’t necessarily trust. So we can have up and running a lot of that stuff that gave us good momentum at the end of last season.
Are you glad to be able to write the second season without having to wait for a movie to come out?
WHEDON: Yes. The answer is yes.
TANCHAROEN: We definitely feel more liberated. It’s very nice to be able to freely say he word HYDRA, to clearly have a big bad, so yes. It’s been different in the writers’ room.
Do you still want to embed a big shocker at some point?
TANCHAROEN: No, we want everything to be really boring.
WHEDON: You’re on a track, you’ll where you’re going, and you’ll get there. Like a procedural, but boring. [laughs] We’re being snarky, but we’re hoping that one of the things we can do now that we weren’t able to do last season was have a traitor in our midst, and have people betray us. There’s a lot of fun that can be had with that, and it gives us a lot more story. It’s a lot easier to generate conflict.
[Recruiting?] How much leeway do you have to in Marvel to maybe bring in more characters, like maybe Carol Danvers?
TANCHAROEN: Maybe so. That’s a cool question.
WHEDON: In terms of SHIELD, for the first time, we’re allowed to define what it is, because we’re resetting. In terms of building off of other projects or things in the universe, they have so much, they just announced how many projects they have up and coming. They know what a lot of them are, some of them they’re just saving things hoping they’ll work out, they have so much in the works. We have our database of characters we can use, places we can cross, and opportunities. If we can do it well, we’ll do it.
How about story synergy and easter eggs with Agent Carter? Make it feel like a shared universe even with a historical gap?
WHEDON: One thing that’s nice about being the underdog and Coulson’s new job is that he’s rebuilding. This is a guy who’s obsessed with history, loves the history of SHIELD, you see it in his office, he has all his doodads, it’s a return to the old.
TANCHAROEN: I was gonna say will be exploring a sort of return to the roots of SHIELD. If that at all has a connection with Carter, then we’ll see.
Jeph Loeb and Jeffrey Bell
JEPH LOEB: So we’ve got our folks from last year. We have some bad guys we like, we love Reina, the girl in the flower dress. We have Deathlok, he’s wandering the Earth, be nice to see him again. And there’s also new folks. Lucy Lawless is gonna do a little thing for us, which is cool, and this guy Nick Glogg who we’re excited about is playing Skyhunter who’s named after a character that was British and cool, and he’s British and cool.
There’s a lot of British.
LOEB: This was a British intelligence character who has worked with SHIELD and is in our case more of a mercenary, so he’ll bring a very special kind of energy to our group. One of the fun things about SHIELD and its beginning was that everybody sort of came up through the academy and had a very specific way, and then we found out it was all corrupt and rife with HYDRA agents, so one of the things Coulson has to now do is, if he’s going to recruit, where’s he recruiting from? It’s like that moment in The Untouchables when you find out that the barrel of apples is rotten, where do you go, you have to go back to the tree. I think I’m beating that metaphor as well as I can, please don’t use it.
What can you tell us about Lucy’s character and why Lucy was the right actress to join the cast?
JEFFREY BELL: Because she’s AWESOME! That’s actually kind of better just to watch.
LOEB: Jennifer Mersai also did Spartacus, and she’s strong and cool and brings a history and energy we thought fans would like. But there’s qualities about her that we think would be cool for this specific character, and we don’t want to give any more than that.
Are there plans to integrate the events of Carter into SHIELD?
BELL: Can I be you for a second? Wouldn’t that be cool? Well the good news is, we know each other, and sometimes we go, you know what might be cool, remember when she said we could do that thing?
LOEB: And I run down the hall and Tara and Michelle are there and I go, what do you think about blah blah blah, and then go running back down to the other end of the hall.
BELL: We would love to try and make that happen.
What about the Netflix shows?
LOEB: I can’t talk about those.
The cinematic universe was very carefully plotted out, phase by phase. Do you guys have a similar plan in place for television in general?
Can you discuss the philosophy?
LOEB: The philosophy is to tell really good stories, and to make sure that the audience understands who these people are first and move on from there. It’s something the movies do really, really well. I know we’re all sitting here now happily going, I know Iron Man! I’ve always known Iron Man! The truth of the matter was, in 2007 you didn’t know who Iron Man was, I know because I was there. But the reality is that we were tasked with something that was fairly impossible, and that was to create a show called Agents of SHIELD, when in fact there are some agents of SHIELD that are known, a lot of them were in the movie, and so we had to be able to do that by introducing new characters and have people care about those characters.
BELL: He can’t say this because he’s the head of Marvel TV, but it’s different than the movies. Movies, you make movies and the movies are the same, and there’s a thousand channels now, and I think what they’ve done really well in terms of plan is, Agents of SHIELD is a show that fits nicely on a network television show, and Carter fits nicely on that, and you’ve got sort of darker Hell’s Kitchen more interesting shows like Daredevil that might be coming on Netflix, and so finding a right home for that is a different challenge and a different way to tell stories. So I think as you go forward, if there are other Marvel shows, I think one of the things he and Marvel do very well is finding the right home for the right kind of show, and I think that’s a different kind of plan.