In an attempt to avenge the death of his identity-stealing girlfriend Kara, Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward has spent the third season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” rebuilding the government agency’s terrorist counterpart Hydra — with himself in the position of leader, of course.
Along the way, Dalton has had the chance to stretch both his acting and physical muscles, as he’s brought to life Ward’s truly sociopathic personality and fighting skills. Speaking with CBR ahead of tonight’s episode, Dalton opened up about Ward’s ultimate goal as the head of Hydra, and his character’s inviolable hatred for S.H.I.E.L.D.
The actor also promises that this season will give viewers a deeper understanding of what it is that makes Ward tick, swears that the bar will continue to be raised when it comes to filming the series’ fight sequences, and reiterates what longtime viewers already know: an angry, bearded Ward is deadly.
CBR News: The last time we spoke was before the Season 2 finale and you teased that big brawl between Ward and Bobbi. How challenging was it filming that sequence, and were you happy with the final product?
Brett Dalton: Garry Brown, who is one of our executive producers, also directs episodes. He directs almost all of our action sequences, so whenever there is a second unit, Garry is there. This is the one him and I were the happiest with after shooting. Every fight that we’ve had, we’ve tried to raise the bar. I think we’ve raised the bar a couple of clicks with it. It was that epic.
I’ve been doing this for two seasons, now. Adrianne Palicki has been doing this for one season, but also multiple movies in which she’s the crazy badass with all this technical skill. You have these two really well-trained agents, and I would hope well-trained actors, in combat. It was pretty magical. We were able to do things and trust each other right away. We really wanted to deliver because we knew we could, we knew that we could go there with each other, so we did. It was crazy.
If Kara hadn’t been in the picture, would things have ended differently? Could Ward have reconciled with his former teammates?
I don’t know. That seems like a corner that has been crossed, and I’m not sure I would ever have re-teamed with S.H.I.E.L.D., necessarily. I think there might have possibly been an uneasy alliance.
At the same time, Ward is somebody who doesn’t sit on his hands. His mind is always working. I think he probably would have gotten restless. I’m sure their paths would have crossed and conflict would have ensued eventually. It might have just delayed things.
To be clear, Ward accidentally killed Kara. Was that the final straw between Ward and S.H.I.E.L.D.? A point of no return?
Yes, I do think that was somewhat of a point of no return. He saw in Kara a second chance and, in a lot of ways, love. When that possibility was cut off, there was a line that was crossed and something inside of Ward snapped. He had this complicated, Pandora’s Box of a relationship with Skye, and the relationship with Kara afterwards was much less complicated. When that didn’t work, his hope of finding love at all in this world was closed off.
Between Kara, May and Skye, Ward seems to have no luck with the ladies.
He does not. I’m either getting physically beat up by a woman on our show, or I am being emotionally beat up by a woman on our show. He has no luck with the ladies. He’s taking a different route with that, and not even worrying about love at this point. There’s a revenge game happening that is very strong with Ward at the moment.
Right — Ward has been rebuilding Hydra. What is his vision for the organization? How does it differ from the previous regime?
This is a stripped-down version of Hydra. This is like Hydra-reduction. This is Hydra without all of the fat, without all of the fanfare, without all of the fancy cars, evil lairs, cat petting and writing your name on the moon. This is Hydra at its core. It can be a really scary thing when it’s on a razor’s edge. Ward is a back-to-the-basics sort of leader. We’re about getting the job done. That’s what we’ve seen from him since day one. Even the very first introduction to him was Ward fighting some dude in Paris. Let May fight in a flashier way — it’s great that she gets all the cool poses. Ward doesn’t do any of that stuff. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to get this thing done. “You want me to smash a blender in somebody’s face if that’s going to end the fight? Sure. I’ll go, right now. It’s done.” I think he’s bringing that sensibility to Hydra. It’s about the results and not how flashy you can do it.
Ward recruited Werner von Strucker into the fold a few episodes back. What does he want with the Hydra legacy, and how would you describe that dynamic?
Ward sees every angle, so what you are seeing on screen is one of a million different possible outcomes. Any time you have someone from that same bloodline, that’s a charged situation. Werner has been given a task. Ward wants this particular person to prove himself, just like everybody else on the Hydra team at the moment.
Again, going back to Ward’s vision for Hydra, this is a team where you have to earn your place. Just because your dad was a famous player in the game, it doesn’t mean you necessarily deserve a spot on the team. There are tasks that I have set out for him to prove himself on. But, if he doesn’t, he’s also valuable in the sense he’s part of this bloodline. There could be some other angles in there as well.
In an attempt to infiltrate Hydra, Hunter and May almost got the drop on Ward. What was fun about doing that shootout as opposed to duking it out?
Well, I’ll tell you which one is easier to film. It’s a lot easier to pull a trigger than it is to learn all the fight choreography!
That whole thing was a lot of fun. They almost got the drop on Ward, and Hunter gets his cool slow-motion shot. I was very jealous of that, with the machine gun. Who doesn’t want that?
It was a blast to film. We shot at this warehouse. We were using real guns, but they had blank ammunition. It sounds like you are in a gun battle while you are filming this stuff. It’s cool.
After this assault, what’s Ward’s game plan? Where is his headspace?
Clearly, S.H.I.E.L.D. is angry and trying to kill me, so, in some ways I’m doing something right. The bad thing is, there is a weak link in the chain, and I don’t think Ward appreciates that very much. Somehow, S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to get to Ward, so this team that he has built up might have a weak link it in. I think he’s a little angry about that.
An angry Ward is deadly.
Yes, and an angry, bearded Ward — watch out!
Ward has gone one-on-one with May and Bobbi. Hunter wants blood. Coulson leads S.H.I.E.L.D. Who do you consider Ward’s biggest target?
Ward is going straight to the top with his vendetta. Coulson probably has somewhat of a bullseye on his back. It’s an interesting scenario, because it’s a perfect, classic villain/hero sort of dynamic. I don’t even consider Ward a villain. He’s more of an anti-hero. Still, on this classic archetype setup, they are both incredibly similar. But one person is working for an organization and justifying it in one way. Another person is working for an organization and justifying it another way. You can label one good or bad, but, at the end of the day, both are calling themselves “director.”
Both are responsible for innocent lives that have been lost, and both have blood on their hands. Both are “by any means necessary” kind of leaders, so you have two people who are quite similar, going about things in completely opposite ways. There’s this kind of friction/respect/love/hate thing going on there. It’s not just, “This is a bug I need to squash.” This is somebody who I actually respect, in a strange way. I don’t want to see him lead S.H.I.E.L.D., but there’s a very complicated relationship in there.
What else can you preview about Ward’s next appearance and his intentions?
I know a bit. This is the one time the writers have told me something other than what is happening immediately in the next episode. You get to see more of Ward, and what I mean isn’t just more screen time. There are moments in here that I am surprised by, that the writers have added into the script. There are these little moments that are revealing.
It’s interesting to see these sides of Ward that have not been explored up until now. Some are kind of funny. Some are kind of charming. Some are strangely protective. There are these little bits of humanity that are even surprising to me. Obviously, I’m going to be on Ward’s side because I am playing the guy, but it’s pretty obvious there’s definitely a hurt boy inside of Ward, and also a real human being inside all those bad deeds.
Is there any more insane action viewers can look forward to?
Oh, of course. If this season is any indication so far, these episodes could be season finales. There’s so much going on. It’s scary, because we have to film these things in an eight-day schedule. We just get bigger and better.