Now that we’ve reached the turning point of the season on the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the focus shifts from the Ghost Rider storyline to that of the Life Model Decoys, things are going to get a lot more interesting with Aida (Mallory Jansen), as she attempts to get her hands on the Darkhold. And though Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) are growing closer, Coulson remains unaware of the dark secret May is hiding beneath the surface.
During a recent press junket held on the top-secret set, Collider spoke 1-on-1 with co-stars Clark Gregg and Jason O’Mara (who plays Director Mace) about how Coulson is still a bit of a mystery, that you’ll learn about why Mace has been so cagey, how Ghost Rider shook things up for everyone, reintegrating Daisy (Chloe Bennet) back into the team, and whether Coulson and Mace will ever be on the same page. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: Clark, do you feel like you know Phil Coulson more now than when you started with him, or do you feel like he’s still a bit of a mystery?
CLARK GREGG: There is a core of Phil Coulson that he keeps very buried. Sometimes I feel like we’re so close that the membrane between us has almost vanished. I’ll get very upset, if people are saying mean things about Phil Coulson in a script, and I’m like, “What am I doing?!” I’ve lost it a little bit. I think it’s nine years now, since I first read the name, and I’ve spent an awful lot of time responding to people saying, “Phil.” And yet, there’s always a little detail, every couple of scripts, that makes me go, “Oh, yeah, I had never thought of that. That’s probably part of what he believes. That’s probably who he is.” That’s what he was in the movies. He was a chain letter where different writer/director teams went, “I see your seven of clubs, and I add this.” Most notably, Joss [Whedon] went, “The guy is a huge geek. He’s a nerd. He’s got cards.” And I went, “Of course he is. Yes, he is.” So, I love that there is something mysterious about him to other people. Certainly, there is to me. I’m just glad that people are still interested in seeing him do anything.
Jason, do you feel like you know who Mace is?
JASON O’MARA: They told me the overall arc when I first signed up, but a lot of what they told me played out in the first couple of scripts. I didn’t really know how that was going to change, but it does change. Simmons is already on to him. Using lie detector techniques, she discovered that he’s the one lying about something, and that was really interesting to me. So, I knew a couple of fundamental things about him and his backstory, but I didn’t know how it was going to play out. I’m really excited for the audience to see some of that. The other exciting thing I can’t talk about in detail, but Jeffrey Mace is also known as The Patriot, so I can’t wait for that part of it, as well. It is mysterious, and it’s deliberately mysterious, for a reason. It’s so hard to talk about. How he got to be where he is and how he’s going to continue doing what he does is an essential part of his story. You’ll discover why he has been so cagey and behaving so mysteriously.
Clark, how do you feel Ghost Rider has shaken up Coulson’s world? Does he have a better grasp on how to handle and deal with things like that, or is he still baffled by it?
GREGG: There’s a great supercut of all the looks on Coulson’s face when he thinks he’s seen everything, and then he sees the guy with the flaming skull, and then he sees the Destroyer in Thor, and then he sees the ghost people. I don’t think he was prepared for the magical part of this world. You can’t do this job and not really keep the focus on what’s scientifically provable. There’s always something that pushes past it, but Fitz and Simmons usually find a way to explain, on some level, even an expanded version of how science makes sense. I love, so much, that they’ve created this guy that seemed like the most obvious, terrifying, satanic villain, who turned out to be yet another complex person seeking redemption that ends up helping us. On a selfish level, it’s such a great breath of fresh air, what that character and Gabriel Luna brought to our show. With Season 4, you’re like, “Okay, what can we do now?” And then, all of a sudden, you’ve got one of the coolest things. And I was really nervous about it because that’s big time visual effects. To pull it off in a way that feels like there’s a person there is really hard, and I didn’t know how even Mark Kolpack was going to do that on a weekly TV budget basis. Our whole post-production team really deserve a lot of props for that.
How does Coulson feel about Daisy, at this point? Is he proud of what he’s accomplished?
GREGG: I don’t think he knows yet. He’s giving her the benefit of the doubt. On some level, he understands, as well as anybody, why she left. He knows how much it comes from a feeling of guilt and responsibility and self-loathing. He feels responsible, himself, for anyone who’s ever been hurt or killed under his watch, and I think he just gets her. When my daughter was born, I thought, “This is terrifying!” I feel like you take your heart out and it just is going to walk around the world, and if anything happens to it, your heart is destroyed. I think he feels that’s the case with Daisy. If you really love someone, and they’re hurting and need space, you’ve gotta give it to them, even if it feels like it’s a bad decision and it’s dangerous for them. You can’t throw a rope around their neck and bring them home. She’s a grown woman. She’s his adult child, in a way.
Jason, how does Mace feel about Daisy?
O’MARA: Initially, she was off robbing banks, and you can’t have members of S.H.I.E.L.D. robbing banks, so that’s not going to work. But I think he’s more concerned about her fraternization with Robbie Reyes, who’s now a known murderer, fugitive and terrorist with superhuman powers that are considerable. Jeffrey Mace got the beat-down of his life, at the hands of Ghost Rider. He’s a menace to society, as far as Mace is concerned. So, Daisy’s relationship with Reyes is the thing Mace has to overcome. But if that can be overcome, he’s all for it. He’s no dummy. He can see how powerful an ally Daisy Johnson is to S.H.I.E.L.D. He can also see how respected she is by her associates and friends.
With what’s still to come, will Coulson and Mace be on the same page, or will they still butt heads?
GREGG: That negotiation will go on for a bit, as he keeps finding out more and more. I love Jason O’Mara. I love that he’s here. I love this character that’s superficial, in one moment, and then terribly heroic in the next, and funny. I think Coulson keeps waiting to decide that this guy is bad news, but he doesn’t.
O’MARA: I don’t think they’re ever going to be on the same side, mostly because it would be boring. However, when Talbot comes along, it adds a whole new dimension. It’s going to be really interesting to see which side Mace goes with, and whether he sides with Coulson or Talbot. He has reason to side with each side. That stuff will play out in a really unexpected way, just like Mace’s attitude and reaction to the L.M.D. stuff and also his reaction to this whole idea of legitimizing Daisy Johnson as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It all plays out in surprising ways. It will be a really interesting few episodes, coming up.
Jason, do you think Mace was prepared for what he was getting himself into, by becoming Director fo S.H.I.E.L.D.?
O’MARA: I don’t think so. Jeffrey Mace has always been focused on the marketing and how S.H.I.E.L.D. looks, as opposed to what S.H.I.E.L.D. is. He seems to be really genuine about wanting peace, harmony and unity between humans and Inhumans, but everything else is up for grabs and all bets are off. How that plays out is going to be really cool. Everything beyond stepping up to the podium, making statements and making sure no one is breaking the law, he just thought it was going to be a PR exercise, and it seems like he was hired for that reason.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to ABC on January 10th.