Have you ever wondered if the stars of a TV show actually like working together? If they have fun? Well…I’m pretty sure you can tell from our visit with Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg that they’re really having a great time making Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As we were settling into our seats, someone asked if they had seen Age of Ultron yet.
Clark: Oh, man, what are you doing?
Ming: I’m taking pictures of the bloggers.
Clark: Oh, ohhhh.
Ming: Let them be in front of the camera.
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 11, 2015
She tweeted a picture of us? How cool is that?
[bctt tweet=”Hanging out with @MingNa and @ClarkGregg on the #AgentsofSHIELD set! #ABCTVEvent #AvengersEvent”]
But back to that discussion of Avengers…
Clark: You saw Avengers.
Ming: The first movie, yeah.
Clark: I still didn’t even see the part after I got killed in the first one because I was
Ming: Too emotional.
Clark: I was frankly, I was too sad.
Ming: Way too emotional.
Clark: Honest no, haven’t seen it. The lockdown is so secure that I’m really excited because I am gonna get to go see it with my pal here.
Clark: Monday night. But that will be the first that any of us have seen it.
But then they found out we were out the screening the night before and…
Ming: You did not! Okay, well, let us ask you questions then. What happened?
Clark: Okay, be honest. Am I in it?
Ming: Is he in it? Seriously because I keep bugging him that he’s in it. And he’s not telling anybody.
Clark: No one believes me… “It’s like you’re secretly in it, and you’re not telling us.” I’m not!
Ming: It’s so crazy that you’re not in it because it’s…
Clark: I didn’t want to be in it. It’s too scary. I mean I haven’t seen it.
Ming: Ugh, okay. So you weren’t lying. Well, I’m glad.
Clark: How was it? Did you like it?
Ming: I’m glad you weren’t lying though.
Clark: We’re not recording you. Is it great? That Joss, he’s talented.
Ming: Joss who?
Of course we’re on the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so let’s talk Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ammitrite?
How much did they know about their characters in the beginning?
Ming : They gave me the name of my character and that I was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that she left the field for a reason and was that that’s about it. That’s…really, I didn’t get very much. And…
Clark : Even in the pilot though, just from the script. In the pilot, the first scene where we meet you, even though it’s me going to find her, where she’s behind stacks of boxes and paperwork having checked herself out of S.H.I.E.L.D. And we only gradually come to learn that she’s got this reputation…
Ming : As the cavalry.
Clark : As the cavalry and that she’s a legendary warrior who quit and pushed away from the table because of a traumatic experience.
Ming : And I used my thing as an actor…just…I’m quitting. That’s that’s what I draw from.
Clark : Oh, that’s your that’s your thing. A friend of mind gave me a Monopoly card that says get out of show business free. Just when you’ve had enough of the abuse.
Ming : Yeah, that’s right just box yourself in and, uh, do not and, you know
Clark : But it was referenced a number of times. There was little hints of it in different episodes of what had happened. Eventually some pieces got filtered in that is this involved a powered person and, you know, deeply scarring stuff, which I always really liked. It’s where the show kind of veers into something topical, the concept of people who do defend other people militarily, the scars they carry in PTSD. And… but it’s only been little piece meal hints. So we were kind of excited, you know, three days before we started shooting when we found out that this was gonna be the reveal.
Ming: Right because we’ve heard a lot about Bahrain. And, you know, there were always references to it. But the details of it wasn’t really known until the episode. Or maybe a couple of episodes before there were some hints about about that storyline but nothing very specific. You know, so a lot of times for us when we’re acting it’s almost as we’re the audience member because we’re discovering it the way an audience member would discover it watching the show. You know, they don’t tell us anything.
Clark : They tell me some stuff.
Ming : That’s because you’re the director. You’re Coulson.
Which scenes were the most emotional to shoot?
Clark: In Season 1, episode 11-I think it was, I get confused. I think it was called A Magical Place or Tahiti. And it was when Coulson was put in the memory machine by Raina. And the people we did not yet know were Hydra kind of forced [him] to confront the fact that he had been dead, that he’d been through this tremendously excruciating experience. And also that stuff about the cellist and kind of the things he had lost. And that that part of the journey of someone who’d been a kind of no questions asked company man realizing that he, too had been lied to by all kinds of people.
