One of the most highly anticipated shows of the upcoming fall TV season is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films, as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents, who together will investigate the new, the strange and the unknown, across the globe, in order to protect the ordinary from the extraordinary. The show also stars Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge and Chloe Bennet.
While at Comic-Con to debut the show’s pilot for fans, executive producer Joss Whedon and actor Clark Gregg talked about constructing the television version of the Marvel universe, the guidelines for the series, getting to have Agent Coulson be a part of the story, getting to explore new facets of Coulson, and just how far in advance the story arc has been plotted. Whedon also talked about how important it is to him to remain involved with the show, even with everything else he has going on. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: Joss, how is constructing the television version of the Marvel universe different than the actual theatrical movie version for the Marvel universe?
JOSS WHEDON: There’s no money! Well, we get to take our time with it. The more leisurely moments are the heart of the thing. We don’t have to worry about whether the world is at stake. What’s exciting about the show for me is that the world is at stake for someone. Someone is having an apocalypse, and S.H.I.E.L.D. can get into that on a personal level, and not necessarily on a giant level.
What guidelines were you given, going in? Were you just asked to make a show in the Marvel universe, or were you specifically asked to focus on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
WHEDON: The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are in the Marvel universe. They understood, going in, what we wanted to do, which was use the feeling you get from the Marvel cinematic universe, and even the excitement, complexity, fun and the soap opera of it from the comic books, and mix it all together. It’s also ABC, and they like a story where the characters progress and have interaction, which is what I like. So, the mandate was, “Do that thing that you do?” We’d like every episode to be contained, so you feel like something was accomplished, but at the same time, you want to see what happens to the characters next.
Clark, how does it feel, now that Agent Coulson is alive again?
What’s it like to be a part of the television version of the Marvel universe?
GREGG: I’m not gonna lie, it feels bad-ass. I thought I was dead, and I was not happy about it. Although what Joss [Whedon] did with that character was so spectacular, I was completely at peace. But the day I had to act that scene, I was surprisingly emotional. I had been playing the guy for five or six years, in four movies, and it broke my heart. I loved playing him. And yet, I was at peace about it. So, when Joss called and said, “Listen, here’s what we’re thinking. You might not be dead,” I had questions. I didn’t want to undo that part of The Avengers, or do anything to cheapen it. So, when I got the spin on the direction they were thinking of going with, and it was really deep and interesting and Whedon-esque, I was signed on and thrilled.
How far in advance have you plotted the story arc?
WHEDON: Well, Season 7 is pretty risque, I don’t mind telling you. You know, we do it the way we always do it. We know where we want to go. We have our big tentpoles. But, we leave a couple things open for us to feel our way. That way, we can see if something lands, if a relationship is working, if a guest star is interesting, or if we want to revisit something. You always want to build as you go. So, we definitely know what the big questions are, and where we want to end, both in our 13th episode and our 22nd episode. We are also ready to change course, or at least change the way we’re going to get there.
How much do they tell you about what’s to come for Coulson?
GREGG: More than you, and less than Jeph Loeb. I’m not trying to be glib. It’s the game. With Marvel, I get the script a couple of days in advance. With the new series scripts, every episode I read, I think, “Oh, of course, he is! I didn’t know he could do that!” Instead of having to wait eight months or a year for a new film script to find out new levels to Coulson, about every week, I get another one and I get to find out more.
How exciting is it to explore all of these other facets of Coulson that there isn’t time for in the theatrical films?
GREGG: You know, it’s amazing! I’ve gotten little bits of it meted out to me. Joss took it and really expanded the guy, in all the ways I imagined and more. So, to get the chance to go in, in this different context, which has got all the spectacle of the movies, but is a much more human version of S.H.I.E.L.D., with people like Coulson who can die, out there, trying to protect the world after The Avengers. One of the things that frankly is exciting to me about it is that I think we have to find out more about where he came from and who he is and what it’s like to have gone through what he’s gone through.
What’s it like to be the leader of a team versus having to wrangle uncooperative superheroes together?
GREGG: He’s very much like the poor bastard wrangling all the rock stars at Coachella, in the movies. But, the funny thing is that I feel like Coulson, with the exception of Director Fury, thinks he’s been ordering these people around. He really views them as divas who are one notch below him. They’re not Level 7. So, in a way, it’s a little bit of a jump and a change because now he’s got a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents working for him. He’s a different guy. I don’t think you get to have what happens to him in The Avengers and come back the same.
Do you think the cellist find out about Coulson?
GREGG: God, I hope so! One of the things I find assuring, as a fan of the Marvel universe, is that they’ve done such an amazing job of taking every opportunity that I spot, as a fan, and root for them to go there. They’ve always used every piece of that. So, I have a feeling some Avengers and Pepper Potts are going to be quite unhappy when they find out that they’ve been messed with. I just wonder what the full story is going to be. I also think that Coulson is not going to be happy when he finds out that his mint cars have been messed with. I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna wanna know what’s happening with the cellist.
How involved can you be and stay with this show, and how important is it to you to stay as involved as you can, even with everything else that you’re doing?
WHEDON: It’s very important to me that it’s right. If I could not do any more work and know that everything was perfect, there’s a chance I might not, at least until I had a little bit more free time. Obviously, I’m going to be involved, but I also deliberately surrounded myself with people who know what I’m talking about and what I’m trying to do, and who are great at it. So, when I can’t be involved, the show will go forward the way it should. I will be as involved as I can be, but I don’t know what that’s going to be. Sometimes I have unlimited energy, but sometimes I’m the other guy. But, the important thing is that the show is now already bigger than just me.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on ABC on September 24th.