Now that Agent Coulson’s favorite protegee Skye has been revealed to be something considerably more than human in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” midseason finale, the ABC show’s ready for its own game-changing evolution. And series star Clark Gregg couldn’t be more thrilled.
A longtime, hardcore fan of the show’s Marvel Comics source material, Gregg clearly takes great pleasure in each new integration of a classic Marvel element into the series, and as he discusses the direction of the back portion of the second season with CBR News, he’s admittedly eager to introduce the ABC TV audience to the concept of the Inhumans, who Marvel announced would star in their own feature film — Marvel Studios’ 20th overall — set for release in 2018.
CBR News: What got you excited about where the series would be going, once we got to that big midseason reveal about Skye?
Clark Gregg: What I’ve liked about this season is the poor writers had to really tread water for a while waiting for “Winter Soldier” in Season One. They’ve kind of taken the reins off them a little bit now. We start to see the writing, and within seven or eight episodes we’re in this underground city and there’s Terragenesis, it’s kind of incredible and BAM, now we’ve got to deal with what has this person been transformed into, and we’ve got Inhumans. Cool!
Tell me how bringing superpowers closer into the immediate DNA of the show has changed the season, or the show itself?
Hard to say. I don’t know yet. We haven’t shot enough that I really have a good answer for that. What I like about it is, it’s not your typical origin story. All along S.H.I.E.L.D. has kind of been about protecting people from what they don’t know about, which often means people who are on the index — people who have powers because they’ve been kind of mutated or given powers by technology or Hydra or various alien artifacts. Inhumans represents a different chapter.
At least in the comics, the Inhumans, they’re a race of people who’ve been transformed. They’re mutants, more or less. I’ve always loved that part of the comics. They’re people who have evolved differently, and that generates a lot of fear. Some people want to annihilate them. Some people want to lock them up. Some people want to register them. Some of them become superheroes. Some of them become monsters. I find that particularly germane. Are we going to accept the people who are different, or are we going to try to wipe them out?
On a personal level, what’s Coulson facing now?
I think the first thing we’re going to deal with when we come back is he led everyone to this place with the writings. He found this submerged, several-thousand-year-old alien city. It turned out to be like an incubating factory that turned his own most beloved protegee — his surrogate daughter — into something else and got one of his team members killed. That’s not going to be easy on his new team, which has some people who he knows and trusts and some people who are much newer to him.
Last year, you guys dodged and weaved with plot elements that came out of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that deeply affected the show. With the Inhumans reveal, you’re now setting up something that’s going to be part of one of the big Marvel movies down the line. What’s that mean to you to be at the forefront on introducing a long-form concept like that?
I’m excited by it. I think the Inhumans is a big, cool part of the Marvel universe, a great story. And we’ll set up something. We’ll get to explore it. I’m glad they’re entrusting us with it, and I think that they’ll take what they’re going to do with it, and it will connect. And yet, we’ll have the freedom to kind of make our show be our show. I think our show’s working better this year because it is what it is. People are less asking me “When is Tony Stark going to show up?” And stopping me on the street really worried about Leo Fitz. What happens on our show has to work for our show, and if at some point in the future, because they always think of cool stuff, it becomes something that crosses over with the movie, fantastic.
I recently went back and reread all the early Inhumans stuff — the Lee/Kirby material, Neal Adams, etc. in anticipation of their introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did you go back and read it, too, or were you already pretty conversant with all that?
No, I went back and read some of it. I knew some stuff. I’m always interested because the story, the way it gets manifested in the three-dimensional Cinematic or TV world is always a little different than the comics. There’s an “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic where Coulson’s partying with Deadpool and The Vision and the Fantastic Four. It’s a departure point. It will never violate the rules for the fans of the comics, but it has to become something different in our world. There’s an element of the Kree, and the stuff we saw in “Guardians” that’s part of the Inhumans. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that all plays out. I hope we get the Rocket Raccoon cameo I requested.
Are you excited for when the time comes that you get the call to be in another big screen Marvel movie?
It’s funny: the membrane between me and the character is so thin, I really want to explain to the Avengers, that I didn’t just lie to them. So I would really like it for that reason, yes. But I’m having an awfully good time where I am.
How much creative input do you have on Coulson’s path in the back end of the season?
I have meetings with them once or twice a year and talk about what the big ideas are. And they’re really open to it. They’re really responsive to the fact that I’ve been involved with this person four, five years longer than them, but they really write the stories magnificently, [showrunners] Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell. I have no complaints with that they’re doing. I think that they just keep giving me more exciting stuff to do.
Anyone in the expanded cast this season that you get to spend more time with in the episodes ahead?
As I’ve said, we’ve only done a couple since then. I think the mission we saw in Puerto Rico with Coulson and Mockingbird sets up an interesting dynamic with those two that will probably go further.
You mentioned the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic book… Coulson now stars in a regular Marvel title! That’s got to mean something special to you.
Oh, yeah, he has a comic! The variant covers are all over my study.
Stay tuned to CBR for more on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” second season.