[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 7, Episode 9, “As I Have Always Been.”]
It’s always hard to say goodbye to a TV series that you love, especially when it’s one that’s been on for seven seasons, like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and when you know that there’s the possibility that not all of that team of agents will survive their dangerous last mission. But while you’re fearful of that heartbreak, it’s still also exciting to see how that will all play out for the remainder of the season.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Joel Stoffer talked about his journey as Enoch, the friendly Chronicom who betrayed his own people to aid humanity and this S.H.I.E.L.D. team that he found himself curious about, what it was like to get the script for this latest episode, sharing such an emotional moment with Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg, how sad he was that Enoch and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) were never reunited, the fun of getting to play evil assassin Enoch, whether Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or his next project Stranger Things (he’ll be playing a character in Season 4) is more secretive, and the memento that he got to keep from the show.
Collider: “As I Have Always Been” was so truly heartbreaking for Enoch. What was it like to get the script for this and to read how things would turn out for your character?
JOEL STOFFER: I was overwhelmed, and I was surprised and honored to be given this big send off. I really took it to heart. You don’t get that kind of an opportunity very often on a show, as an actor. It was amazing. It was fabulous.
Did you have any hint as to how his journey would end, before getting that script?
STOFFER: No. I’m just trying to remember back. Somewhere mid-season, I was told, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen, until I read the script. I was very curious and pleasantly surprised. They don’t reveal much information.
How was it to share that final moment with Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg, and have that last scene be directed by Elizabeth Henstridge, at the same time?
STOFFER: It was perfect. It was just such a rewarding moment getting to work with Clark and Chloe, and to say those words and have this big emotional ending for Enoch, next to those two. Since I didn’t get to have Fitz, it was so great to have them there. With their experience on the show, and as great and talented as they are, and their professionalism, I just felt like I was in such good hands. I never doubted my circumstance, for a moment, and that was due to the actors around me and getting to be directed by Elizabeth. I trusted that they were going to make it work for me.
How sad was it for you not to get the chance to see Enoch reunited with Fitz, before you had to say goodbye on the show?
STOFFER: It was hard. I was really bummed, when I first found out that he wasn’t going to be around for most of the season. It took some adjustment. I think it did for everybody, obviously. So much of my stuff was laid through Fitz. A lot of the humor and a lot of the discovery that Enoch gets to put out there, was often bounced off of Fitz. I was wondering, “What are they going to do for Enoch? How are they going to write this?” I think they found a pretty great way to do it. I never doubted it, but he was absolutely missed.
What was it like for you, over the seasons, to have someone like Iain De Caestecker to work with and to build your character off of?
STOFFER: Iain and I hit it off, from the beginning. I had seen his work on the show, and I told him,when I first met him, before knowing that we were even going to have a relationship on the show, how much I appreciated his work and thought he was a great asset to the show. That really played out, over the seasons. He gave exactly what Enoch needed, in order to make the discoveries and grow as a character, and for that arc to happen. It wouldn’t have happened so well without Fitz pointing out what he did. He was just the right amount of resistance to Enoch’s drive and intensity to try to learn about what human emotions were.
This is an interesting episode because there are a few times where Enoch kills or tries to kill one or more of the team. What were those moments like to shoot? Is it fun to do that sort of thing, or is it just weird to pretend like you’re killing your friends?
STOFFER: Honestly, it was fun. It brought out a whole new aspect of Enoch. Even if it was a side of him that that was programmed, only for that moment, it was still getting to be dark, evil Enoch assassin. That kind of stuff is always fun. They’ve already established a character who is, at his heart, a pacifist and a friend, and somebody willing to sacrifice himself, and that kind of thing. And then, all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘What would it be like, if he was a killer?” So, I actually had fun with that. IT was an interesting line to have to walk because I still had to be Enoch doing it. I don’t know if I succeeded or not, in terms of not crossing over into someone else being the killer. I wanted it to be Enoch, being the killer.
You’ve now gone from being on a Marvel series, which is ultra-top-secret, to now being cast in a role in Season 4 of Stranger Things, which I would also imagine is its own level of secretive. Does one feel more secretive than the other, or do they feel equal in their secretiveness?
STOFFER: Well, Stranger Things hasn’t happened yet, but they are super-secretive. I’m not allowed to say anything about it. I’m sworn to secrecy.
What’s it like to even have conversations about the role during casting? Do they even give you real scenes, or do they tell you that you’re reading fake scenes?
STOFFER: I have no idea. You know about as much as I do. I have those same questions. That’s how secretive they are.
What’s it like as an actor to prepare for a character, whether it’s in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Stranger Things, when you’re not even fully sure who you’re playing or how it will develop?
STOFFER: That’s challenging. They wouldn’t tell me anything [about Enoch], when I first came in as Silhouetted Man in Episode 422. I asked the director, “What can you tell me about this role?” And he made a fist with his hand and put it out in front of my face, as though he was saying, “Zero. I can tell you exactly zero.” That was Billy Gierhart, and he was great. I understood that he couldn’t say anything, and I think it was largely because I don’t think that they knew. I don’t think they had explored much beyond that. They weren’t even sure they were going to get a Season 5. In a way, it made it easier for me because I was able to jump in and make choices, and I made them knowing that it was either going to succeed or fail, and I was okay with that, either way. I’m really glad that it succeeded and that somehow I made the right choices for the character and they kept giving me great stuff. It just evolved from there.
Enoch leaves Daisy, specifically, a heartbreaking message before he goes down: “While your friends will indeed survive, the team will not.” What was it like to give that final statement, and to know that that’s now going to carry over into the final episodes of the season?
STOFFER: It was interesting. He’s seeing into the future, and I didn’t really understand how Enoch would be able to do that. So, I just played it, as I’m drifting into non-existence, that it becomes this otherworldly vision that I have. Maybe that’s an aspect of being a Chronicom, and they travel through time, in some way, as energy or something, and he had a moment where he could see, specifically, something and pass along that information. It was tricky to play, just letting it be a vision and exploring that, as I’m disappearing into death. That was the only way I could really think of, to play that. It was powerful. It was a powerful moment because I basically give the nod of approval and say that this is the end, for everybody. It’s a way of saying goodbye, to the show and to the series.
Did you get to take home any props or mementos, or anything that you feel represented the character for you?
STOFFER: I was given a couple of things, but I didn’t really get to take anything. I have my memories. And I did get to keep my seat back for the actor’s chair that has my name on it, with the S.H.I.E.L.D. font. I actually have that displayed prominently in my office, so that’s a nice thing to look up and see.
You didn’t come onto this show in the beginning. Instead, you joined a family that had already been there. How did your first day on the show compare to your last day on the show? How did that feel for you, personally?
STOFFER: It was surreal for me, the whole experience because it became such a big part of my life and my work for three years, and because it was so unexpected. For any actor, if you get a series regular role, there’s an understanding and acknowledgement that it’s a rare thing, and you embrace it and you cherish it. For this role, as a recurring guest star, but still a part of the whole production, for three years, it was a dream come true, in a lot of ways. I was really, really thrilled to be a part of it, and to have it happen, the way that it did. I absolutely felt a lot of gratitude, because I was able to take a sense of ownership of the character, too. I felt like I had a big hand in creating who that character became. And that was pretty special for me.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Wednesdays on ABC.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.