For the first time in a Marvel Studios project, Clark Gregg is the central star. His appearance on the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s” first San Diego Comic-Con panel was met with massive cheers, and he even got a shout during the panel of “Coulson is my favorite Avenger.”
Needless to say, Gregg was pretty moved by the overwhelming fervor for the show by the time he reached the “Agents of SHIELD” pressroom. He admits during a roundtable interview that Zap2it participated in that he almost cried when the fan shouted the Coulson Avenger comment, and that he’s touched by the love people have for Agent Phil Coulson.
“I love playing the guy,” he says. “I love this stuff. I knew my neighbor Jon Favreau was putting together an amazing cast for ‘Iron Man,’ that was one of my favorite comics, and then I got a call, ‘There’s a little tiny part. Do you want to be in it?’ And I was like, ‘Yes! I mean, it’s probably going go to get cut out, but yeah!’ And then to have it fleshed out in that movie, added to these other movies, given more and more meaty, amazing stuff to do, and then most movingly to me, to have it connect with the fans in a way where they just didn’t accept his death and kind of waged a campaign on Coulson’s behalf just is really moving to me. Because he’s them. He’s an avatar for the fans and a human in the world of superhumans.”
Ming-Na is a newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Agents of SHIELD,” but she is a veteran actress in the television world. She says she loves the role of Agent Melinda May because it forces her to stay fit, and that she loves feeling “strong and powerful and cool.”
One of the biggest mysteries in the “Agents of SHIELD” pilot is how Coulson managed to live after being killed off in “The Avengers.” Gregg admits that “there’s a few actors from the Whedonverse who are not happy with me right now” because he was brought to life while they were killed off, but he doesn’t think Coulson is necessarily on safe ground just because he got resurrected in some capacity once.
“In the Whedonverse, you can never count out that degree of macabre, people getting cashed in, but I don’t know, this is a world where people are vulnerable, so I don’t know that anyone is safe — including Agent Coulson,” he teases. “That said, it’s a hopeful show. It’s an optimistic world.”
Melinda May has some secrets of her own. She is damaged from a past experience working for SHIELD, but is revered within the organization for her skill. Even Ming-Na isn’t sure exactly what happened to her character.
“I know a few things,” she says. “In this world, it can change on a dime too. Whatever Joss [Whedon] was able to bestow on me to help me with this character, who knows? Who knows if that ends up being it? You will see this particular moment in her life mentioned a few times in the first few episodes.”
She continues of Melinda’s journey, “I think you see her probably coming to terms with what she signed up for. She is someone who, if you tell her she has to do something, she’s that kind of a soldier. She will, under any situation, do her duty. Ultimately, I think deep down inside, I think she knows what she signed up for.”
Coulson’s recruiting-the-Avengers days are over, but Gregg says it’s because he believes that Nick Fury has his character assigned to something even bigger and more significant. In a post-“The Avengers” world, a lot of things have changed.
“I think it’s clear that [Nick Fury] sends Coulson to the hottest zones he’s got,” Gregg says. “We’re in a world after ‘The Avengers’ where people have gone from knowing about Tony Stark and the Hulk for a moment before he was contained to a world with a wormhole and alien invaders in New York and these guys from Asgard who are trouble. A lot of people want in on that action, and some of them aren’t very nice.”
As for how the Avengers will respond to discovering Coulson is still alive, he says, “Obviously there are some Avengers and Pepper Potts who are going to be really upset and feel manipulated. I don’t know if when they find out everything they’ll feel that way.”
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” premieres on ABC on Sept. 24 at 8 p.m.