Joss Whedon Talks of 'Hopeful' S.H.I.E.L.D. Pilot, Plans for Maria Hill and Other Marvel Characters

ABC SHIELD Pilot SpoilersWhile precious little is known about Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., this much is certain: If ABC orders the Joss Whedon-directed/co-written pilot to series, it will bring something new to the small screen.

RELATED | ABC Boss Shares Update on Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D.

“I’m excited about the show because it’s a very hopeful show,” Whedon told TVLine Sunday at the 2013 Streamy Awards, where he was nominated for best guest appearance (in Husbands). “It’s not about murder, and it’s not about crime, and it’s not people looking into their own belly buttons. It’s about people who are trying to help each other, and that’s one of the things I loved about comic books. They had costumes and the villains were cool [but] they stood for something, and I like doing a show that does that.”

In addition to being very hopeful (and “very Joss,” as ABC boss Paul Lee has said), Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. — not surprisingly — will very strongly evoke its source material. “We’re trying very hard to be true to [Marvel's] ethos and also to the structure of their universe,” Whedon shared. “So it is definitely a Marvel show.”

That said, Whedon says to expect “not a ton” of familiar faces from the Marvel-verse, though “there’s a little bit of talk of that” for any possible future the project has in primetime. “Right now, I want to involve people in the characters that we’ve created for the show,” Whedon said, “and then we’ll worry about [the other stuff].”

RELATED | Pilot Guide 2013: All of ABC’s Projects Plus Who’s Starring in Them

Currently, the cast for S.H.I.E.L.D. — which wrapped filming on the pilot last week and is being fast-tracked by ABC — includes ER alum Ming-Na (as former soldier Melinda May), Clark Gregg (reprising his big-screen Avengers role as Agent Phil Coulson), Nashville’s Chloe Bennet (playing superhero culture-obsessed Skye), British beauty Elizabeth Henstridge (science expert Gemma Simmons), Scotsman Iain De Caestecker (tech whiz Leo Fitz) and Brett Dalton (rising star Agent Grant).

Last month, there was talk that Cobie Smulders might sneak away from How I Met Your Mother to at least cameo as Maria Hill, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent she played in Whedon’s The Avengers. In actuality, Whedon cautions that Smulders’ schedule “will permit very little” involvement, “but if we can get a hold of her anytime, we will.”

After all, the auteur said, weaving in previous inhabitants of his own Whedonverse is nice, but never imperative.

“You look for the best person for the role, and if that person is someone you already know, then great. That’s some work done for you,” he told us. “But as much as I would love to — and once did — make a movie just with my friends, you always want to increase the family.” (With reporting by Scott Huver)

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58 Comments
  1. Ann says:

    In that picture Cobie looks like she’s about to go all ”NOBODY ASKED YOU, PATRICE!” :D I just love her <3

  2. The Kaibosh says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this show. But as much as everyone would like to think that this is a done deal and that the show being picked up is a foregone conclusion; its actually not. In order for this show to work and make 12+ million people want to watch it every week it needs to feel like the Avengers. Which means it needs the same production quality: which is expensive. Right now the powers that be aren’t so much wondering if the script will be good or if the production quality will there. It will. They’re looking at cost projections and demographic reports. If this show can’t keep 12 to 14 million people in the seats week to week then I don’t think it will survive. I hope it does though.

    • Znachki says:

      While that is certainly true Kaibosh (hehe), it is also the case that Joss Whedon has a reputation for making shows that look much more expensive than they are. He’s worked miracles with miniscule budgets before. He can do this.

    • John says:

      I disagree to a point. It needs to look like it takes place in the same universe, but it does not need to have massively expensive special effects every week, extensive scenery, or other cost driving production values. I’m not saying it could look like Buffy circa 1995, but Joss did a great job making Firefly look amazing (for the time) on a controlled budget, and he can do the same here. Heck, the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility at the start of the Avengers movies looked great, but it was a minimally dressed existing facility – it didn’t break the bank.

      Further, this is the tale of a S.H.I.E.L.D. team, not a tale of Nick Fury or the Avengers. This is a story about one of many teams of field agents as they begin to encounter a world that is becoming more fantastic, but for the most part is just like ours. And for Joss, the characters are the main course and the action is the appetizer and dessert. I would not be surprised to see episodes without special effects, without fancy scenery, and without any guest stars… and I wouldn’t be surprised to see episodes like that turn out to be amongst the fan favorites.

