Clark Gregg has been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning. In his original appearances as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson in films like "Iron Man" and "Thor," he was a human -- albeit highly trained and capable -- character reacting to a world where superpowered individuals were steadily introduced to the MCU.
As these things tend to happen, life got more complicated for Coulson -- he died, came back, became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and lost a hand. And the slow trickle of superpowered beings looks to ramp up in a big way on the third season of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which debuts on ABC next Tuesday with new episode "Laws of Nature." As a result of Terrigen Crystals falling into the ocean at the end of the second season finale, it appears that many dormant Inhumans will surface in upcoming episodes -- it's already known that Matt Willig will play the monstrous Lash -- further filling Marvel's live-action landscape with those exhibiting extraordinary abilities.
CBR News spoke with Gregg one-on-one on Wednesday at a red carpet premiere event in Los Angeles for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season three, discussing the new challenges ahead for Coulson, and the excitement Gregg, as a longtime comic book fan himself, has for seeing concepts like the Inhumans make their live-action debut on the show.
CBR News: Clark, last season, almost as soon as Coulson became director of S.H.I.E.L.D., this upstart group claiming to be the "real S.H.I.E.L.D." popped up.
Clark Gregg: Yeah, "S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0"! Those bastards.
Going into season three, are we going to see Coulson settle more into the role, as the unquestioned leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
I don't know. It's a really good question. But one thing I know after doing two full seasons of this, I really thought the main thing I was going to be dealing with last year was Hydra, and the fact that Coulson was carving stuff late at night because of his alien blood -- I didn't see a shadow S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to take him out coming. So far he's dealing with Inhumans; on his team, and out in the world. And the fact that he's got one less hand than he started last season with. I have no idea what else is coming his way.
I hope that for the moment, S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is a fairly cohesive unit -- although one of the things you discover right away is that there's another super-secret organization out there hunting down Inhumans, led by the amazing Constance Zimmer, and it's hard to tell if they're good or bad, right out of the gate. It's a complicated job.
In season two, the show had even more "comic book-y" elements like Inhumans popping up, and already in season three we know there are Inhumans like Lash, who are very Inhuman-looking. "S.H.I.E.L.D." has been connected to the larger Marvel world since the beginning --
50th anniversary last week!
Yes! And now that the show seems to be dealing with these types of things in an even more direct way, how much fun is that for you as a comic fan, and someone that's been a part of the Marvel movies since the beginning, to see more of these fantastical elements play into the show?
I love watching what [Marvel Studios] is doing with all the movies that are coming up -- when they announced that we were going to get Black Panther, and all these titles I loved as a kid, I was really psyched. I also like seeing the way this stuff is done on the screen, whether it's on TV or on the movies. It's always a little different. I love watching the stuff that's going on on Netflix; I'm thrilled with "Daredevil." I loved it. Charlie Cox is amazing. And I can't wait to see "Jessica Jones." I can't wait to see "Luke Cage." All the different parts of it. I like the way it crosses over.
I love that we've got some of the first representation of Inhumans. I can't wait to see what else we have, because I know there's more.
As the person that's been at the center of this show since the beginning, clearly it's evolved in multiple ways -- what have you liked about the way the shown has grown over the first two seasons?
Everything has stepped up. I like the way [Coulson has] built a team. I like the way they reinvent the show every year. At the end of season 1, there was no S.H.I.E.L.D. At the end of last season, Inhumans were very much what was going on; we were moving into Secret Warriors. I love the way the tone of the show, visually, and every other way, has gotten a little bit darker and more noir, and more like the comic books -- or the graphic novels, really. I like the bigger cast. We have an incredible ensemble. I love the way the writers are writing. It's really a hard job, they're writing for a lot of people at once, and making all these characters grow.
When we came back last season, everyone was so worried about Fitz. That meant a lot to me; the new characters that are being introduced. People aren't like, "When's Tony Stark going to show up?" They're more concerned about where Simmons is, now.
The third season premiere of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29 on ABC.