Television is experiencing a renaissance. A-list talent are joining forces with top writing teams to create compelling stories with complex narrative arcs and in-depth character development. Nowhere is that more prescient than with Marvel television series, where each new show reflects a different corner of the Marvel Universe and a different style of creating it. From those shows delivered by digital streaming services (Netflix's The Punisher and Jessica Jones) to those found on network TV (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), they are an opportunity for all parties involved to really stretch their creative chops. What could be better than joining the Marvel Universe? With its (albeit somewhat loose) connection to the MCU, it lets actors be a part of a great cinematic world-building machine. And with so much content offered on television in the form of superhero shows, there's no limit to the storytelling potential. It's why for some actors, there's no better day than getting that call to join the cast of the next Marvel adventure.
However, the business side of living the dream often rears its ugly head. Industry standards, licensing issues, creative differences, and personal grudges can all cause the key players in your favorite show to become disgruntled or even regretful of picking up the phone. Many of them pass over other opportunities to join a Marvel series, hoping that the experience meets their expectations. Here are 10 Actors Who Regretted Being On Shows (And 10 Who Adored It).
20 REGRETTED IT: FINN JONES (IRON FIST)
A lot of people were excited that a Game of Thrones alum would star in Iron Fist, Netflix’s latest Marvel series hot off the heels of successes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. But when some fans realized it was Finn Jones, they were less than enthusiastic. He looked like Iron Fist/Danny Rand, but they were hoping the role would be given to a foreign actor, citing that the character in the comic was a prejudiced trope that now had the opportunity to be changed.
Finn Jones argued extensively with Asian viewers on Twitter (subsequently quitting the platform altogether), frequently saying the reverse-prejudice against him was unfair, and struggled to meet the demands of his audience. Iron Fist lasted one season before it was canceled.
19 ADORED IT: OLIVIA HOLT (CLOAK & DAGGER)
As one half of the superhero team Cloak & Dagger, Olivia Holt has shown tremendous energy when portraying Tandy Bowen, the teen who can shoot light bolts from her fingertips. Together with Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), who controls the powers of darkness, they are a team that works better together than apart when they combined their abilities.
She didn’t know a lot about the character when she received the role, but she expressed in an interview with Collider just how much she’s absorbed through season one. She said it’s exhilarating to explore a world where the healing powers of loyalty and love are favored over violence amidst great personal tragedy.
18 REGRETTED IT: CHLOE BENNET (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
As Marvel’s longest running television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a workhorse, and it has experienced difficulty for it. It had to be consistent with the narrative material of the MCU while also being tethered to it, sacrificing creativity and cohesion along the way. But its tenacity has paid off, and it will begin its sixth season in 2019.
Part of the problem with the show being the most salient tie-in to the MCU was that when it no longer happened, actors like Chloe Bennet felt like their hard work was for nothing. She was very vocal about her displeasure regarding the fact that the show didn’t seem to matter to Marvel Studios after Captain America: Civil War.
17 ADORED IT: VINCENT D’ONOFRIO (DAREDEVIL)
Delivering arguably one of the best performances in a Marvel project so far as Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk, Vincent D’Onofrio has spooked fans as the infamous crime lord for three seasons of Daredevil. He has received wide acclaim for his ability to imbue Fisk with an almost sympathetic quality due to his difficult childhood, but not at the expense of his menace.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the veteran actor elaborated on how he shaped what could have been a thuggish brute into a sensitive, albeit violent, villain, and why the role of a Marvel foe is so much fun to play.
16 REGRETTED IT: MIKE COLTER (LUKE CAGE)
Next to Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage was the next most popular Marvel series produced by Netflix. Combining exciting action sequences with social commentary, it didn’t shy from showing the struggles of an African American man who has superhuman strength, but no way to release his pent-up emotions. It explored adult themes like abandonment, loss, and the cycle of abuse a family can go through.
Mike Colter, who starred as Luke Cage, only had one regret about the series: it often left him with little time for his 3-year-old daughter, Naiella, who had grown up with him playing Luke Cage her whole life. Now that it’s been canceled after season two, he is looking forward to spending time with baby number two, who was born recently.
15 ADORED IT: KRYSTEN RITTER (JESSICA JONES)
It takes a lot of emotional and physical fortitude to play a character like Jessica Jones; a down-on-her-luck private investigator with few friends, a troubled past, and strange superpowers she doesn’t know what to do with. But Krysten Ritter rose to the challenge in two seasons of Netflix’s Jessica Jones, the third of which airs in 2019.
