In the final season of the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves stranded in 1931 New York City, where they must work together to discover and fully understand their mission. If they fail that mission, at any point, not only could it affect their present, but it could also mean disaster for the past and future of the world.
While the actors are saying goodbye to their characters, Collider got on the phone to chat 1-on-1 with actor Henry Simmons about the big changes the show made, over its seven-season run, his character Mack’s own personal journey, the incredible work the costume department did in the final season, what his first day on the show was like, what he’s enjoyed about the Mack-Coulson dynamic, getting to see some familiar faces return, the incredible prop he gets to have as a memento, and whether he thinks fans of the show will be satisfied with its ending.
Collider: This show started out as a seemingly straightforward show about human shield agents in a world where superheroes exist, but then you threw in time travel and robots and space. What has most surprised you about where things have ended up, from where they began?
HENRY SIMMONS: I think you hit the nail on the head. It was very simple, we had one enemy, which was HYDRA, and it was pretty much about trying to stop them from having domination, but then everything changed. It’s a credit to the writers. Who could predict we’d be in space in the future, and all of these other things. It really went in so many different directions that were unfathomable. There was no way in the world that anybody could ever have imagined anything like that.
You didn’t start the show from the beginning and you weren’t part of the team right away, but you ended up as not only part of the family, but its leader. What did you most enjoy about that personal journey with the character and playing that changing dynamic with your co-stars?
SIMMONS: First of all, it was completely unexpected. When I went in there, I was just pretty much a mechanic. Gradually, he started fighting, and then things started picking up, and he became the leader of everyone. It’s a heck of a compliment because the writers and the producers felt that I was capable of being the leader of the team, and that meant a lot to me, from an actor’s point of view. It’s very different from running around and doing things, and being given directions. You’re actually the one who’s giving the directions to everyone, you’re driving all of the scenes, and you have to carry the emotional weight of the team, as opposed to just your individual self. To me, it was just one heck of a compliment to be given that responsibility, and I absolutely enjoyed it.
I love the period clothing that everyone’s in, this season. What did you think of the ‘30s clothes and that style, and is there any more fun style that we’ll get to see, throughout the season?
SIMMONS: I can’t give away too much, but I will say that the costume department was working overtime and they excelled. They really raised the bar for everyone. The costumes not only had us looking a certain way, but because of their craftsmanship, they made us feel a certain way, as well. We looked the era, but it also helped us, as actors, to feel of the era. They did a fantastic job. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It was a lot of fun.
How did your first day on the show compare to your last day on the show, and how different did that feel for you?
SIMMONS: The first day on the show, for me was a bit overwhelming, at times. Not overwhelming from an actor’s standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. When I walked on, they didn’t have the episodes on Netflix, so I wasn’t able to see anything. I didn’t see the show and I didn’t know. So, my first day, there were 20 people on set, plus background people, and I didn’t know who was who. They were like, “Okay, Daisy’s gonna be over here, with FitzSimmons.” And I was like, “Who’s he?” And they were like, “That’s two people.” And I was like, “Wait a minute, what?!” I didn’t know who was who. And then, there was weaponry and the names of the weapons, and the names of the ships and carriers, and the recurring people. I was like, “My gosh, this is a completely different language, and I have to learn all of this.” It was quite a bit. They did a fantastic job of having it work seamlessly, but at first, I was like, “My gosh, this is crazy.”
What have you enjoyed about the Mack and Coulson dynamic, over the seasons, and how is Mack adjusting to dealing with this latest version of Coulson?
SIMMONS: What I liked about the relationship between Mack and Coulson was that, in the beginning, there was a quite a bit of friction because Mack would push back on Coulson. Coulson was using the team for his own personal missions, and Mack didn’t like what he was doing. Mack was the voice that was against him, in terms of questioning his leadership. And then, it settled into something where we both had a mutual respect for one another, to the point where he entrusted me with more and more, when he would go away. There were times when he would leave me in charge because he trusted me. There was a respect. And when Mack became director, you would see, in the very beginning, that he would lean on Coulson’s wisdom to get through. He didn’t have time to step into it. He was thrown into the situation. And in terms of Coulson coming back for the seventh season, I think Mack eventually gets to the point where he likes him bing there and he can see the value, but at first, he did not like it, not from a personal standpoint, but because Coulson didn’t wanna be bought back, in any way, shape or form. Really, it was out of respect for Coulson and trying to grant him the wish that he wanted. But I think we settled into something pretty good, later on.
Was it fun to have Patton Oswalt back, in a very different version of his character, and to have some familiar faces return, for this last season?
SIMMONS: Oh, absolutely. Not only is it fun for me, but it’s maybe even more fun for the fans because they get to see people that otherwise could not have come back. Because of the great writing, they were able to bring back people. So, it was great fun for me, but I think it’s gonna be even more fun for the fans. When we first read that, I was shocked because [Patton’s character] is completely different from what we’ve seen before. But that’s his lineage. He’s different, every time.
Did you get to take home any props or mementos or things that you feel represented your character to you?
SIMMONS: Every time people were like, “What is one thing that you want?” I said, “I want the shotgun axe, but they weren’t able to give it to me, for whatever reason. I think they had to have it for something. I don’t know. And then, about a month after we wrapped, I got a call and they said, “Henry, is this your address?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s me.” And they said, “Okay, we wanna send you something.” It was from a person in production. It wasn’t any of the producers, or the prop department. It was someone else. And then, about two days later, I had a shotgun axe delivered to me. My wife was like, “What is that?” I said, “This is my shotgun axe,” and she saw how happy I was. She was like, “You’re not gonna hang that thing in the living room.” I was like, “No, no, no, no. I’m not that crazy.” But I have to tell you, I was so overjoyed, having that. So, I have a one of the shotgun axes.
By the end of this season, were able to get some closure for yourself with the character, or did you have to go through a mourning period, at the end?
SIMMONS: Whenever you do a job, the character always stays with you, in some way, shape or form. It does take time. By now, I’m out of it, but it took me a little bit to put it down. We finished in July, and for that reason, I didn’t take any jobs for the rest of 2019. I said, “I wanna spend time with my family.” Doing the duties of a father and a husband, and having my life back with my family, got me out of it much quicker. It’s one of my favorite characters, and maybe the most favorite that I’ve ever prayed because there was a range of things, with comedy, action, drama and so many things, involved in that character and the progression of the character. It actually is my favorite character that I’ve ever played.
What actor doesn’t want to be a part of telling a superhero story?
SIMMONS: Without a doubt. Every day, stepping on set was fun. You dress up and get to carry a shotgun axe. It was like I was a kid again.
Obviously, it’s impossible to make everyone happy with the ending of a TV series, especially after it’s been on for so many seasons, but do you feel like fans will at least be satisfied with how things wrap up, by the end of the season?
SIMMONS: I think so. I think everyone will be happy. There are gonna be some fans that still want more, and I hope that’s the case because you wanna leave people wanting more. But the way it wraps up, I can’t say everyone’s gonna be satisfied because I don’t think everyone will be satisfied, but I think everyone will accept the reality of the situation. I’ll leave it at that.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Wednesday nights on ABC.