Sitting down with the cast of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” you learn two things about them right away. They are, believe it or not, even more attractive in person (Adrianne Palicki and Brett Dalton side by side is enough to actually turn someone to stone like a reverse Medusa) and they are for the most part exactly the same as their characters, with their on-screen personas very much amped up versions of their true personalities. (Maybe not so much Dalton, who is actually very gentlemanly, and barely homicidal).
Though the producing side of the contingent has had to remain in LA except for Marvel Head of Television Jeph Loeb (“Louis, Jed, Maurissa and Jeffrey had to stay behind or there’d be no show,” he says), the entire cast of the show has filed into a ballroom at the Bayfront Hilton for Comic-Con to give us a hint at what to expect for next year. In a word: Inhuman.
Q: First off, last year ended on a big status quo change for the show. How will the characters change from Season 2 going into Season 3?
Loeb: I have an enormous sense of pride, after coming out of 44 episodes and going into 66, is an extraordinary feat of television. But from last season is this word Inhuman. It works on so many levels, if you start with Coulson who has lost a hand, who has alien DNA inside of him, who has come back from the dead. He’s thinking about his own humanity, who am I, what am I? And then you go to the next deeper level, with a character like Ward who is now hell bent on making sure that he has closure and willing to do things many people would consider Inhuman. And then there is Inhuman in the Marvel sense and it’s a very simple concept for people to understand, which is if you have the gene inside you and you come in contact with it you get triggered and if you do one person or more could become enhanced.
What’s exciting to us is the idea of who the Inhumans are very much speaks to what’s going on today, our tolerance of people based on their race, their religion, the feeling of being different has never been stronger than now. There are people who think tolerance to that is and isn’t a good idea, so the idea putting that onto people with powers is a big part of Marvel.
Clark Gregg: Some people carry something in them for eons, in the Inhumans, and there are those who think those people are the enemy should be exterminated and there are those who think they are a new facet of humanity and want to know more.
Q: In a couple of years, we’ll have an Inhumans movie. Do you know how you will fit into that with the shows focus on them? Can you say?
Gregg: We could, but we’d be lying.
Chloe Bennet: We were lucky on the show to be able to introduce the Inhumans to the Marvel universe, so that was exciting, but to go from now to then … sitting here last year thinking everything that happened this year, if someone told me I would not have believed it. So to think where we’ll be by the time Inhumans comes out, I can’t imagine.
Gregg: I didn’t think Coulson could go through more than he did in season 1, finding out the grim truth of how and why he was brought back and have it pay off with the destruction of SHIELD and HYDRA and getting made head of SHIELD and then SHIELD doesn’t exist. The ups and downs are kind of comicbookian. But then last season with the alien writing and SHIELD 2.0 and the fact that his actions put Skye, I mean Daisy, in danger.
[Bennet mimes coin dropping motion]
Bennet: Dollar in the jar. This season I will be referred to as Daisy in all ways. My trailer will say Daisy, the script will say Daisy … [but] we don’t know anything about Season 3. Now she knows everything she wanted, she knows where she’s come from, she knows her family. I thought the first season was traumatic and then everything she’d been going through and wanted, how she wanted to meet her parents and she meets them and it was worse and even more fed up than she could have imagined. Having your mom try to kill you probably doesn’t sit well.
Gregg: We need to get you some therapy time.
Bennet: I like to think she’s extra determined. I believe we’re going to be recruiting Inhumans and there has been news about the Secret Warriors …
Q: Which leads us to Lincoln.
Luke Mitchell: He doesn’t know where he lies in terms of allegiances,, he was on one side then another and he was portrayed and then this guy [thumbs at Henry Simmons] smacks me over the back of the head with a saw …
Simmons: For a good purpose.
Mitchell: So at the start of Season 3 he will be trying to work out who he is exactly and where his allegiance lies.
Simmons: And just because Mac has gone into the team does not mean he is no longer skeptical about people with powers. I like that there is someone who questions what Coulson is doing. I think he needs that, and if he’d had it maybe some of this stuff wouldn’t have happened. So I think it will be even greater conflict now that we’re getting more into the Inhumans. Going into Season 3, from what I understand, there will be less of Mac in the garage and more in the field. I hope I cut off more people’s hands.
Q: When you see that in the script, do you think ‘now I have to wear a sling in every episode?’
Gregg: We did a little bit of that and it was not fun. You can’t open a file or light a match, you can’t do anything.
Bennett: We did one scene and it was annoying.
