One of the biggest surprises after Marvel Studios announced it would be creating a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” television show for ABC was the fact that Clark Gregg‘s character Agent Phil Coulson would have a central role in it. Considering Joss Whedon killed Coulson off in “The Avengers,” there were some big storytelling hurdles that need to be jumped to explain why Coulson is still alive in the post-“Avengers” chronology of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
The full trailer for the show that was revealed at ABC’s Upfronts didn’t give more of an explanation for Coulson’s continued life than the fact that information is relegated to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with access to “Level 7.” During a recent conversation with Zap2it, Gregg confirmed that even he isn’t fully sure how Coulson managed to come back from the grave.
“He’s an android. I’m lying, I’m lying! He’s the Vision. He’s a Life Model Decoy,” Gregg jokes, referencing fan-favorite “Coulson lives” theories before saying, “No he’s not. I don’t know if he is. I don’t know 100 percent the answer to this so I can’t even spoil it, but this was a big concern of mine because I’m an ‘Avengers’ fan. I’ve been reading the comics. I love that whole world, and I loved what Joss did with Agent Coulson.”
He continues, “I was sad to not be playing the guy but I loved the kind of Shakespearean stakes and he fronts off with the God of Mischief and pays the price. So when they called and said, you know, ‘We want to bring this guy back for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ I was honestly torn, a little wary. When Joss kind of explained what we start to find out in the pilot, and a mystery still remains that I think will kind of carry through, I was instantly in.”
While Whedon co-wrote and directed the pilot for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” an ensemble creative team is actually developing the show. Showrunning the project are Whedon’s brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen, as well as executive producer Jeff Bell and Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb. Gregg says that together that group is doing its best to keep “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“We have a lot of heavy hitters and Joss very much involved, very much keeping everything connected to the Marvel movies that are coming,” he says. “The fun thing about being in these movies is each movie’s a new chapter in this kind of ongoing giant serialized novel, which I love. This feels like a new chapter as well that connects to the others and may have, who knows, visitors from the other parts of it, but this one really focuses on the part of those movies that Agent Coulson really represented: the human face. The people who don’t have super powers or super invulnerability that have to go front off with the various forces in a world after ‘The Avengers,’ where everyone has seen that there are Asgardian gods, alien invasion forces and serious superpowers and they want them, and some of them should probably not have them.”
Gregg hesitates to compare “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to any of Whedon’s previous ensemble projects like “Firefly” or “Angel,” or even to a movie like “The Avengers.” He does promise that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will include plenty of Whedon themes that fans have come to love.
“I think the fans will see strong female characters that you see in a lot of his stuff, they’ll see his kind of like brilliant nerd love of the comics and kind of reverence of that world and what it means, but I think they’ll also see the thing that’s great about him is that he loves Shakespeare for the same reason: the human side underneath it,” he says. “It’s not just some fantasy world. It’s based on something we can connect to, and I also think that ‘Much Ado [About Nothing]’ really shows you he needs something new, like a lot of the most interesting creative people. There’s always something we haven’t seen before, and this feels like a different chapter for him as well.”
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premieres in the fall on ABC on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET.