You never know what to expect from Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie” on Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” When actor Henry Simmons joined the cast of the ABC series in Season Two, Mack was a mechanic loyal to Robert Gonzales’ “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” After Director Coulson merged the two teams at the end of the season, he’s been working with Daisy Johnson on her Secret Warriors project. Recently the murder of Rosalind Price sent Coulson on a suicide mission and he made a somewhat unexpected decision, appointing Mack as acting director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ahead of Tuesday’s midseason premiere, Simmons visited the CBR Speakeasy in North Hollywood, California to discuss Mack’s unlikely journey, how the character became interim director, what he’ll be up to as Season Three continues and his dynamics with both Daisy and Coulson.
In the first part of the conversation, Henry Simmons discusses what it’s like for Mack to go from mechanic to the third S.H.I.E.L.D. director in the organization’s history, how the writers constantly keep him on his toes and the speedy new arrival that could turn the show — and Mack’s life — upside down.
On Mack’s transition from mechanic to head of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Henry Simmons: It’s been awesome. The thing is that I really applaud and actually embrace and love the writers for, the creators, they throw everything at me. I mean, I came in as a mechanic, it wasn’t necessarily gonna be a full-time gig. It was just this guy working on cars and motorcycles and things of that nature — he’s a funny guy, he’s an action guy, they give me so many facets to this character. Now, all the sudden, he’s interim director. And Clark [Gregg] pointed out, there’s only been three directors out of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s been him, it’s been Nick Fury, and then me.
On what it’s like working on a superhero show and never knowing what to expect from the stories:
It really is a dream come true. I’m not kidding you. I read comic books as a kid and I look at them now. And you always want to — all of us want to, you want to be a hero of some type. And to actually fulfill that now. I mean, I’m not like a superhero, but in a way… The thing that’s different about this job than any other job is you don’t know what’s coming next. All the other jobs have been procedural, things like that, it’s been good, but this one, you really don’t know what’s coming next. It’s an alien, some kind of outside force, it doesn’t matter. At one point my guy was infected with something. It always keeps you on your toes and it’s always interesting to go into work and find out what’s gonna happen next.
On where Mack will be when the show picks up in the second half of Season Three:
I can say that, through my character, S.H.I.E.L.D. is gonna explore more of the Secret Warriors, and I know everybody’s been waiting for that and the writers have been holding back on that, but now when we start getting into it they’re gonna explore more of that.
And there is… I’m trying to be careful, there’s a character that’s introduced, who has — she’s a woman, she has a power, who could she be? … Her power is one that she has incredible speed. I’m gonna say everything without saying anything so I don’t get in trouble. And I have to tell you, it was incredible. I mean, in terms of the actress, she’s an amazing actress, but Mark Kolpack, who does all of our special FX… incredible. Incredible. I just can’t wait for everyone to see this. And there’s a little bit of flirtation going on.
In the second half of the conversation, Simmons explores his unique dynamics with Daisy Johnson as it pertains to building up the Secret Warriors team as well as why he hopes to never stop butting heads with Coulson. He also discusses how he’d react to his take on Mack ending up in the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic book and his acting debut on SNL, which ultimately led to Martin Lawrence getting banned from the network.
On how involved Mack is with developing the Secret Warriors as interim director:
Very hands-on, in terms of actually even deciding who comes on and who doesn’t. Coulson gets the ultimate decision, but Daisy and Mack are the ones that are heading this team up. It’s a great balance, and I love working with her, Chloe [Bennet], she’s awesome. We both have a different kind of energy, our characters — mine is like solid, grounded, and hers is like frenetic and impulsive and mine is like, ‘Wait a minute, let’s make sure.’ Together we make a great team in terms of leaders and we’re actually gonna explore that more as we go deeper into the season.
On how Mack’s dynamic with Coulson has changed over the course of a season and a half:
The thing I like, and the thing they are continuing and I hope they continue throughout the course of the whole show is that confrontation between Mack and Coulson. It’s nothing personal between the characters but Mack just still questions Coulson’s motives, some of the things that he does. I mean you saw in the midseason finale, you saw a very impulsive Coulson — I mean, come on now — really, Coulson was impulsive. He was doing something for his own objective rather than the objective of S.H.I.E.L.D. And sometimes that can hurt a lot of people so Mack has a right to question him and say, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute.’ I like that. Checks and balances.
On whether he’s hoping his take on Mack makes it into Marvel’s comics:
I would love that, just to see someone else’s perspective of how I’m playing the character. I can only see it from my perspective, but just to see what people are like, what they think my character is like. I would love that.