INTERVIEW: O'Mara Promises Big Reveals About Agents of SHIELD's Patriot

Exactly what form does Jeffrey Mace’s Patriot-ism take? “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” star Jason O’Mara knows -- and, like his on-screen alter ego, he also knows how to keep a secret.

Mace has been an enigmatic figure since stepping into the role of SHIELD’s Director at the beginning of the fourth season: his official backstory says he’s a patriotic man of action whose newly acquired Inhuman powers made him the top choice to head the agency in the wake of the paranoia and fear that followed the public revelation of the Terrigen-altered race.

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But as the show delves deeper into the “LMD” storyline, more details about Mace – thus far agenda-protecting yet seemingly empathetic with his agents – are about to be unveiled, and in a chat with CBR, O’Mara hints at the revelations ahead.

CBR: What has been the fun for you of working in the Marvel world? You know the comic book fandom world very well from voicing the animated Batman, but to step into the Marvel side of it, what was the fun and the surprises that you found there?

Jason O’Mara: Initially, I just thought that the character was so interesting and so kind of weird, I just had a ball playing the character. Watching how he interacts with the rest of the team, and how they react to him was very enjoyable, especially at first.

Obviously, we’re ten or 11 episodes into it now, and dynamics are changing and growing, and aspects of his character and how he got there are coming into question. So we’re getting deeper into that storyline. But to play this guy who seems completely on top of everything, but at the same time, some members of the team, especially Simmons, are wondering how honest he’s being with what he’s saying about himself. These are all things, his being Inhuman and his powers, and his appointment as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., all of this stuff is going to come into question.

You used the word “weird,” and I think that’s a great adjective for him, because that’s how I felt about him – and I mean that in a good way. He just brings such a weird quality.

You don’t know whether to trust him. Like, one scene you go, “He seems all right.” The next scene you go, “Wait a second, this guy is like a snake oil salesman. What’s going on here?” So that’s been really fun. Also, there’s this whole other element I can’t talk about it, but Jeffrey Mace we know from the comic books is also The Patriot. So I can’t talk about any of that, except just to say that.

There’s a little movement toward more of that revelation. How much did you know about what was ahead for him when you took the job? Did they give you a deep well of information?

Initially, I thought they told me quite a bit, but they really didn’t, because most of what they pitched to me was revealed in the first episode. I thought they were going to string out the fact that they’d discover that he’s Inhuman for episodes, but he ends up saying it pretty much in the first episode and then reveals it publicly about three episodes later, four episodes later. He says it on the air in a debate with Nadir and George Stephanopoulos.

That was established really quickly, but how he got his powers and his whole backstory is going to be a major part in the next batch of episodes, along with the LMD stuff and all of that. Also how he legitimizes Daisy and is part of that, is going to be revealed as well, so there’s lots to look forward to there.

By the way, when you asked about what’s the best part of being in this world, for me, it’s being a part of this ensemble. It is an incredibly talented group of actors who are a lot of fun to work with. Sometimes you go on shows who have been on for a few years, and everybody is jaded, and tired, and wants to be moving on to something else, but not here. Everyone’s really passionate about the genre. It’s one of the reasons why the show is so successful. There is a real sense here of enthusiasm, of dedication to the work. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very professional, and everybody works really hard to try to both ground the show in reality, and give it this other dimension.

I think that’s why a lot of the scenes work in terms of the characters interacting, and what have you. Marvel is on the record as saying that the superhero’s power should be the least interesting thing about that character. I think the characters live and breathe on this show. I think who they are and how they interact is why people watch, but then you also get this other dimension of superheroes and fights.

The fight scenes on the show are incredible. The fight team and choreographers work so hard to be able to do this on a TV schedule. So I think that combination of action and excitement on top of how the characters are written and how they interact is incredible to be a part of. I’m just having a ball.

Would you like to have the chance to get into the costume, something similar to what we see in the comic books, the patriot, and that B-list Captain America-style patriotic uniform that he has? Would you love to be able to do that?

How dare you say B-list? How dare you? [Laughs] Of course. Listen, that would be amazing, but we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Clark Gregg told me that you get to share some scenes, not only with him, but with Adrian Pasdar as Talbot. He likened it to a “Three Stooges” relationship. What was fun about getting those characters together?

That’s well put, actually. I love that. First of all, just playing a scene with Adrian and Clark is fun because they’re so experienced and so talented. I guess we’ve all be around the block, and so it’s just a really fun thing to be able to interact with them.

While we’re playing these characters, three different headstrong alpha male guys who all have their own agenda, trying to negotiate three ways is really interesting. Sometimes when three guys like that get together, it’s the one who is the dumbest, but also the most headstrong, is the one that wins. It’s just a really interesting negotiation. Each one of those characters is weird in his own way, and have their own quirks. You throw them together and it’s just really strange the way they are trying to sound one another out.

Each one of them has their own agenda. So you never can tell who is going to side with who. Sometimes, I’m siding with Talbot. Sometimes, I’m siding with Coulson. You just never know. They’re never going to see eye to eye, Coulson and Talbot, historically, but maybe they will this time, who knows? But that part of it has been really fun. We’ve only just been getting into that. There should be more to look forward to, I hope.

Does Mace get close to anybody else as the story moves forward? Does he have a bond with anybody on the team that’s deeper than just “boss?”

I think strictly with Simmons, because he’s asked Simmons to do an awful lot for him, maybe more than he should have. But the thing that surprises me most, and I don’t think Fitz is every going to trust him, I don’t think Agent May is going to ever, really, and he and May don’t have that much interaction. Mace and May, maybe it’s because their names are too alike, but they don’t have a huge amount of interaction. But how Coulson and Mace work with each other is going to be very important. That relationship is going to change in a fairly profound way.

What’s most interesting to me is the relationship between Mace and Daisy, because that, to me, was something I never really thought of when I signed up for it and started to play the early episodes. She was off with Robbie Reyes in her own world, and I was very much ensconced and involved in my world. I never really thought the two would meet. Obviously, now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is above-board, and legitimate, and a public agency, he had to rein Daisy in. She was off robbing banks. Obviously, Robbie Reyes is now a fugitive, and a murderer, and a terrorist who needs to be incarcerated and brought under heel. Daisy and Robbie have this bond.

So how Mace is going to overcome that and still be able to try to connect with Daisy is going to be something that is explored, but it definitely happens in the most unexpected way. Or at least, I found it quite a surprise, and a good one.

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