During the Television Critics Association Summer 2013 press tour the cast and producers of the upcoming drama Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D took the stage to field some questions about the series. It was a big shock when, at the beginning of the summer, it was announced that Agent Coulson would return for this new show. After all, everyone thought he was dead, even Agent Coulson himself.
Clark Gregg, who plays Coulson, said that he felt as though The Avengers was the end of the character, according to Huffington Post. “I made jokes … ‘Is there a rewrite coming?’ And it was really clear that I was dead. I had a great run and I thought what Joss did with the character was a magnificent resolve.” But, according to Huffington Post, writer/director Joss Whedon called him five months later and offered him an opportunity to reprise his role. He promised him that Coulson’s return would not undermine the reality of the movie, and after hearing Whedon’s plan, Gregg said, “I was very on board.”
Executive producer Jeph Loeb added, “There was never going to be a show called Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without Clark. That’s the way it started … ‘We know we want Clark; how do we start there and move out?’ And then Jed and Maurissa and Joss came up with all these wonderful characters that are aboard the bus and will take us each week to a brand new epic adventure.”
The producers and Whedon are hoping to draw in as many viewers as possible, whether they are familiar with the other Marvel movies or not. “We don’t want just to be an Easter egg farm. We want people to come back because of these people and not because of some connection to the movie universe. This show has to work for people who aren’t going to see those movies and haven’t seen them before.” said Whedon.
Executive producer Jeffrey Bell agreed, “We hope this is big and broad enough for everybody, but that there are specific things that Marvel fans will recognize.” He added, “”Both Marvel and ABC have been very generous with us. We have a responsibility to Marvel to look awesome and terrific. But really, it’s these people and their lives that we hope you’ll come back to every week.”
Whedon plans to be involved as much as he can while still working on movies. He helped the pilot along with Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon and stepped back to focus on “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”. He feels confident in leaving the show in Tanchareon and his brother’s hands. “I got the best writers I know to do this and and actors who can do pretty much anything so that I could do less — that’s always the way to run a show,” Whedon said.
S.H.I.E.L.D is made up of a wide variety of people. The Agents are from around the globe and are looking for a home where they can do something meaningful. “As someone who has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. for some time now … one of the things that always excited me about S.H.I.E.L.D., both in the comics and in the cinematic universe and now the television universe, is that it’s a transnational organization that’s protecting humanity and bringing different parts of humanity together in the wake of ‘The Avengers’, and so that always felt very organic to what S.H.I.E.L.D. is,” said Gregg.
Whedon admitted his attraction to “the idea of the people who don’t have the superpowers; who didn’t get the hammer; who didn’t get the super-soldier serum; the idea that everybody matters … the underdog, the common man. Clark was that sort of audience proxy in the movies, and the show is about that sense of, ‘What about the rest of us? How do we cope with this?’ It’s television, so they’re incredibly good at what they do and ridiculously attractive, but they still don’t fall under the category of super.”
Joss told Huffington Post he could neither confirm nor deny whether Angel alum J. August Richards would return after the pilot, but, he admitted, “I thought he was great too, so do that math.”
He added, “I’m always interested in people who are in very pressure-cooker situations that are not necessarily world famous for it. I like the people who are on the fringe of things. We have this organization, we have the history from the comic books, but these guys are out there by themselves. It’s going to be both an advantage and real trouble for them. We can bond with them in a way that they don’t have every resource, and they don’t have the answers [thanks to some] deus ex machina at the end of every episode: “Here comes S.H.I.E.L.D. to solve it.” It’s up to these guys. And that’s what really makes a group bond, and that’s the sort of thing I like to write.”
Marvel and ABS are being flexible and allowing Whedon to create the show to his liking. “They wanted to make sure our investment in characters and their interaction and their evolution was as big as the case of the week. They wanted to make sure that people were coming for the recurring story, as well as for the story that would conclude in a single episode, which, to me, is how I’ve done all of my shows. So they basically said, ‘Would you please do it that way that you do it and not learn a new skill?’ And that made me very happy.”
Jed described the format of the show as facing a “challenge every week … and hopefully the characters will be dealing with each other enough that there’s stuff to weave into these standalone episodes.”
Joss promised, ‘Every week, it’s not going to be some new hero; there could be a device, a mystery … There are so many aspects to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out there’s a superhero team and aliens that invaded New York.” He added that he was excited to dig into “the spy stuff, the hero stuff, the heartfelt stuff,” so that “every week … feels a little different.”
Fans were also ecstatic to hear that Cobie Smulders would reprise her role as Agent Maria Hill in the pilot. She has the potential to recur in later episodes, however, her comedy How I Met Your Mother is finishing up its final season and it has kept her busy.
As for future plans after writing and directing the Avengers sequel, Joss said that he’s not married to returning to TV or movies specifically. “The goal is never about the medium — it’s always about the next story,” he said. “It’s all about the thing I’ve never done before … I like not knowing what’s next; it’s all about making people care about people. I just want to keep telling stories, and if someone pays me, that’s also good.”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.