Ming : Mmhmm. I think.
Clark : Like you. That was pretty painful.
Ming : Yeah. Well, you’ve lied to me a lot obviously. Yeah, I think for me it was-there was this episode about this kind of ghostly figure that May had to fight with. And it really brought back her her own personal issues about having to let go. So it had a reference to Bahrain, and I think that particular episode, you know, she was struggling with various things of just not wanting to engage but havingto take care of a situation and allow herself to… yeah, there’s a lot going on over there, isn’t there?
Clark : That’s all right. That’s all right. We’re working on it.
Ming : But, um, and then of course, uh, I think the other scene was, uh, when when Skye was…
Clark : When Skye was shot. It’s the family. This is a show about a family.
Ming : Yeah, that was…. yeah, that was a big one.
Clark : People who don’t get to have real families because they work too hard. I have suspect you know what that’s about. And how they become a family. And at the times when the bonds, the trust is questioned when people are hurt, we lose people on this show. We lost B.J. Britt [Agent Triplett] and most of us are still recovering. You know, even some of the bad guys, we we end up we love them so much off screen. It’s a really fun-this is a really good set. There’s others. This is a really good one. We kind of-we have fun, and we take care of each other. And when we have to say goodbye to people it really is painful. And a lot of times you feel it in the scenes. And it’s just dark around here for a little while. We loved B.J. so much. And he was such a kind of discovery and such a buoyant person. I think we had five different goodbye parties just to keep him coming back around.
Do they do their own stunts?
Ming : It’s a very collaborative effort between our stunt coordinator, a lot of people who do rigging and special effects or wire work, as well as my stunt doubles. I have sometimes two or three depending on their level of skills of what they can do. And it’s always an intense but really fun process. And I learn the entire choreography of every single
fight scene. And the only thing that I don’t do are the more dangerous things where it’s the wire works. And you’re being pulled across a room or you have to smash into a wall.
Clark : She’s pretty remarkable. We both-I think we can divulge this-crossed a number with a five in it. And it’s a huge motivator to stay in… Is that a secret?
Ming : No between the two of us, yeah, a century, right, plus. Wow.
Clark : I guess I wasn’t prepared for that party.
Ming : I know. Doesn’t it sound worse that way? But, yeah.
Clark : We both really love that part of it. She gets to do a bit more of it. But I’m always fighting for a little bit more. It gives us an excuse when you really have worked late the night before and you don’t want to go to the gym. You remember that at any moment you’re gonna be thrown into one of these fights. And you’re gonna not want to have them pull you out because you can’t do it. And we have amazing doubles who really kind of make us look good in the moments where it gets too dangerous. And I mean I’ve seen people doubling me get carted off a couple times this year. It’s for real. And yet they let us kind of work in. They’re really…Matt…
Ming: Matt Mullen, he’s our choreographer and Tanner [Gill].
Clark: Matt Mullen and Eric Norris, they really do an amazing job of kind of tailoring the fights to stuff that I do. They know that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a workout. And every once in a while they’ll let me throw in a move of that because I might have some practice at it.
Ming : Mmhmm, yeah, and I love just watching fight scenesbecause the Chinese movies are all about that. And so whenever we can throw little Easter Eggs in to the fight scenes that kind of give homage to very specific people like Bruce Lee or just any of these like amazing fights that I’ve ever seen. We always try to throw those in too for fun.
How much of their personality goes into their characters?
Ming: Oh! 100%!
Clark: I mean for us it’s hilarious to watch the taciturn and lethal Melinda May and then hang out with the giggly and hilarious super sweet Ming. I mean you don’t want to mess with Ming either.
Ming: Yeah, if I’m hungry.
Clark: But there’s a difference there’s a difference.
Ming: If I’m we all know, right, all the especially the…. (Ming gets interrupted) They need to bruise me!
Clark: Oh, here I can do it right now. I can do it here.
Ming: Ready? Ready? Ready? Go.
Clark: You go bruise. I’ll I’ll take another one or two if you don’t mind.
Ming: That’s funny. That’s funny. Yeah, yeah. So, um, I hope to see you guys again. I just have to go to work now and and be bru it’s a very glamorous job.