Krysten Ritter has been very vocal about how much she loves playing the character, especially given the depth of material from the often graphic comics she uses as source material. An interview on NPR reveals just how invested she is to the character and the series, being particularly proud of the fact that season two was entirely directed by women.
14 REGRETTED IT: FORBES MARCH (MUTANT X)
When the X-Men film franchise first began at the dawn of the millennium, initial reviews were favorable and the fan fever was palpable. Carrying it over to a televised format seemed a logical step, except that due to the rights between Marvel Entertainment and the rights to the X-Men that Fox had, the developed series called Mutant X had zero to do with any recognizable mutants from the film.
It might as well have been called “Superheroes and Guy,” about a rogue geneticist and his four gifted experiments/children/friends. One one of these “mutants” (that couldn’t be referred to as such due to licensing agreements), Forbes March, thought the series may have weakened his acting career.
13 ADORED IT: CHARLIE COX (DAREDEVIL)
The star of one of Marvel’s most successful television series, if not the one that “started it all” in creating a wave of cinematic superhero shows, Charlie Cox has made Daredevil a template against what all other series are measured for. It aired its third and final season in October of 2018.
Known for his engaging banter at Comic-Cons, as well as his overall enthusiasm for them, a recent 60-minute in-depth interview with Collider featured Cox where he discusses the importance of “visibility” when it comes to playing a person who’s visually impaired, but still fully functioning, and has two successful identities: one as a lawyer, and one as a superhero.
12 REGRETTED IT: MUSTAFA SHAKIR (LUKE CAGE)
Though it was a hard-hitting blow to the cast and crew of Netflix’s Luke Cage when news broke of the series being canceled after only two seasons, most received it graciously. One notable exception was Mustafa Shakir, who played the main nemesis of Luke Cage in season two: Bushmaster. Shakir expected to return as Bushmaster for season three, having recovered from his attack on Luke Cage and becoming more powerful than ever after harnessing the Nightshade.
Shakir took to Twitter to voice his displeasure over the series being canceled, where he’d also fallen under fire during season two for his accent, which certain audience members felt was condescending to actual Jamaicans.
11 ADORED IT: HAYLEY ATWELL (AGENT CARTER)
Captain America: The First Avenger seemed like a slightly unlikely success given its anachronistic setting, but it was well-received and it introduced audiences to a time period far removed from the dazzling modern tech of the first Iron Man. It also introduced Peggy Carter, one of the first “agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” long before Phil Coulson and Nick Fury were around.
Her character was so popular that she was greenlit for her own series. Hayley Atwell spoke at length, while the series aired, about what a positive experience it was to be a strong role model for women and not just be considered “Captain America’s girlfriend.”
10 REGRETTED IT: NICHOLAS HAMMOND (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN)
The Amazing Spider-Man series was the first to show Spider-Man in a speaking role (he didn't talk as part of the then Electric Light Company), and the first to show him as Peter Parker, a grad student that gets bitten by a radioactive spider. Not even its creator, Stan Lee, could get excited about it as he found it juvenile and too dissimilar to his comic.
Nicholas Hammond didn't dislike the show as much as Lee himself, but he wanted to do a realistic portrayal of Spider-Man, where his moral dilemmas are explored, not something campy like the ‘60s-era Adam West Batman. CBS executives were only interested in keeping the “realism” to the sets and the bad guys, who were real criminals and not supervillains to keep costs down.
9 ADORED IT: CLARK GREGG (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
One of the unexpected heroes of the Marvel Universe happens to be a G-Man with no superpowers. Fans inexplicably came to bond with Agent Phil Coulson following the first Iron Man and right up until his demise in The Avengers, when he was brought back to life with a special serum and given his own team of agents to lead.
In an interview with Screen Rant, actor Clark Gregg discussed what it was like to play a character that so many people identify with, his trajectory over the past decade both on television and in the MCU, and his excitement over being allowed to direct episodes in season five. He will return again in Captain Marvel coming in 2019
8 REGRETTED IT: BILL BIXBY (THE INCREDIBLE HULK)
The Incredible Hulk, which aired from 1978-1982, remains one of Marvel’s most popular series of all time. It starred Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk and Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner. To maintain the illusion that they were still the same person, Bixby never appeared in promotional material beside Ferrigno.
