As you may recall, last week I shared with you our amazing & *Top Secret* Behind the Scenes Look at the Set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. What I fail to mentioned was that we also had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May), Co-Creator & Executive Producer Jed Whedon and Executive Producer Jeff Bell. If you are a fan of anything Marvel’s, as much as I am, you can just imagine to have the opportunity to speak to Clark Gregg would be enough right? Well, for this E.R fanatic, sitting in front of Ming-Na topped it off, she even tweeted the picture below of us interviewing her.
Super cool, right? Yeah, I think so! Without further a due, let me share with you our Q&A with Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon (Co-Creator & Executive Producer) & Jeff Bell (Executive Producer). Don’t forget to tuned in tonight for the 2-hour season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Exclusive Interview with Clark Gregg & Ming-Na Wen
If you are a fan of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. you are well aware that the show is pretty intense. Therefore, we asked both Clark and Ming-Na what has been one of the most emotional scenes to shoots, thus far?
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. The people we did not yet know were Hydra and kind of forced to confront the fact that he had been dead that he’d been through this tremendously excruciating experience.
Also tha stuff about the cellist and kind of the things he had lost. 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.That was pretty painful.
Ming: “Well, you’ve lied to me a lot obviously. Yeah, I think for me it was this episode about this kind of ghostly figure that May had to fight with. It really brought back her own personal issues about having to let go. So it had a reference to Bahrain, and I think that particular episode, she was struggling with various things of just not wanting to engage but having to take care of a situation and allow herself to, there’s a lot going on over there, isn’t there? Then of course, I think the other scene was when Skye was…”
Clark: “When Skye was shot. It’s the family. This is a show about a family.”
Ming: “Yeah, that was a big one.”
Clark: “People who don’t get to have real families ’cause 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. And most of us are still recovering. You know, even some of the bad guys, we love them so much off screen. It’s a really fun, this is a really good set. 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.”
Next question was about stunts: What are your stunts versus stunt performers?
Ming: “It’s a very collaborative effort between our stunt coordinator, a lot of people who do like rigging and special effects, of wire work, as well as my stunt doubles. I have like sometimes two or three depending on their levels 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: “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 ’cause 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. 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.
Ming: “Matt Mullen, he’s our, uh, choreographer and Tanner.”
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 ’cause I might have some practice at it.
Ming: “Mm-hmm, yeah, and I love just watching fight scenes, you know, because the Chinese movies are all about that. And so whenever we can throw little Easter Eggs in to the fight scenes that kind gives homage to very specific people like Bruce Lee or just any of these amazing fights that I’ve ever seen. We always try to throw those in too for fun.”
Next questions were only for Clark, since Ming-Na had to go shot her scenes.
Do you ever get to add lib your lines?
Clark: “I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not a lot of them. My god, I’d love to claim more of them. But a lot of them are our terrific writers. They really 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 super hero movie like the first Avengers and the ones leading up to it there was something that the audience really connected to in the super hero 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 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’re 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. Boo-ya might’ve been mine.”
Question: Do you have an plane interior where you shoot?
Clark: “It’s a great question. It’s very similar to the films only with about a tenth of the time and resources. The short answer is you see Lola, you this plane. That thing really goes up with those cars on it. That’s a practical hydraulic. And if it’s gonna be coming out the back of the plane suddenly this will be surrounded by either green or blue. And the sky and the wind machines and everything, it’s a blend of practical and digital. Mark Kolpack and his amazing team and I feel like, one of the things that’s been really satisfying is to watch how he’s kind of revolutionizing what’s possible on a TV show that eights that shoots in eight days and does 22 of them in a season, can be accomplished. There’s enough that’s really real. I’ve seen one of these completely filled with snow and then it’s gone the next day. That it’s really makes our job a lot easier. And then very often we’re suddenly at some wouldn’t believe some of the strange underground military looking buildings are within 45 miles of here.”
Next question was mine. Would you like to see any of the Avengers make cameos on the show?
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 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 SHIELD 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. [LAUGHTER] 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, oh, Dear Lord, how is Fitz? How is his brain? Is he okay? 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 SHIELD 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.”
It was so cool to meet this two talented actors, they were gracious with time to show us around and to answer our questions. Now onto our Q&A with Jed Whedon (Co-Creator & Executive Producer) & Jeff Bell (Executive Producer).
Question: We have the Marvel cinematic universe and the TV shows. Are you limited to what you can and can’t do?
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, no, no, 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 is exists and the fact that we have to be respectful to that is also, it also means that if we do something it is canned and so that aspect of it. But yeah 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. I think we have more fun with it than we do.”
JEFF: “The only challenge really was when we first launched we knew that Hydra was the big bad guy in Capt. two and there was one word we were not allowed to say on Shield. 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: “Cause when we first wrote it’s episode seventeen, do we still exist? Agents of hmm???”
JED: “We took it and saw it as an opportunity and I think that it, you know, 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.”
Question: Do you do season two different in the way you did season one?
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 character which most Marvel properties launch with something that you are familiar with. 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 flip at the top of it. but as time goes on and you get to know the characters you start to become familiar with them. 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 sci-fi 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 death lock 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. Everyone goes oh, no and they’re making their way into comics. 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.”
Question: Describe your writing schedule.
JEFF: “We start June first and the writers room broke today. Then Jed, 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. 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, 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, 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. 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 Oswald 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.
Question: You guys have been showing a lot of back stories. Do you have a favorite?
JED: “Well, we’re happy with the 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? I mean we’ve been waiting to tell that story for a while. Cause we know last year but part of it was when do you tell that story and how much of who she is, 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 Sky 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. This is a human 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: “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 but and then it happens here as you can see there’s more of that. So structuring 22 and how do you, how do you keep it interested 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.”
Thanks to the cast, Jed Whedon (Co-Creator & Executive Producer) & Jeff Bell (Executive Producer) and staff of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for taking the time to welcome us into the set and giving us a tour of the entire set and behind the scenes. It was an unforgettable experience! Reminder, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” airs on Tuesday, May 12 from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET on the ABC Television Network.
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,”.
Disclosure: I was be provided with an all expense paid trip to L.A to facilitate the review of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, Monkey Kingdom, & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. No additional compensation was received.