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 moving through different eras, as they work together to succeed at their latest 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 actress Natalia Cordova-Buckley about how the show has evolved over seven seasons, how nerve-wracking it was to join the cast, how Yo-Yo has grown and become a team member, her favorite episode of this season, the meaningful item she got to take home from the set, what the last day of filming was like, and her hope that fans will be satisfied with the end of the series.
Collider: This started as a seemingly straightforward show about agents working in a world where superheroes exist, and it’s evolved to include time travel and robots and space. What has most surprised you about where things have ended up, from where they began?
NATALIA CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: I think the quality of the show got better and better, as it went by. There’s a lot to be said there. That doesn’t happen in a lot of TV shows. Our EPs and writers just kept challenging themselves, in terms of character and storyline, and made it much more interesting and relatable and accessible. I love that they decided to take a stand, in the way they could, on the social issues of our times, and reflect them in artistic and subtle ways, but still reflect our values and the reality of who we are, as a film and entertainment industry. I really honor and applaud that from them.
One of the things that’s been very clear, from the beginning, is that this cast is very close with each other and are really just as much of a family as their characters are. What was it like to join that? Was it scary or intimidating to walk onto this show, your first day?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: Not intimidating, but definitely nerve-wracking at moments. It’s like your first day of school, when you don’t know what to expect. The unknown always make us nervous. I have the memory of walking into my first day, and I had a 102-degree fever, but I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I would get fired. I had barely worked in the United States, so I didn’t know what the rules were, an I was worried they would send me back hope. So, I did this action moment with a fever, and I just remember our camera crew, in particular, which is the part of the crew that’s always very close to the actors, just being so wonderful to me and smiling and telling me, “Hey, make sure you run this way,” or “Run slower so that I can follow you.” They were just such great teachers, and they became dear friends of mine. A lot of them are family. They’re my brothers and sisters. I’m just eternally grateful that this show gave me people that I learned from and that I hold incredibly dear to my heart.
What can you say to tease your character’s journey, in this final season?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: Yo-Yo has evolved a lot. In the seventh season, she sits back and becomes a team member. She decides that the best way that she can support is by using her strongest tools, her superpowers, and her heart and soul to be a pillar under the infrastructure of S.H.I.E.L.D. What I love about Yo-Yo is that she’s never been a protagonist, but with every season, she’s evolved more and more into that. In the seventh season, we really see her stand behind Mack and inhibit the director, and really follow the orders and support his cause.
Yo-Yo has struggled a bit, with reconciling who she used to be and who she is now. Is she finally in a place where those two things can live within each other?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: I think she’s there. This is who she is and she doesn’t wanna change it, in terms of her robotic arms. She’s always had that grounded individuality, which I love about her, but she puts it a little bit aside. We’re not gonna see her personally struggle, as much as in the past because she owns who she is and she’s now decided to be part of the force, as a unit and not as an individual, and leave her own personal struggle to herself, when it comes to being around the team. In Season 5, when she wasn’t really heard and was telling a lot of truths, she learned that it’s best to step aside, be more quiet, and just be a pillar, under the direction of Mack and the direction of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There’s something so fantastic about the period clothing that we get to see everybody in, this season. What did you think of the 1930s clothing and style, as well as the other eras that you’re going to be exploring this season?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: I loved the clothing that I got to wear, specifically, because I felt that it was really Yo-Yo. She refuses to wear a skirt. She decides to wear high heels because, if not, she’ll give away the team and people will question why there’s a woman in the 1930s in steel-toed Doc Martin’s. She’ll sacrifice certain things, but not completely herself. I love that, with the wardrobe — you’ll see that she gives in to certain things, but she won’t wear a skirt. She doesn’t care what era it is, she’s gonna wear pants. I love that about her. I love that, during the wardrobe fitting, we were like, “Absolutely no dresses and absolutely no skirts for Yo-Yo.” There’s a very modern woman in that. There’s a woman that goes, “I need to be ready to fight. I need to be ready to run.” It’s never about looking pretty, and it’s never about the protagonist position. It’s always about, “This is who I am, and this is how I can be the best version of who I am.” I love that about her, and the wardrobe that they did for her.
Do you have a favorite episode, in this final season?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: I do. I will just tease that it’s one that’s filled with May-Yo, which is May and Yo-Yo. It’s filled to the brim with the brilliant team that is May-Yo.
Were you able to get any props or mementos from the set, that you personally feel represented your character?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: Yes. I only asked for one thing, and I asked for it, from my first year. I got a no, every single year, and finally, on the last day, they said, “Yes, you can take that.” The only thing I asked for and the only thing I took, because I don’t believe in taking anything that’s not mine, especially because so many of those props and so much of the wardrobe is so special to the people who created it and can be used again, instead of being in my closet or in my house, were her boots. It makes me choke up a little bit, but every step Yo-Yo took, I took with those boots. I never took them off. Those are precious to me.
What will you do with them? Will you wear them? Will you frame them? Will you keep them somewhere special? Where will they live?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: Right now, they live in the nicest area of my closet, with my shoes, and they’re just sitting there, on my shelf of shoes. I haven’t worn them as Natalia. There was a real character thing with me and those boots. They’re steel-toed, so they each weigh two pounds or more. The way Yo-Yo walks and stands has a lot to do with the weight of those boots, which is how I interpreted the weight of having a superpower for a human. So, I wanted to give it at least a year, for my body to forget that feeling. I feel like, if I put them on, I might start balling ‘cause of how much I’m gonna miss walking onto set with those boots. That’s definitely my most fond memory of this whole experience, the feeling that I would get, driving onto set, or finally being dressed, with my hair and make-up done, and I’m Yo-Yo, in my boots, and I get to walk from my trailer to the stages. That short walk from my trailer to the stages meant everything. It was my transformation into Yo-Yo. It meant that I got to do what I love and make a living out of it. I always called it my path of gratitude, and those boots had a lot to do with it. So, I wanted to give it some time before I re-wear them, but I’m sure that I’ll wear them, as myself, for the rest of my life, at some point.
When you think about your time on the show, what was one of the funniest things that happened to you? Was it something that you caused yourself, or was it something that someone else did, that you were there for?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: There were so many. Working with Ming [Na Wen], in itself, you’re gonna laugh until you piss a bit of your pants ‘cause that’s just what happens when Ming is around. I have many fond funny memories, but some of the funniest ones have been working with Ming, for sure.
What did the last day on set feel like? Did you feel very different, by the time you got to your last day, than you did on your first day?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: In certain terms, I did feel completely opposite. I think that’s just what happens after five years. You evolve and grow, and you learn. But in other terms, with other people, I was closer than I’ve ever been and I learned a lot about who I wanna be, if I ever get to be in a really powerful leader position. The last day was filled with all kinds of emotions. You’re happy to get a rest because you’ve been working so hard. At the same time, you wanna celebrate, but you know that signifies the end, and that depresses the hell out of you. So, there were tears and joy and excitement. It was just a chaotic tornado of emotions to deal with. We just cried and hugged and laughed, on the parking lot of stages, and drank beer and told stories. That was about it. It’s a twister of emotions. It’s really hard to pinpoint which one you’re feeling.
Since it’s clearly impossible to make everybody happy with the ending of a TV series, especially one that’s been on for so many seasons, do you feel like fans will at least be satisfied with where things are left at the end of the season?
CORDOVA-BUCKLEY: That’s an impossible question. I can only hope that they will be because they deserve it.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Wednesday nights on ABC.