The executives at CBS wanted to introduce numerous sci-fi elements as the series went on, with Bixby fighting to keep it a dramatic program. The only things he regretted about taking on the venture was that he had to force people to believe it was a serious, dramatic series, and that the shooting schedule was enduring.
7 ADORED IT: JON BERNTHAL (THE PUNISHER)
Appearing in season two of Daredevil, Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle (a.k.a The Punisher) threatened to steal the show right out from under its leads. A charismatic vigilante seeking violent revenge for the demise of his family in a mob hit, it was soon apparent he would need his own series.
Jon Bernthal has stated in interviews that one of the best things about playing The Punisher is the response he gets from veterans who identify with the plight of his character. He isn’t a villain, but tragic circumstances have shaped his mindset into believing that violence and force are always the answer. He is also proud to show the difficulties of a soldier integrating into civilian life once the conflict is over.
6 REGRETTED IT: ANSON MOUNT (INHUMANS)
The recently canceled Inhumans series received a hefty amount of vitriol before it even finished its season, which was several episodes shorter than other Marvel series, and partially due to the fact that its first two episodes were shown on IMAX screens in theaters.
The cast received a lot of criticism for their wooden acting, and of all the Marvel series, Inhumans looked cheap and shabby. Anson Mount was forced to explain the reasons for the look of the series and complained that if people would just judge it on its own merit, they would like it... They did not.
5 ADORED IT: IWAN RHEON (INHUMANS)
While Iwan Rheon will perhaps be forever linked to Ramsay Bolton, the ruthless character he played on Game of Thrones, he is a versatile actor that fully commits to any role he plays. In the short-lived Marvel series Inhumans, he played Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, part of the Royal Family of Attilan.
In an interview with Collider, he explained how exciting it was to be involved with a project where the typical superhero genre was turned on its head; the Inhumans aren’t going to save humanity, nor will they be fighting supervillains because they simply want to hide from everyone. He said exploring the feelings of isolation (they live on the Moon!), and feeling resentful (he has no powers) was what intrigued him the most.
4 REGRETTED IT: JIM CUMMINGS (SAVAGE DRAGON)
From 1995 to 1996, Savage Dragon was an animated series that aired on the USA Network. It was based on a giant mutant dragon man (think The Hulk with a fin on his head) who had amnesia and had no idea why he was found passed out in a street in New York. However, he soon realizes he must help the NYPD with their more bizarre cases given his natural superhuman powers.
While the series was somewhat popular, and Jim Cummings became well known for the part, he had been a voice actor for some time, and he disliked that the series made him recognizable for Savage Dragon and not his other body of work.
3 ADORED IT: DAN STEVENS (LEGION)
Legion has come to be known as one of the most abstract of the Marvel television series, with its mind-altering plot points and intriguing examinations in the field of mental health. Much of it takes place in a mental ward, where a schizophrenic man with incredible powers may just be the son of the famous Professor Charles Xavier.
Dan Stevens, who plays the lead character David Haller/Legion, has admitted to not always knowing the direction the series will take, but he certainly enjoys the boundaries that it pushes; whether in the superhero genre or just television storytelling in general. Playing an incredibly complex character like David has also freed him from some of the trappings of a stereotypical hero figure.
2 REGRETTED IT: DICK DUROCK (SWAMP THING)
With the news of a new series involving Swamp Thing coming in 2019, it's only fair to talk about the 1990 version, which lasted three years and starred stuntman Dick Durock as the Swamp Thing. He protected his local town and swamp, but as the series progressed, he became less integral to the plot and more like an observer.
Durock is the first to say he wasn't a highly skilled actor, but the suit and makeup took three hours to apply and he would film 18-hour days during inhospitable heat waves in Louisiana, so the lack of “creature comforts” would get to him on the set.
1 ADORED IT: AUBREY JOSEPH (CLOAK AND DAGGER)
Like his co-star Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph wasn’t told much about the role of Tyrone Johnson when he auditioned for Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger. A shy, angry youth, Tyrone would connect with Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) on the streets of New Orleans after they’d both experienced personal tragedy. They would also discover they each have unique powers that benefit from them working together.
In an interview with Vulture, Joseph said the happiest moment of his life was getting the call that he got the part and being told “Welcome to Marvel.” He went on to explain that exploring dark themes that are personal to teens, but in positive ways, could make a huge impact on young viewers.