The ABC drama series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is returning for Season 2 on September 23rd with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) as the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and rebuilding the organization torn apart by Hydra won’t be easy. In the meantime, you can either catch up or relive the action-packed twists and turns of the first season’s 22 episodes, and all of the behind-the-scenes features and deleted scenes, on Blu-ray/DVD.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen talked about what they were most proud of with the first season, stand-out fight scenes, whether they always knew the twist with Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), viewing Season 2 as a sequel where they can just pick up where they left off, that the questions asked last season will be answered soon, the journey of the new wild card Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., what Lucy Lawless is bringing to the show, Easter eggs, funny behind-the-scenes moments, deciding which comic book characters to introduce, the dog controversy, and the new later time slot. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: There were many challenges, as we dove into the first season. One of them was that our cast of characters we were introducing had not yet been established in the Marvel universe. We had to spend a good amount of time developing those characters, and letting the audience grow to know and love them, hopefully. By the end of the season, we feel that it worked. Going to Comic-Con this year, after having the first season under our belts and seeing the response to our actors up on the stage, they weren’t calling their actual names, they were calling their characters’ names. And there were people in cosplay as Agent May, Ward, Fitz and Simmons, and Skye. It was really very nice to see the response.
JED WHEDON: Yeah. We obviously had a huge monkey wrench in the middle of our season, with The Winter Soldier coming in and making the name of our show irrelevant. We’re proud of how we navigated that. We weren’t allowed to say the word Hydra. We weren’t allowed to have any moles in our team, or in S.H.I.E.L.D., in general. So, the use of The Clairvoyant, and how we built into and out of that, carried through to the end of the season. We’re proud of how those stories played out, and how everyone we worked with stepped up to the plate.
TANCHAROEN: We’re most proud of how we actually pulled off keeping the secret.
WHEDON: I think the May/Ward fight was pretty thrilling, mostly because of the character aspect to it, which you always want in a good fight.
TANCHAROEN: We have a great assortment of very talented people working on the show, and our stunt department is just insane. They choreograph these fights and action sequences that are beyond our expectations sometimes. If there’s a fight in the hallway, they’ll give us hours of choreography. There are a couple that stand out, along with the way that we were able to turn up the wow factor with our visual effects. It’s a combination of many things.
WHEDON: In terms of visual effects, Episode 12 with the huge ice storm, when we first saw a cut of it, we thought it would be good, but none of that was in it. It really elevated the show. What our visual effects department was able to achieve, with the time and the money, was really impressive.
WHEDON: We knew, early on, that it was him. When we were first discussing this show with Joss, and we knew that The Winter Soldier would have that huge reveal, we knew that there would have to be a personal price paid on our team. So, that was an idea that had been up and running from the get-go, and very early on, we decided that he was the best candidate.
TANCHAROEN: Yeah. The reveal of Agent Ward being a traitor amongst our team is just a direct example of what we’re able to do on our show. Being a part of the Marvel universe and seeing what they do in the cinematic universe, we see the Triskelion falling. For us, we did want to experience what it’s like, on a more intimate, personal level, so having one of our own team members turn was the way to do that.
Once you guys realized that you’d survived Season 1, were there things that you learned on the first season that you could apply to the second season?
WHEDON: One of the things that any first year show has to do is introduce characters. We were one of the first, if not the first Marvel property to be introducing characters that hadn’t been established in the comics for decades. That proved to be a struggle, in terms of here are all these new people, and it takes time to get to know them. Now, we don’t have to do any of that groundwork. We can hit the ground running, with characters that you know, and change things up and be on the move, as we go. That does make it easier. We get to just drop back in the world. It’s more of a sequel. You know these people. So, when they’re doing something unfamiliar, as opposed to going, “Who is this person?,” you’re going, “Why is she doing that?!” It is easier on that, in the storytelling way.
WHEDON: It’s gonna be awesome!
TANCHAROEN: So awesome!
WHEDON: One thing we can say is that we did ask a lot of questions in Season 1, and some new ones at the end of the year, and those will be answered. Fans will not have to wait long to get some of the answers they’ve been craving.
TANCHAROEN: We left our first season with a very interesting image of Coulson standing in the middle of the wall, carving on it. In the center of our new season, that his something that we’ll be exploring. What does it mean for the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be this wild card? That will be a fun journey.
People were really excited about the addition of Bill Paxton in Season 1, and they’re now equally as excited for Lucy Lawless in Season 2. What made you want to bring her in, and what will she add?
WHEDON: We’re big fans. We got to work with her on Spartacus. She’s a pleasure to work with, and a massive talent. So, with the new paradigm of S.H.I.E.L.D. rebuilding, Coulson has to reach into his bag of tricks and out of his comfort zone to find people to fill his ranks, and Hartly is an example of that. She’s someone who is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but she was out in the world and she was undercover, so she’s made some unsavory connections and he’s going to have to use that to his advantage.
TANCHAROEN: As far as Easter eggs and connections to other properties, it’s not at the forefront of our creative process. It’s very much a nice added bonus to the process. We shape our story first. We’re very aware of the content that they have on the feature end of things, and vice versa. Wherever we can nod and wink to things, we will, but our show is its own thing.
