“Coulson Lives”. Clark Gregg, who has been doing terrific work throughout his career, finally found a devoted fan following for his beloved performance as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson. A minor character who still managed to steal scenes with only a few lines, Coulson really got to stand out in The Avengers, and his death left fans reeling. Then a S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series was announced, and it turned out Coulson wasn’t quite so dead after all. Fans rejoiced, and while a pilot for the show has been filmed, details are still scarce. Now that Coulson is back in the world of the living, Gregg spoke with Steve at WonderCon about joining the TV series, how it will explain Coulson’s return, working with a smaller budget, and if Coulson will come back to the movies. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Gregg found his exit from the Marvel Universe to be bittersweet when Coulson was killed off, and while he would have loved to make that death less-than-permanent, he never took talk of a resurrection seriously until Joss Whedon came calling:
I’ve been so happy and living this geek fantasy as they kept adding Agent Coulson to everything including The Avengers and then gave him this magnificent, almost Shakespearean death scene, and I found out on that day how much I loved this guy and had come to identify with him partly because of the way fans responded to him, and also because he had such a great niche in those movies. He got to be funny, he got to be, in this case, heroic. And then I got to say good-bye to him, and it was a very emotional day. And yet I feel what Joss did with that was a fantastic conclusion of the character. And even though my friends at Marvel said, “You know, we spent a lot of time talking about how Coulson lives, and we know that there’s a movement out there, and there are t-shirts and people paint on bridges ‘Coulson Lives’, we’re going to bring you back”, and it’s one of the many things people tell you that never ever happens. And then I get this call from Joss saying, “Well…there’s a script. And here’s what we’re thinking, and it’s after The Avengers, and here’s the concept.” By the time Joss finished telling me, I was in.
But the biggest question is how they’re bringing Coulson back. Personally, I’m wondering how they’ll manage to retain the emotional impact it had in The Avengers if Coulson isn’t so dead after all. At the very least, Gregg assures us that his character’s resurrection won’t be a simple matter in terms of the show’s plot:
After people see the show, they’ll have some clue as to why I’m still there, still breathing. But I don’t think they’ll know everything…
Steve then followed up by asking “Could this something that plays out over the course of the season?” and Gregg responding, “That sounds like a good idea.” It seems like Coulson’s return will be one of the big arcs of the season.
Coulson will be the show’s tether back to the movies, but he’ll be working alongside a new cast of characters, and he’ll be doing it on a budget that’s much smaller than the blockbuster features. Gregg talked about making the jump to TV:
I’m not going to lie. It was a little frightening. I’m used to coming in and doing my scene. And letting Robert and Scarlett do their thing, and then going back to the trailer. And now it’s, “Where’s Robert? I need someone really beautiful like Scarlett standing right here!” No one is going to want to look at this mug for that long. Because then I would go on to do the next thing. And luckily, they put together a pretty spectacular ensemble around me, and I don’t know where they found them. I didn’t know many of them. Every day I would just show up and be impressed. I think there’s something people responded to in Coulson’s through-line and who he is. He’s the human factor of S.H.I.E.L.D. The people who’s job it is to keep things running smoothly; the keepers of the secrets, and to kind of be the first line of defense and welcoming. The thing that really works well on a smaller context for that. I’ve never seen anything like we shot on a television screen before, so I’m really excited for people to see that.
Gregg went on to talk about how there was some slight hesitance about signing a multi-year contract, but how that was pro forma for the Marvel movies, and he was on board with what Whedon and showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have planned:
I signed a multi-year deal for Agent Coulson when it was just three lines. It just turned into something more. It’s always a little nerve-wracking because it’s not something you’re used to. We have designed obsolescence, we actors. At the same time, the relationship between Agent Coulson and the fans is moving to me, and I don’t think it comes along very often, and I’ve been doing this a while. And some of this stuff is happening to me when I’m not in my 20s, not by a long shot. Once I knew that Joss and his brother Jed and Maurissa, his wife, were involved, and I saw the script, and thought, “This is what it’s going to be like,” then there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Joss is right over there. That’s a really good question. I want to go ask him. I don’t know. If my schedule doesn’t conflict, and they need him in one of the movies, will they come calling? My feeling is that there’s no breaks in continuity with this and the Marvel movie universe. It makes sense in that universe, and I certainly feel like his chances of appearing in those movies are far better than when he was far out dead.
Here’s the part of Steve’s interview with Gregg on the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. Look for the full interview soon and here’s everything we’ve posted on the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.