      • The Kaibosh says:

        No. This is a product. A product on a major television network that needs to compete with other network shows in the same time slot. It doesn’t just have to make money. If that were the case then making a single dollar more in revenue than the cost would mean success. That’s not the case. It has to be able to make more money than another show would in that time slot that the network could air instead. In order to do that it will need to appeal to a broad base of people on a regular basis; 12-14 million people per week. They already have the comic book and sci-fi nerds; they’re locked in. The network is going to need to appeal to the American Idol fans. The CSI watchers. The’re going to have to pull them away in large enough numbers and keep them there week to week. In order to do that the show MUST feel like the Avengers. Movies like the Avengers are events. They only come around every two years or so which is why people flock to them when they do. The TV viewer is fickle. If you’re going to lure them from their regular show and make this their regular show then they’re going to want a similar experience as the movie. I have no doubt that Joss and co will be able to get things done on a budget. But will it be enough? I certainly hope so.

        • ben says:

          I think you are way overthinking this. How well it needs to do depends on a lot of factors, but I don’t think this show has to be blockbuster or bust. And in any event, the demo is what they will be focussed on, not the number of eyeballs.

          • The Kaibosh says:

            Walt Disney, Marvel Entertainment and ABC Studios are fast tracking this. Which means they’re throwing tons of money at it to get it ready for the up fronts in May. This isn’t original material they’re developing. Its heavily licensed. Everyone from Stan Lee to Mickey Mouse will need to get their cut. The show is going to be expensive. It IS blockbuster or bust.

        • John says:

          I missed the Alien Invasion on CSI and the Huge Explosions on American Idol. I was under the impression that fans of those shows were drawn to character and personality. Regardless, you CAN NOT have an Avengers level of spectacle on TV. No series has the time or budget to do anything remotely close to the Hulk, the Alien Invasion, Thor fighting Iron Man, Frost Giants, or Loki’s magic … at least not for more than a brief moment that is planned out far in advance. Look at Once Upon a Time for a guide on what can be done on TV. I expect the action of this show to look like what we saw in Item 47, in Black Widow’s scenes in IM II, in Black Widow’s introduction in Avengers, etc… and I do not expect to see a single moment that reminds me of the third Act of Avengers.

        • John DeMayo says:

          If the network wants to appeal to draw in American Idol viewers, then they should come up with a reality singing competition (i.e. what NBC has done with “The Voice”). If they want the CSI audience, they’ll create similar crime procedurals (Castle, Body of Proof, etc.). It’s not S.H.I.E.L.D’s job to do that. Again, why does it need 14 million viewers every week? That’s quite high.

          • The Kaibosh says:

            The Avengers made over 1.5 billion dollars world wide last year. Over 600 million was from domestic ticket sales. You know what that means? EVERYONE went to see this movie; including American Idol viewers. And that’s the point of fast tracking this show. They need to strike while the iron is hot. Which means they need to grab as much of that audience as they can so they can make as much money as they can. In order to do that; they need to make a TV show that reminds the viewer of why they liked the Avengers; and enough of them to justify the price tag of the show. They will need at least 12-14 million viewers weekly to justify the cost. The show is heavily licensed. It will be an expensive show.

          • John says:

            Everyone? With tickets at the theatre being $10+ and who knows how many fanboys seeing the film 2-3 times, your definition of everyone leaves out more than 85% of the US population.

            Just sayin’

        • John says:

          The Wikipedia entry for the show has some nice quotes that support the idea that this show is not going to be Avengers 1.5:’In a September 2012 interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, Whedon reiterated that sentiment, going on to say “It’s new characters. It needs to be its own thing. It needs to be adjacent [to The Avengers]… What does S.H.I.E.L.D. have that the other superheroes don’t? And that, to me, is that they’re not superheroes, but they live in that universe. Even though they’re a big organization, that [lack of powers] makes them underdogs, and that’s interesting to me.” Whedon explained that while the show would involve people with powers and the spectacle of science-fiction storytelling, it would focus on “the peripheral people … the people on the edges of the grand adventures.”‘