WHEDON: We don’t want to become an Easter egg farm.
TANCHAROEN: We embrace it, but we just don’t obsess about it.
This show has a lot of action and effects, and any time that stuff is involved, there must be a lot of mishaps or things that go wrong. Does anything stand out for you that’s particularly funny, as far as things that just didn’t go the way they should have?
WHEDON: Sure! Anytime someone is on a wire, something funny happens.
TANCHAROEN: I wouldn’t even say that it has to do with our stunts, it’s just our cast. They are ridiculous. As soon as you yell, “Cut!,” they burst into laughter. Generally, it’s always sparked by Ming, whether she says a line wrong, trips over something, or just starts laughing out-of-the-blue. It’s a little bit like Romper Room sometimes, which makes it fun.
WHEDON: I don’t know which scenes appear on the Blu-ray. We did have a little run in Episode 12 about Simmons and Fitz’s history at the Academy that we lost for time. I don’t know if that appears, but it’s a little bit of an insight that we lost for time. Simmons wasn’t the straight-laced student you thought she might have been.
TANCHAROEN: She definitely was not!
Were there any storylines that you came up with during Season 1, but that you knew you couldn’t work into the first season and have had to save them until Season 2?
TANCHAROEN: Yeah. That’s what Season 2 is all about!
WHEDON: We’ve touched on The Cavalry story, and that’s something we plan to get to. It works into our Season 2 nicely. There’s always stuff that gets pitched in the room where you go, “Oh, we’ve gotta do that some day!” And the more seasons we get, the more chances we’ll have for those things to come out.
TANCHAROEN: One thing that’s nice is that we seem to have an abundance of story, which is a good thing. I’m gonna knock on wood now, though.
WHEDON: Yeah, as soon as you said that, we ran out.
At this point, do you make a list of the comic book characters that you want to bring in, and then have to double check that with Marvel, or do they give you a list of who they want to see on the show? You’ve already announced a number of characters for this season, so is that stuff you pushed for, or did they push for it, or is it a balance of the two?
TANCHAROEN: It’s a balance of the two. There is a list that we’re aware of, of the characters that we can and cannot use. And then, as we dive into the comics, if there’s a character that we’d like to bring into the mix, we have to run it by everyone. Everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing. We just make sure that it’s a harmonious situation that ebbs and flows between all aspects of the Marvel universe.
How have the ratings for the show been, around the world? Are some countries responding to certain aspects of the show that are different from what other countries are responding to?
WHEDON: We only hear about that through word of mouth. We haven’t had written reports of how it’s doing in other countries. It’s more asking questions or doing your own research. As we’ve been traveling, and our actors have been traveling, the response has been overwhelming overseas. You don’t think, when you land somewhere, that that’s gonna be something that comes up. When our actors fly around the world, everywhere they go, people are yelling, “Hail, Hydra!” So, it’s out there, and we’re thrilled by that. It’s this added bonus that we never thought about. When you’re making it, you’re just hoping that people like it and you’re hoping to entertain them. To have it be so far reaching is beyond a dream come true.
TANCHAROEN: Yeah. If people are coming up to us at some random train station in Europe, then that must mean something. Look at us! Who the hell are we?
WHEDON: The dog was a big controversial thing online.
TANCHAROEN: Which we loved! We love that there was speculation about whether or not he shot the dog. There were diagrams online with the line of sight with where the rifle was aimed and the direction the dog was running.
WHEDON: We always talked about that, as a way of illustrating that he had to make a hard choice. Something had been done to him, and you were supposed to feel for him, in that moment, but he had done some terrible things. He killed people. He shot people point-blank in the head. But that was the thing where everybody said, “No, he couldn’t have killed the dog! There’s no coming back from that!” It was fun to witness that.
TANCHAROEN: It’s also been really great to see the response to FitzSimmons. Even though we are very much an ensemble cast, Fitz and Simmons are the two in the lab. To see the way that they’ve been very much loved and adored, as far as their progression and their arc together, and to see that that’s something that has emotionally affected people is really nice for Jed and I. They’ve been our little darlings. A lot of their arc is based in something very personal for me and Jed, so it’s been really cool to see the response.
WHEDON: We were in London visiting Joss, as he was shooting The Avengers, and we got stopped on the street by an Australian tourist who said, “It’s so nice to meet you. How is Fitz? What’s happening? Is he alive? Is he okay?” It was thrilling to see that response.
Will the new, later time slot affect things, at all, or do you feel like you’re making the show that you’d be making, no matter what time it was on?
TANCHAROEN: More blood! I’m totally kidding.
WHEDON: But, there is a lot more blood. No. Hopefully, it will just increase the eyes on the show. I think the slot will help us, in that way, hopefully. The show has shifts in tone, consistently throughout it. In the back half, things got darker and more dire. But then, we thought that the finale was pretty fun. We’ll always be swinging back and forth between those things, so we hope to keep hitting those different marks.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 is available on Blu-ray/DVD on September 9th.