Clark Gregg: The 'True' S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Coming — Plus: Teases About Tahiti, Captain America Tie-In
The truth is out there… and will soon, finally, be revealed on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
When last we tuned into ABC’s freshman drama (returning tonight at 8/7c), a confrontation with Centipede’s front woman Raina took an unexpected turn, when it was revealed that the mysterious group wants Coulson — but to what end? TVLine spoke with Clark Gregg about how Coulson’s crisis will uncover the unpleasant truth about Tahiti aka his apres-Avengers “resurrection,” a possible tie-in with Marvel’s next big-screen adventure and how the “true” S.H.I.E.L.D. is yet to come.
TVLINE | Have you, at this point, mastered the art of revealing things without revealing anything?
[Laughs] You know, every time I get cocky I slip up….
TVLINE | The people who have nabbed Coulson…. Is Centipede perhaps not necessarily as evil as we think they are, or are they exactly as evil as we think they are?
I am so much like Phil Coulson in that I only know a bit more than you do, because I am only like two or three scripts ahead. They seem pretty damned evil as far as I can tell. Yet on the other hand, there is this tremendously interesting and charismatic person at the center of it in The Girl in the Flower Dress, played by Ruth Negga. In a [real-world] climate where there are groups that have the secrecy level of S.H.I.E.L.D. that are doing questionable things, where there are people who believe that that kind of secrecy shouldn’t exist, she makes some very interesting points.
TVLINE | The best kind of bad guys are the ones who make you go, “You know what? They kind of have a point.”
I’ve always thought that was a really interesting part of the nature of conflicts. Look at the American Revolutionary soldiers — their tactics were considered terrorist by the Brits. It really depends on your perspective.
TVLINE | Of course, there’s much ballyhoo about how in this week’s episode, we’re finally going to get kernels of information about what exactly happened to Coulson after he “died” in The Avengers. Is it because of his abduction that he uncovers this information?
He gets put in a very interesting situation, in that these evil people are led by a mysterious figure called The Clairvoyant. Though Coulson and his team, and even S.H.I.E.L.D.’s vast repertoire of special people, have never come across any evidence of psychic ability, this person seems to know more than anybody should be able to know about a lot of things. And as we found out at the end of the midseason finale, even more than The Clairvoyant wants a stabilized super-soldier in Mike Peterson, he wants Agent Coulson, because he or she seems to believe that there were things that went on to bring Coulson back to life … that have deeper, darker and more mysterious purposes than anyone, including Coulson, is aware of. So Coulson gets put in a situation where the people who are holding him, interrogating him and at certain points brutalizing him want the same information that he’s desperate to have himself — and they have technology that gives him a window into the memories that he seems to have lost. So, it becomes for me a very, very interesting and well-crafted dilemma, in that Coulson has to try to get this truth without revealing this truth.
TVLINE | Is it a sobering experience for him, to uncover this information?
I think Tahiti is far more magical than he had any idea it might be, and not always in pleasant ways. When Joss Whedon first called me up about doing this show, our concern was we didn’t want to do some convenient resurrection of this guy, unless it actually became really an integral part of the mythology and really added to the stories. To go from the pilot of this show, where Coulson has this very glib, convenient version of his near-death experience, and have that gradually peeled back to reveal that there are, to some extent, implanted memories that are traumatic has been one of my favorite parts of the season so far. Because to have these kind of conflicts and wounds and psychological battle damage is very germane in a country where so many soldiers are returning from lengthy conflicts overseas. It’s great stuff to explore.
TVLINE | Was it at last summer’s TCA press tour that you told us that Joss had given you the broad strokes of what Coulson’s secret was…?
He told me basically the pitch of what you saw in the pilot…. They had a “North Star.” They had strong ideas. They have the giant lexicon of the comic book universe and all these materials to gradually play into, and the really fun part for me is we saw a bunch of apparently standalone episodes with various “bad guys of the week,” and it’s all connected. It’s all part of a vast anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. conspiracy that’s going to be revealed and, I have a feeling, connects very deeply into the cinematic universe, to some of the stuff that might be involved in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (hitting theaters April 4).
TVLINE | Is the show we’re watching thus far now what S.H.I.E.L.D. is destined to be? Or are we still kind of getting there?
I don’t think we’re there just yet. There were hints at the end of Episode 10 at how deep and rich the fabric of this is, how much it connects to the cinematic and comic book universe. And I think only in the back half of this season will all of the things that we’ve started to set up, and really the true nature of the show, get fully revealed.