        • ThatChrisGuy says:

          That’s ridiculous. Almost every show in existence could be replaced by something that would sell better individually. The idea of a line-up is that you’re appealing to a variety of people with different tastes, so that every viewer has a reason to watch your network on any given evening. Even if S.H.I.E.L.D. only appeals to comic book and sci-fi nerds, that’s a demograph that they want watching their network and probably wouldn’t bother if S.H.I.E.L.D. was replaced with something else. See, you’re not trying to appeal to fans of a show you’re already airing, because they’re already watching. If 10 million people watch CSI and 10 million people watch American Idol, that’s not 20 million people watching your channel. It’s likely much closer to just 10 million, because it’s mostly the same people watching TV for two hours.

          If the show is well-received and maintains a respectable viewership, at absolute worst, they would reschedule it.

        • Myron says:

          Kaibosh, I really don’t think you understand this much at all…

          First of all ‘Everyone from Stan Lee to Mickey Mouse needs their cut’? No. Marvel, Disney and ABC are owned by Disney, so really as long as the show is profitable then it’s really only the Disney Shareholders that need their cut.

          Secondly, it’s not just the American market that will be watching this, many other networks around the world will be paying money for the rights to show S.H.I.E.L.D content… it will basically be the hottest TV property of 2013.

          Thirdly, One of the big mistakes that Fox made with pretty much every other Joss Whedon show in the past was that they underestimated the replay value. Our local pay TV network in Australia is constantly replaying Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse royalties (or however it’s worked out between the networks) will come into play and help with long term financial projections. The history is there now and Disney is not so short-sighted.

          Fourth, S.H.I.E.L.D also happens to be a vessel for a much larger beast in The Avengers series; it can be used to introduce trial concepts for the Second and subsequent Avengers movies which happen to be alternate revenue streams (very large cash cows judging by the Box Office figures from the first movie).

          All in all, this show doesn’t need the initial numbers you think it does, it just needs to be well produced and maintain long-term appeal for the demographics at which it is aimed. Whedon fans, Marvel fans & Sci-Fi fans alike amongst others will all have some sort of investment in this, it wont retain everyone but I believe it will retain a substantial proportion and so long as execs are willing to look at and support the long term picture this show will be in for the long haul.

        • Inexplicably says:

          Well said! Extremely well said!

    • John DeMayo says:

      Why does it need 12+ million viewers? That’s on the very high end of TV viewership these days.

  3. Tara says:

    I rewatched Avengers yesterday, it was awesome :) Can’t wait for this.

  4. Lucy says:

    That movie that Joss made just with his friends? I wanna see that.

  5. Sweetiegrrl says:

    Although I know it’s very *very* unlikely, I would love to see a Fury, Black Widow, or Hawkeye cameo somewhere in the future. Being actual agents of SHIELD themselves, they seem the most natural of the big-name heroes to pop up eventually.

    • Alan says:

      sam jackson has said he would like to do some small cameos if it fits the story, he reckons the character could be used like charlie in charlie’s angels

  6. mrjudkins says:

    Lucy – it’s “Much Ado About Nothing”: http://muchadothemovie.com/

    I’m *really* looking forward to it hitting cinemas myself. :)

  7. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    Joss is the best – he’s such a cool guy – I like his answer as to the Maria Hill character and Cobie’s other time commitments. Make your plans, keep your options open, do the best you can, hope for the best and move forward. Very smart approach. With Joss running this team, I have no doubt that SHIELD is going to be a success for ABC next fall – I can’t wait!! :)

    I’m hoping Cobie will have time to stop in on SHIELD during it’s first season. In the meantime, I saw Chloe on Nashville earlier this season – she has potential to be a break-out star.

  8. Ladyhelix says:

    Oh! For a minute I thought you mean DAVID Fury!! (Fringe/24/Lost/Angel – Mustard man in OMwF & News Anchor in Dr. Horrible). Now wouldn’t THAT be wonderful!!

    It’s true – while I have no idea where most of Joss’ actors are – I know where ALL of his writers are working!! I love that Jeff Bell is on board – and I can’t wait to see who else might be writing for this (if it gets picked up).