Clark : It’s fun that’s funny though ’cause they’re gonna go put her in makeup and get a lot of bruises. But after fight day they’re all real, all up and down her arm.
Ming : Arnica is my friend. So we all know. I’ll talk to you guys again soon. Bye. Have fun, Clark.
Clark: Mother of two. Father of one.
Does Clark ad lib any of his lines?
Clark : I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not a lot of them. I’d love to claim more of them. But
a lot of them are our terrific writers. They really, you know, from the from the get go-Joss in the pilot and these writers… One of the reasons they, I think, brought Coulson back to life is that to their surprise in a superhero movie like the first Avengers and the ones leading up to it, there was something that the audience really connected to in the superhero world, someone who was quite vulnerable, who this was kinda their job. Like, “Oh, God, what does this guy have for a super power?” And [he] got to have some kinda snarky lines. It’s always been something that people really responded to about Coulson. And they give me some great ones. They’ve accepted the fact that at the end of most scenes where that’s appropriate I’m gonna do one extra pass and throw in a couple. “Booya” might’ve been mine.
Will any of the Avengers be stopping by for a visit?
Clark: I’m always happy when those friends come to play. I’ve always felt that Coulson was kind of the crazy uncle of the Avengers. And he never likes to choose favorites. It was very nice when in this episode last year, the 22nd episode, when director Fury showed up and handed me this spectacular cube, which does a lot of grooming things that no one even knows about. When he showed up and made Coulson the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. that was a big day. I love whenever Maria Hill, Cobie Smulders comes to play. We’ve had Lady Sif a couple of times. Robert Downey and Jeremy Renner have been really cool online saying how much they wanted to come play. They’ve been a little busy doing this independent film that you guys saw the other night. At some point I’d love to see all of that. I gotta say, for me, what was really exciting this year was people asking less that question and more, “Dear Lord, how is Fitz? How is his brain? Is he okay?” The way people have kind of-and I really think a lot of this credit goes to the writers and some of these actors-the way people have really kind of been concerned about Skye and Chloe Bennett and fascinated by Mockingbird and this Mack and this S.H.I.E.L.D., too. And having people like the magnificent Edward James Olmos show up. What we’re doing here is getting to bring new stuff, the inhumans into the world. And at some point, I do think the flow will become a little more porous. But I’m glad we’ve gotten room to kind of set up our own thing.
And then Clark Gregg took pictures with us in his office. That’s me. Beside Clark Gregg. In his office. Yeah, that happened. Wow. If there wasn’t a picture I’m pretty sure I’d think I imagined it. So amazingly cool.
[bctt tweet=”A visit to @ClarkGregg’s #AgentsofSHIELD office! #ABCTVEvent #AvengersEvent”]
But wait…there was even more insider access to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We sat down with co-creator & executive producer Jed Whedon and executive producer Jeff Bell, too!
Does the Marvel Cinematic Universe place limitations on what they can do on the show?
Jed: We definitely have free reign, but it does limit us in that we can’t kill Captain America like we plan to each week.
No, you know, obviously there’s guidelines. They have these huge temples and we sort of move between them and there are things that are off limit to us for sure because they have either big plans for them or have already shot stuff that’s gonna use them. But in terms, we don’t feel limited by it. It’s sort of a fun puzzle for us and we get big toys to play with because of it. So it’s sort of a privilege to live in that universe and the fact that when something happens on our show it is canned. It exists, and the fact that we have to be respectful to that… But it’s more of a puzzle for us and we get the privilege of seeing what’s coming down the pipeline and sort of catering our stories to move between it.
Jeff: The only challenge really was when we first launched we knew that Hydra was the big bad guy in Cap 2 and there was one word we were not allowed to say on S.H.I.E.L.D. We called it the H word and so we knew that was coming and we knew we were building to that and we knew we were gonna reward that way and we knew it was gonna blow apart the team but it might have been helpful to have said the H word earlier for big comic fans. They’re going, “Who are these bad guys?” If we said, “Well he works for Hydra, he works for Hydra, she’s with Hydra.” people would have been, “Oh, they’re doing Hydra, that’s cool.” But we couldn’t say that. That was really the only limit. But the upside was it just exploded in our show and having the word turn like that and letting Brett do that and become that, that was awesome. And then it really depends on each movie. Like Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t have much for us to tie in with.
