Clark Gregg thought his Marvel movie character, Agent Phil Coulson, was dead. It certainly seemed that way after Coulson was tragically killed in battle in the “The Avengers” movie, prompting the titular characters to unite to save New York City from complete destruction. Joss Whedon, the “Avengers” writer/director and executive producer of the new ABC series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” thought so too.
“It was really clear that I was dead. I had a great run,” Gregg recalls thinking after filming his death scene. But as anyone with Level 7 clearance in S.H.I.E.L.D. — that would be the Marvel universe’s government agency tasked with protecting regular humans from the superhero-level problems they unknowingly face on a regular bases — would know, Coulson lives.
Gregg’s character started as a two-scene favor to his neighbor, Jon Favreau, who was directing the first “Iron Man” installment. But his popularity grew so immensely that Marvel’s new live-action TV series focuses on Coulson and his team of misfits that band together to fight evil forces (of the science, alien and any other variety you can think of). That’s possibly because Coulson truly is the audience’s surrogate in this crazy universe. “He’s a geek. He’s a fanboy,” Gregg says. “He’s the nerd avatar in this world who grew up reading this stuff and absolutely believes in the heroic stuff. It’s such a complex dynamic with the guy who is almost bored with this stuff.”
But good luck trying to get any details on the new show. From the aura of secrecy around the entire project, there’s a good chance Marvel has its own agents tasked with protecting anything content-related from leaking out. But here are a few (very minuscule) tidbits about the series:
“I thought after the pilot the next episode would probably be us stuck in an elevator because they’ve spent all the money and instead the second one, if anything, is bigger and more exciting,” says Gregg. “I probably shouldn’t have said that. I’m so sorry.”
Executive producer Jed Whedon says of the plot (in the vaguest of terms), “There will be a challenge every week, I’ll say. We’re going to try to hit all sorts of different things. And hopefully the characters will be dealing with each other enough so that there’ll be stuff to interweave through these stand-alone episodes. But then it is a Marvel [project], so there’s going to be an overarching mythology and all that stuff will come into play.”
Adds Joss, “Every week it’s not going to be some new hero. There can be a device; there can be a mystery. There are so many aspects to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out that there’s a superhero team and there were aliens that invaded New York, and we want to be able to change it up every week. We want to be able to deal with every aspect — the spy stuff, the hero stuff, the heartfelt stuff.”
The spoiler lockdown will still be in effect for the duration of production, and executive producer Jeph Loeb says it’s because they want the show to become event television. “Really what we’re trying to do with this show is just bring back some of the urgency of television,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be great if we got back to a place where at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night everybody got together and decided to watch ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ so that that social experience is actually one that’s immediate, as opposed to something that’s shared and re-shared and spoiled and then unrevealed?”
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premieres Tuesday, September 24, 8/7c on ABC.