SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Ant-Man," in theaters now.
In the recently released film from Marvel Studios, Donovan plays the enigmatic Mitchell Carson, first seen as a member of the '80s-era S.H.I.E.L.D. brain trust -- high-ranking enough to sit on a council alongside founding members Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (John Slattery) when Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) confronts them -- and revealed a quarter of a century later to be an agent of Hydra seeking to purchase Pym's shrinking technology from the film's villain, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
The character's name is derived from a much-lower-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. operative from Marvel Comics canon, the originally designated wearer of a new Ant-Man suit before it was stolen by the morally questionable Eric O'Grady, promoting Carson to become O'Grady's biggest rival and eventually revealing him as a psychotic who'd murdered his own father.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Carson appears to be older, more sophisticated and more far-reaching in his malevolent aims than his comics counterpart, and it appears that audiences -- and Ant-Man -- may not have seen the last of him, as Comic Book Resources learned from Donovan himself -- a veteran character actor with decades of credits, most notably "The Dead Zone" TV series, "Ghost Whisperer," "Boss" and several films from director Hal Hartley -- as he filled in the backstory of how the role came to him.
CBR News: Carson's an intriguing character. Did Marvel give you a sense that he's more important to the overall universe?
Martin Donovan: I'm supposed to be vague! I've been told to be vague! But vaguely: he's in the Marvel Universe, and we'll see.
What's been interesting for you to become part of this groundbreaking form of entertainment, with its expanded universe and high production values?
It was incredible because I've been doing this for a long time, and my background is small films and television. I've done a few, borderline sort of studio films, but I've never been in anything anywhere near this. So it was a pretty remarkable call to get. But I have to say, that it was driven by Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd, who I know and have worked with years before, and Peyton knowing my work from the independent films I'd done years ago.
I worked with a filmmaker named Hal Hartley, and Peyton's a huge fan of those films. So that was one of the first things he said to me. He said, "I loved you in the Hal Hartley films." It was that kind of, you know, when someone's paying attention to your work from a long time ago, and they want you to be in their film, there's nothing better than that.
What was cool about seeing the scale of this project?
I mean, some of the sets was just -- a single set cost more than the entire budget of a lot of the films I've done. [Laughs] So it's just extraordinary. And then you see when they have the budget, how creative and how incredibly talented people are. I mean, there's so much talent out there. These designers, these technicians, the art department, the sets, the wardrobe, everything about it, you realize there's just -- I mean, it's just exciting to be around such creative people, such talented people. It's great.
We see him in two different time periods. Tell me about working with the de-aging techniques they used for the '80s sequences.
Well, it was makeup and I haven't seen the final result, but I'm told that it looks pretty amazing, and I'm sure they did all this other stuff to make it even more amazing. But even the makeup was really well done, so whatever they did on top of that [with technology] I'm sure it's going to look amazing. I had a couple of hours in the chair every morning, every day, but it was all good. It was fun. Fun to do both.
What were the things that you found cool or interesting about your character, Carson?
He's kind of a stealth character. He's kind of in the background. He kind of moves around in the shadows, and I always kind of liked that aspect.
"Ant-Man" is in theaters now.