Jed: And you can consider it a limitation to have a film that literally destroys the organization that your show is named after.
Jeff: Because when we first wrote it it’s like episode seventeen, do we still exist? Agents of hmm???
Jed: We took it and saw it as an opportunity and I think that it…us working around that and finding a way to make that, our show came up with some of the best story that we had. It generated things that we never would have thought of and put us in a tight corner that we had to ride our way out.
[bctt tweet=”We can’t kill Capt America like we plan to each week. -@JedWhedon #AgentsofSHIELD #ABCTVEvent #AvengersEvent”]
How did their approach change between seasons one and two?
Jed: I think that the big advantage we have now is that people know the characters. A huge disadvantage for us was that they were original characters…most Marvel properties launch with something that you are familiar with.
Jeff: But no one else.
Jed : Right. That was new for all of Marvel and new for the Marvel fans so I think that initially people reacted to that.
They were saying okay, well I’m not seeing things I know of and this has a big Marvel clip at the top of it. but as time goes on and you get to know the characters you start to become familiar with them and, you know, Sky becoming who she became was more rewarding because you spend a year with her getting to know her and it wasn’t like the first episode, here’s this character you’ve heard of. You had to spend some time with them but I think there was a little barrier to entry because these were new names, new faces.
Jeff: And from our perspective, though, part of that was we’re an ABC network show. We’re not a scifi show. Our mandate was not just to do a show for hardcore Marvel fans. Our show was to try to make, get as many people in as possible, and so it was an opportunity for a lot of people to come in, characters they didn’t know and so if you’re not a big Marvel fan you don’t know that Sky or Ward were not part of that cannon but for the diehards they’re like, “Well, if Mike Peterson isn’t Luke Cage we don’t like him. And then we go, “Oh, but we’re building him to Deathlok.” And you have to be patient to do that because we’re doing 22 episodes. And they were like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
Jed: So our approach hasn’t really changed. It’s just been easier. You know, you don’t have to spend the time. Initially, you have to spend time introducing the characters and now you can just throw them into trouble… They’re making their way into comics. You know, FitzSimmons are now in the comics which, to us, is so fun and it starts to just weave together and who knows where stuff started and where it ends.
Jeff: And you saw an example but what’s happened with Ward. We think Ward has become “you need a good act out, do something with Ward”.
Jed: Ward walks in…
Jeff: Ward walks in. It’s like, “Oh, no this is he gonna kill somebody or kiss them.” I don’t know and I hope he does
both. It’s weird. Is it just me, is it just me?
What’s their writing schedule?
Jeff: We start June first and the writers room broke today and then Jed and Marissa and I will be here until the second week of May finishing the episodes and then for two weeks we go crazy and sleep and then we come back June first should they say, “Hey, let’s do this again.” It’s 22 [episodes]. It’s stupid.
Jed: We’re trying to negotiate that down.
Jeff: It’s too many.
Jed: Let’s do like 20 and by that I mean sixteen.
Jeff: No, it’s funny because, you know, we talk about internally like God, Games of Thrones was great. They did ten episodes. We’re like ten episodes? We’re just like oh, we got, we got 12 to go. We’re already tired.
Jed: Right and we’re usually, you know… so we start on June first and we start prepping six weeks later so we-that’s how much lead time we have so, you know, that buffer …
Jeff: There’s a train track. They say go and you start running down the train track and six weeks later they let a train behind you, all this and you try to stay ahead of that train until, until next week and you’re trying not to get run over by the train.
Jed: Also, you can plan, you can generate all the story you want but there’s always a bump in the road. You know, schedules. There’s a lot of actors. There’s rain. There’s things that you can’t anticipate that when those bumps in the road come you just have to…
Jeff: Evidently every show on TV has a Patton Oswalt at least twice a week. Have you noticed this? And so us trying to get a Canning on this show it’s like getting Elijah. You set a chair, you hope he shows up and that’s it.
Jed: We’re like we’ll come to you with a camera. Just tell us where you are.
[bctt tweet=”Evidently every show on TV has a @pattonoswalt at least twice a week. -Jeff Bell #AgentsofSHIELD”]
Do they have a favorite back story?