Gregg: But there is some precedent in Marvel for people having extremities that are not their own. Some cybernetic ones such as Deathlok and our friend Doctor Cho I think who grew some cool skin for the Vision. So I hope some of them are coming my way.
Q: Mac went a long way from being in the garage fixing stuff to cutting off hands; were you surprised how much he grew?
Simmons: Very much, and so happy about it. And then they put me in charge of alien technology and first thing the person everyone loves gets sucked into it!
Q: Yeah, aren’t you [Elizabeth Henstridge] dead?
Henstridge: Could be.
Q: Do they give you any warning before they’re going to do that?
Henstridge: No warning. Sometimes that’s a good sign. If you get a call that’s bad, but sometimes they’ll just come up and ask terrifyingly vague questions. ‘Can you swim?’
Iain De Caestecker: How are you at riding an ostrich?
Henstridge: Afraid of heights in any way?
De Caestecker: I got a call at the end of Season 1 and it was ‘can you come in, we’d just like to have a chat with you.’ And then I quickly flipped through the script and in my head I was dead.
Q: Instead you got to go through one of the most difficult emotional paths in the season, especially Simmons who had to voice some fairly unpopular opinions.
Henstridge: I was very happy she got to voice an unpopular opinion, which no one likes to do but she had to do it. It was to her very logical, she didn’t want to do it but she felt like it had to be in the discussion. She’s very pragmatic and it was in line with the facts — we have to save as many people as possible. If we save 100 people for 1 human, it’s a numbers game.
De Caestecker: I think they’re a lot more grown up? [to Henstridge] Is that right?
Henstridge: Yeah, yeah.
De Caestecker: And a bit more ready to work outside they’re comfort zone.
Henstridge: We saw them grow as individuals which they’ve never done before and then choose to come together again and decide to go on a date. That was important for them, so to go on a separation and then come together was significant. And so sad to now be not together!
Simmons: I want to tell you this. First thing Season 3 is finding [Henstridge]. Mac is going to rectify that or he will leave.
Q: The other difficult couple is Bobbi and Lance; is it possible for them to actually be together or are they just oil and water?
Nick Blood: I think it would be boring if they were together and it was happily ever after.
Palicki: I don’t know. I think the dynamic would still be there, they’d just be together.
Blood: Yeah, but it would never be a perfect marriage.
Q: So no spin-off about the Hunters fighting crime?
Palicki: You know we had less idea about how much of that was going around than the press did so we didn’t know it was that big of a thing.
Blood: Business as usual.
Palicki: We’re just happy to be part of the show in any form.
Q: Any idea what things will be like now that you’re staying on the main show with the rest of the cast?
Blood: Hunter is suddenly a bit serious, which is not his usual attitude towards life due to the stakes, and it’s good to see that side to him, under his ‘who cares’ attitude.
Palicki: And Bobbi is really conflicted, plus she has massive injuries to deal with and that’s a big change.
Q: What did you think of that final fight when you saw it?
Palicki: I loved it. That was a whole 12 days. By the time I got done I had dreadlocks, that’s how much sweat there was.
Blood: And she punched [Dalton] in the face for real.
Palicki: I did.
Blood: [finger quotes] Accidentally.
Palicki: Everyone wanted me to. The fans wanted me to.
Q: That wasn’t the only great action sequence in the second half of the season. Skye, I mean Daisy, had that incredible single shot stunt sequence during the rescue of Lincoln – are you pushing to do more?
Bennet: Absolutely. That was a huge test for me. We worked that out with the stunt guys, that wasn’t written in the script. Me and the director and the stunt guys decided ‘lets do this’ on our own and we did it on the weekend and I actually broke my arm shooting that scene.
Q: A big event of Season 1 was how it tied into the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Are you planning the same for Civil War?
Loeb: That would be filed under classified, but thanks for asking!
Q: What about the rest of the team, how will you come down? Whose side would Coulson be on?
Gregg: That’s a hard one. There’s love there for Steve, that goes … very deep. [Laughs]. I think that we start to sense that Coulson leans to the side, especially because of the connection to Skye, to the idea that these powered people are part of who we are. On the only hand he’s got loyalties that are deep on both sides.
Bennet: That’s a tough one.
Gregg: Where Marvel’s smart, they have an intricate story they’re telling and a lot of stuff that they know but my sense of it is, having been a part of it since the early days, there are a lot of things they decide not to decide yet. And they wait and see what works and evolves in the cut of “Civil War” and what happens with “Jessica Jones” and “Daredevil.” They’ve got story happening on so many platforms in phase 3, I think they’re going to wait and see what happens.
Q: Thank you all very much.