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 Elizabeth Henstridge (who plays Agent Jemma Simmons) and Iain De Caestecker (who plays Agent Leo Fitz) about exploring the new dynamics for their characters this season, trying to explain someone like Ghost Rider through science, appreciating the technology of the L.M.D.s, the Simmons-Mace (Jason O’Mara) dynamic, the friendship between Fitz and Radcliffe (John Hannah) and the challenges of the FitzSimmons relationship. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: These characters have been through a pretty big journey, this season. What’s it been like to explore these new dynamics?
ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE: I think it’s great! We’ve come back for a fourth season and everybody is just firing on all cylinders. There’s an excitement to it. We’re really getting to tell some interesting stories, socially, and with where all of the characters are able to go. It’s always nice to have a bit of a time cut, in between the seasons. To be able to come back with new themes and for people to be in new places is just exciting. It feels like we get stronger every season, so to be in the fourth season, we feel very lucky. We have the best team of writers, and most of our crew have been here since the beginning. For us to keep doing this is a dream come true.
IAIN DE CAESTECKER: Every episode feels pretty fun because you don’t know the overall arc for the season, so from episode to episode, we’re quite keen to find out. I still don’t know exactly where this season is going to go, in that respect. Ghost Rider has been pretty awesome. I wasn’t heavily involved with him, but I’ve really enjoyed watching what they’ve done with that character. I think it’s pretty cool. I get just as excited to see what’s going to come up as everyone else.
As the science guy, what has Fitz thought of Ghost Rider?
DE CAESTECKER: Fitz and Simmons attack everything from the science point of view and try to find a scientific answer for it. Even though there’s this thing in front of him, and there’s this story of Robbie being possessed by the devil, it’s hard not to have a slight niggling part of his brain going, “Could this really be magic?” He just doesn’t believe in supernatural things, and this is the first introduction of something that’s really given him doubts, as to whether or not he could prove the science behind that, or if it’s pure supernatural magic.
Is working with the A.I. of Aida easier for Fitz, since that’s something he can explain?
DE CAESTECKER: Yeah. I think he also appreciates and understands the technology, the intelligence and the work that goes into making something like that. He’s appreciative of it, respects it, and is fascinated by it because it’s within his field of work to do something like that. Aida is not A.I., like in the last Avengers film. She’s a L.M.D., so her programming is different. When Aida took a shot for the team, it’s the first time she experienced pain, so she was screaming in agony. Fitz and Radcliffe have programmed her and in that moment, they realize, “We’ve made something really real here.” Whether you know it’s an L.M.D. or not, to see someone screaming in pain and to know you’re the cause of that, is a horrible thing. The closer it gets to reality, the scarier and more dangerous it gets. There can be good sides to it, but there can also be pretty dark sides to it, as well.
Is Simmons more secure with her place at S.H.I.E.L.D., or is she still trying to find her footing?
HENSTRIDGE: She’s definitely tested Mace’s power and stepped up to the plate when she got the upper hand in realizing that he wasn’t as heroic as he made himself out to be. He has some secrets. He’s not just a cardboard cut-out of the person they want at the top. He’s making decisions, and a lot of those are questionable, as they were when Coulson was Director. It’s a very difficult position to be in. He’s still her boss, but she has got a bit more confidence to do a power play. But then, she gets a bag shoved over her head and gets whisked away, and has no control over that. She’s just braver this season. She’s realizing her power and having confidence in it. She saw a twitch of the eye and went over him saying, “I know you’re lying.” She would never have had the confidence to do that in Season 1. There’s more to come in their relationship.
How has it been to work with Jason O’Mara?
HENSTRIDGE: Working with Jason O’Mara is a dream come true. He is so funny. Every single take is different. I can never keep a straight face when I’m working with him. He’s perfect, and he gets the character. He just brings it to life and makes it fun. We all know guys like that, who are very by-the-book.
What’s it been like to explore the Fitz-Radcliffe dynamic?
DE CAESTECKER: I really enjoy working with John Hannah. Fitz is often with Simmons, and they’re a great duo, but I don’t think he’s ever really had a guy friend around. They get on so well and are interested in the same things. You get to a certain level of science, like for Fitz and Simmons, that it’s hard to make friendships because people don’t understand what you’re talking about. But he’s met someone he can really collaborate with, and it’s nice for Fitz and Simmons, as well. Radcliffe has been a bit of a mentor to Fitz, and Fitz looks up to him as a father-esque figure.
Fitz and Simmons have had such a hard road to get to where they are now. Are you surprised that it’s still so difficult for them to figure out the romance of it all?
HENSTRIDGE: I think everybody always thinks things are going to be easier than they are. This is my favorite season for the two of them. This is what relationships are like. They’re hard, especially when you work with your partner and live on base. Can you imagine?! So, it makes sense. When I first heard that they were going to get together, there was a part of me that thought, “Oh, no, is that it? Does one of them have to die to keep the conflict?” But no, because relationships are full of conflict and challenges. Neither of them have really had a boyfriend or a girlfriend before, so a lot of new stuff is happening. It’s very fun to play those domestic situations, but in a very heightened sci-fi sense. Instead of the hot girl, it’s the hot robot. It’s like, “What did you do at work, honey? Did you die? Are you in a different alternate universe?” The scope is endless. I think it just brings them closer together, and it allows for some fun, comedic FitzSimmons moments to come back.
How does Simmons feel about Daisy being back now?
HENSTRIDGE: She was hurt, for sure. She knows why Daisy left, but Simmons feels like they all had to deal with traumas. To share trauma and to be a part of the team is potentially less selfish than to leave. Obviously, Daisy lost her boyfriend, but they all lost a team member. FitzSimmons were definitely hurt that she just left, so it’s going to take them a second to get back. We’ve seen them put some of that to rest, when Daisy came to ask for Simmons’ help and she begrudgingly gave it and fell in love with her again. They know the team is stronger with Daisy in it, but they were pissed, for sure.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to ABC on January 10th.