Jed: Well we’re happy with [episode “Melinda”].
Jeff: Did you see the Cavalry story? Did you like it? Was that a good answer to the question of what happened and all that?
Jed: I mean we’ve been waiting to tell that story for a while.
Jeff: Because we know last year, but part of it was when do you tell that story and how much of who she is and we wanna earn that story. We didn’t wanna wait too long.
Jed: We kept actually sort of slotting it in as this is a nice place but then as we were introducing the new world that Skye enters we started sort of falling in there and we were like oh, that’s actually …
Jeff: Honestly, one of my favorite moments of the season is when you’re watching. Okay, so this is an inhuman story and then there’s this May flashback story and when you realize no, this one thing happened here and she says it was her daughter and the girl steps in. I still get chills, but I love that moment for us and the fact that those two stories which I think hopefully felt separate came together in a surprising way.
Jed: Yeah, you know …
Jeff: Good job.
Jed: You, too. You know, it’s fun to read people saying when are we gonna hear this story? We’re like we have it in our back pocket going, “That’s a good question, actually.”
Jeff: Well, the other thing we did was at the end of 16 we go we’re gonna get Ward and he shows up in 17 and it’s like, “How about a flashback story instead?” So then it happens here as you can see there’s more of that. So structuring 22 and how do you keep it interesting so it doesn’t feel like the same thing every week and how does it, you know, we started with White Hall and then Dad showed up. You know, those are…it’s fun to try and keep all those different threads alive over the course of 22.
Jed: Our favorite thing to say right now as the writers are going home and we’re shooting our last episodes-this is our 44th episode of Shield-which anytime you say it to anybody who works on a show they go oh, whoa, that’s right, that’s the math.
Jeff: Then you cast them and they’re like, “This is our 493rd episode.” That’s true. You guys been doing it longer than us.
Jed: And then you see an ad for the final four episodes of Mad Men…
Jeff: Which takes you the toll up to 17.
Jeff: Good, they’re all good. We’re not bitter at all, really not. Not bitter.
It was time for them to head back to work, but first they wanted to check in on how their cast behaved during our interviews.
Jeff: Was our cast nice to you? We have a terrific cast who are like as you see them here…
Jed: That’s what they’re like.
Jeff: They’re kind of like that which is awesome.
Jed: Except for the one.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I think you know who we’re talking about. We do that as writers. We go, “No, you’re all talented, you all did great except for…and you know who you are…” And because they’re writers they go, “It’s, me.”
Did I mention we were on set when they were filming the season finale? Yes…the season finale that airs tonight!
THE INHUMANS’ ENDGAME IS REVEALED, ON THE TWO-HOUR SEASON FINALE OF ABC’S “MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” – S.H.I.E.L.D. puts everything on the line to survive a war that blurs the line between friend and foe. Coulson and his team will be forced to make shocking sacrifices that will leave their relationships and their world changed forever, on the two-hour season finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” TUESDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Clark Gregg as Director Phil Coulson, Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Agent Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons, Nick Blood as Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse.
Guest starring on “S.O.S.,” Part One are Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Ruth Negga as Raina, Kyle Maclachlan as Cal, Jamie Harris as Gordon, Christine Adams as Agent Weaver, Mark Allan Stewart as Agent Oliver, Maya Stojan as Kara/Agent 33, Dichen Lachman as Jiaying, Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell, Kyle Mattocks as Agent Harris, Ryan Powers as S.H.I.E.L.D. tech agent and Alicia Vela-Bailey as Alisha.
Guest starring on “S.O.S.,” Part Two are Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Kyle Maclachlan as Cal, Jamie Harris as Gordon, Christine Adams as Agent Weaver, Mark Allan Stewart as Agent Oliver, Blair Underwood as Andrew Garner, Maya Stojan as Kara/Agent 33, Dichen Lachman as Jiaying, Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell, Brendan Wayne as Jiaying’s assistant, Robert Reinis as bartender, Daz Crawford as Kebo, Alicia Vela-Bailey as Alisha and Anthony D. Washington as TAC agent #3.
“S.O.S.,”Part One was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Vincent Misiano.
“S.O.S.,” Part Two was written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Billy Gierhart.
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