  9. Win says:

    Will the cheese man make an appearance? That’s all I need to hear.

  10. Alan says:

    everything i hear about this show makes me more excited, as a diehard comic book nerd i really cant wait to see how these new characters react to the craziness of the marvel universe and as a diehard joss fan im really excited to see him add some new players to his company.
    hurry up and pick it up nbc, please.

    • Rachel says:

      I actually do think it would fit better on NBC (as they did The Cape and now Revolution), but it’s ABC that has it. Let’s hope they’re really committed, as it’s pretty off-brand for them.

      • Alan says:

        oh crap i said nbc, sorry i meant abc. im not american so im not following what airs where because it doesnt affect me, i just follow tv shows

      • fdsfds fdsfds says:

        Not really – ABC is owned by Disney last I checked, who also has rights to Marvel and thus the Avengers. So that’s why it’s on ABC and not other networks.

  11. Rachel says:

    I can’t wait for this show! Since they’re rushing everything, does that mean we can expect it in September?

  12. Lilu says:

    Colbie Smulders MUST be a part of this, next year of course when HIMYM is wrapped up

    • John says:

      If you go back and read what this show is about, you’ll see that it isn’t a show about Maria Hill, Nick Fury, Tony Stark or Natasha Romanov. It is about a team of agents. Expecting Maria Hill to show up regularly early in the series is like expecting the CFO of Microsoft to show up when their accountants do battle with the IRS. It might happen in exceptional circumstances, but not most of the time.

  13. mia says:

    Oh ABC/Disney/Marvel thankyou so much for giving Joss the reins on these projects. I hope his creative freedom is continued.
    .
    And I’m really looking forward to SHIELD!!!!

  14. I hope they put this one on sunday make a strong lead in for Once & Revenge.

    This says big ratings already and I hope if put on sundays can make once & revenge get back to the ratings it they both once where.

  15. divinerush ღ says:

    Oh, I hope it all works out. I am excited to see this show come alive as a huge comic book fan. Good luck with it all Joss! I’m hoping along with you! :)

  16. Summer says:

    If not Maria Hill, I’d love to see if Joss could find a way to work Daisy Johnson into the show, and maybe some SHIELD-oriented Avengers who are less than likely to appear in the movies – like Bobbi Morse or Jessica Drew.

    • Alan says:

      as far as i can tell they are using new characters so they are free from the history and will be less intimidating to viewers in the early days, most likely they will then start to add in more familiar faces down the road once viewers are hooked on the world

  17. Michael says:

    So Joss is making a Marvel show that no Marvel Superheroes will appear on? This is the worst case scenerio, it is just another damn cop show!

    • Alan says:

      its not a cop show. its based on the shield comics which were espionage-based stories set in the marvel universe, there is more to comics than just superheroes and its time the general public learned that; plus its a wheadon show, they are by no means procedural crap.

    • John says:

      “Just another” does not belong in the same sentence with Joss Whedon. Was Buffy “just another” vampire show? Was Firefly “just another” space show? Was Dollhouse “just another” … uhhh… I don’t even know how to compare Dollhouse. And putting aside Whedon, think of it this way: SHIELD and the Batman family have a lot of similarities: No Superpowers, gadgets, facing off against enemies with greater power and/or dealing with threats that could vaporize them at a glance. Would a Batman Inc. series taking place in a universe where Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern were running around offscreen be just a cop show? I don’t think so.

  18. David Price says:

    I am expecting this show to be comparable to a Star Trek type of show. The captain (Phil Coulson) receives instructions from command (Fury) to investigate an alien threat. The “away” team will vary week to week depending on the skill set required. Agent Melinda May will be Coulson’s first officer, Fitz will be the engineer, Gemma is the science officer, Grant is security and Skye offers those insights that Councilor Troi once gave us.

    The hopeful feel of the show is consistent with Roddenbury’s vision. Star Trek was a show that focused on the lives of the characters living in a threatening, but very exciting setting. The small screen presentation in the shadow of big films gives us an idea of how spectacular a weekly show can be. I can’t wait!!!

  19. Joe says:

    ABC will not back this show. They are infamous for big talk and no action. The cast and crew will do their best, but with an idiot like Paul Lee running the network, expect the worst/

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