Not everything is as it seems on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” In order to escape an army of LMDs, Daisy and Jemma hacked into Aida’s Framework, a virtual reality ruled by Hydra. Here, in this chaotic and confusing cyber-universe, the bad guys won; yes, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are the Agents of Hydra.
As shocking as all this was to Daisy, the biggest bombshell came when she discovered Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was alive and well in the pseudo-reality. Even more traumatic, it turns out the pair are lovers, working for Hydra, together.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, “What If,” Dalton spoke with CBR about Ward’s return, Hydra’s new world order and his dream action sequence.
CBR: As far as you were concerned, once Hive was blown up in space, did that conclude your time on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Or did the producers indicate you could somehow be back for more?
Brett Dalton: As far as I knew, that was the end of my time on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” There’s always that open-door policy, but they’ve had that open-door policy for every one of our fallen agents -- and it’s never quite come true. Deathlok, for instance. He never really died, but his storyline wasn’t picked up. The same with B.J. Britt; he died, and he was a fan favorite. There was always a hint of, “Well, you never know.” I’ve heard the line before, so I was like, “Sure, somewhere down the line. In comic books, no one ever really dies, but this may be something I am never going to see. Maybe in Season 5, I will be coming back.” So there was always a small hint, but I wasn’t sure it was actually going to play out.
When I got the call, it was very exciting news. However, I was working on my winter body and I didn't know I had to don the jacket again. Honestly, scene one, day one, it was a shirtless scene. I had so many Christmas cookies, it was sheer panic. I basically starved myself and holed myself up in the gym for 10 days.
In terms of storytelling and Grant Ward, what does this Framework curveball allow the writers to explore?
At the end of the day, it’s their chance to hit the reset button on everyone’s storyline. It’s a cool opportunity to be part of it because I wasn’t ready to give up Grant Ward. Hive was OK. That was fun to get the chance to play another character within a network TV show, where I was already playing a character. It was a very cool opportunity for an actor. But, as a person and someone who also watches the show, I really liked Grant Ward’s storyline and wanted to see it continue.
What is so cool is, it’s like in the comic books where you have this alternate universe. It’s kind of Coulson, but it’s also not Coulson. He seems to be a teacher now and not affiliated with any spy organization. It’s kind of May – actually, it’s pretty close. She’s in a Hydra building instead of a S.H.I.E.L.D. building. Mack picking up a child’s bike – you see with all these people that they are those characters, but it’s a “What If” episode. It’s so cool because it’s a chance to explore all the fan theories and fan fiction. This is the place where all those things could be a possibility and for it to exist within the context of our show.
Paint a picture of the Framework and Hydra’s presence in it.
That speaks to a larger point about this new reality. Hydra won. We’re doing what that show “The Man in the High Castle” is doing. It’s an alternative history that affects the present and the future. It explores that idea of, Hydra won and it's normal to see Hydra propaganda or Hydra-sponsored TV and news networks. It doesn’t have the stink on it anymore. For better or for worse, it’s kind of the norm.
One of Hydra’s posters hypes “Vigilance Against Inhumans. Safety for Humanity.” In what ways does Daisy/Skye’s super-human bloodline cause conflict with Ward in this reality?
It’s all a series of “who knows what and when?” That’s where the conflict really lies. You are right; the camera does zoom in on Skye and Ward seemingly in a happy relationship. But does Ward know her Inhuman status? Does Skye know her Inhuman status, because she’s waking up in this reality? Does that Skye, who woke up yesterday, know she is an Inhuman? All of those things are coming into play. That’s the real drama. As an organization, Hydra is against the Inhumans. Whether Ward knows – or is okay with it – these are all question marks. The answer to all of them is, “Maybe.”
Ward always gets into at least one major physical altercation per season. What can viewers expect to see in terms of action?
That is a good question. I will say this: I get to do something that I’ve been asking the producers to do for four years, and they finally gave it to me. You'll get to see that when we come back in that first episode that brings us back into this world.
How many episodes are you slated for?
I’m in the Framework, so any, or every time they're in the Framework, I’ll be there as well.
How much contact does Ward have with his other former teammates besides Daisy?
There’s a lot of interaction. What this does is, it’s a chance to interact in probably the most interesting ways. As I said, it’s kind of like hitting the reset button. I’ve shared scenes with people I would never have shared scenes with if Ward was still alive in the real world. It’s really cool. The other question is whether people in the Framework know they are in the Framework. It’s like we're in the Matrix. Who has taken the red pill, and who has taken the blue pill? And knowing something doesn’t mean you believe it, either. That’s another interesting thing that plays out.
After being absent for the first half of Season 4, what’s it like returning to set and having the team back together?
It was fantastic. When they called me, it was like, “You had me at hello.” I love being on set, whatever particular story we are telling that week. I love the family we have there, and I think it translates. We have some rich chemistry that we get for free because of that. We still hang out. Here we are in the fourth season, hopefully, fingers crossed, a fifth season, and we’re all still super-good friends. We’re all really excited when we get to work together, and are still patting each other on the back. “That was great. That was the best take.” We're still encouraging each other and keeping the ball in the air. And we’re a well-oiled machine at this point.
It’s great, too, because I’ve had a bit of a break. I’m coming in at this great time. In Season 1, 2 and 3, you would come back after a restful break and be like, “Oh, my God. We still have so much to shoot.” I got to come in with, “Hey guys. How are you doing?” It was this puppy energy. Hopefully, I injected a little energy into everything. It was just so fun to be back on set.