While Agents of SHIELD’s Phil Coulson is, at least currently, quite dead, actor Clark Gregg’s been spending time settling into his mysterious new role on the show as a character who’s everything the fallen agent and friend to the Avengers was not. This new character, Gregg explained, is someone who will terrify SHIELD’s heroes.
Gregg is set to return to Agents of SHIELD’s sixth season this summer as one of a number of enhanced individuals who arrive on Earth and begin wreaking the kind of havoc that only a newly-formed SHIELD is equipped to handle. Because of the lack of clarity as to when the sixth season takes place, it’s unknown how much information the agents are working with regarding the important goings-on of the larger MCU.
But when we spoke with Gregg a few weeks ago while he was promoting Captain Marvel, he was confident in the show’s ability to keep chugging along on the strengths of its own narrative path. As interconnected as Agents of SHIELD was with Marvel’s films in the show’s earliest days, Gregg said, it’s by carving out its out space within the MCU and drawing on unprotected pieces of source material that the series has been able to set itself apart
I think in the early days it was very much an experiment and honestly, Marvel was really one big company, and now it’s really not. I think it’s really two separate divisions and there was a real desire to thread very carefully what we were doing with the movies. You know, at the end of season one with the Hydra reveal in Captain America: Winter Soldier, it turned our show upside down.
But I think when the show started to really find its best stride was when our writers decided “Eh, screw it. We’re going to take what we can get and there’s a lot of stuff [Marvel Studios] doesn’t seem to be using. They don’t seem to be using L.M.D.s, they don’t seem to be using Ghostrider or the Framework. At first we didn’t believe that we were doing Secret Warriors, but then it became clear—‘Oh, that’s Quake.’ They’ve ingeniously taken the parts of the Marvel universe—which is broad—that no one seemed to be interested in, and we’ve squeezed every drop out of them and really let our train go on its own track.
When we asked Gregg about how season five’s ending came to be, he was frank about there being a point in time when everyone was certain that the show had been canceled and that it was fitting to give Coulson one final goodbye and the sendoff he’d always wanted.
But then, word about the series’ renewal came in, plans shifted, and the idea of letting Coulson remain dead and using that to play on the emotions of other characters came into sharp focus:
Coulson goes off to Tahiti with Agent May at the end of season five without much time left and it was a very moving, sad thing the show did. We thought we were maybe done. Then they picked us up for two seasons, and at a certain point they asked me to direct an episode, and sat me down to explain some of this season. One of the things we’re exploring is an idea that while half the team’s out in space trying to find the other timeline cryogenically frozen Leo Fitz, the other half of the team is here grieving and trying to put SHIELD back together with Agent MacKenzie running it, which is exciting to me because Henry Simmons is so amazing.
There’s some strange anomaly happening that feels like a very threatening rupture every time it occurs and there are these people, these humanoid people who show up in the footage and one of them looks a lot like Coulson. He’s bad, he’s dangerous, and terrifying. He’s a different person and it’s difficult for everyone to cope with, but especially Agent May and Daisy.”
Only time will tell what Gregg’s new Coulson visage has in store. Agents of SHIELD returns this May.
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