S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Ming-Na Wen Previews 'Devastating' Origin of 'The Cavalry,' Coulson's 'Massive' New Secrets

MING-NA WENFor a full two years, Ming-Na Wen could only wonder why her character on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had earned the nickname “The Cavalry” – and why hearing that moniker was invariably met with a disapproving glare.

“Since the beginning, I had to create my own ideas and my own stories [behind the nickname],” the actress told TVLine before heading out to the Los Angeles screening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, “because they wouldn’t tell me anything!”

The guessing games ended when Wen received the script for this Tuesday’s episode (ABC, 9/8c), which is titled “Melinda” and discloses the actual story behind The Cavalry’s origin, in flashbacks to the infamous Bahrain op, in which S.H.I.E.L.D. closed in on a powerfully gifted female. Wen, over time, had braced herself for the reveal, yet still she was not prepared the shocking truth.

‎”I had had hints about the potential for what she could have done, but [the producers] never went into details and they couldn’t confirm whether that was the direction they were going to take it,” she shares. MING-NA WEN“So when I did finally read it, it was extremely devastating. To have learned what she had to do, for the good of the many… I can understand why it would traumatize her so much and cause her to retreat.”

To best draw contrast with that dark truth, the “Melinda” flashbacks open with a firsthand look at what the venerable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was like beforehand — back when her smiles weren’t akin to unicorn sightings.

“She was married, she was in love with Andrew (played by Blair Underwood), she had a job that she excelled at and loved and believed in — so her world was pretty perfect,” Wen previews. “She had lightness to her, and a certain confidence that’s different from ‎what May has now, that the fans are familiar with.” Being a S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent and all, “She certainly wasn’t wide-eyed and innocent,” Wen points out, “but she certainly was optimistic and truly, truly believed in what she was doing.”

Having the chance to reveal to viewers this “pre-Cavalry” Melinda May, coupled with her recent turn as Agent 33, has in effect given Wen at least three characters to portray this season, as well as afforded her chance to paint with a broader palette of colors.

“I’m so thankful the CLARK GREGG, MING-NA WENwriters gave me all these opportunities, to explore Melinda May undercover — having to pretend to be this socialite doing ballroom dancing — to being a completely different character as Agent 33, who really has no identity except that fact that she feels like a lost puppy in need of having someone tell her what to do.”

Wen smartly notes that Agent 33 and May share more in common than one might suspect, if only in light of the current S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” storyline that has invited Coulson’s charges to question their director’s agenda – a mystery amplified this week when more of his secretive operations surface.

Describing Agent 33 as “someone who is trying to figure out where her place is, where her loyalty lies,” Wen says the similarity is that May “is starting to find out that Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been keeping massive amounts of secrets from her,” planting seeds of doubt in she who has been his most staunch defender.

“No matter what was happening to him, she believed that at his core he was a man of honor and integrity, and really what S.H.I.E.L.D. stood for,” Wen says. “But in this episode especially, she finds out a few things that kind of rock her world, a lot. And it’s not just with Coulson, but also with her ex-husband. It’s like: What’s wrong with these men, man?!”

Of course, May wouldn’t have to guess so much about Coulson’s game plan if he would have looped her in, or checked in with her in the course of tracking down their “bad option,” Grant Ward. But thus far, she remains in the dark, where the only thing that can grow is suspicion. “She felt that if Coulson could trust and want to talk with anybody, it would be her,” seeing as they previously navigated a similarly sticky wicket when she had secret orders from Fury. But, Wen laments, “I don’t think that’s the case!”

The final verdict on Coulson is likely fodder for the Season 2 finale, which, Marvel being Marvel, remains much of a mystery. Will it be large, medium or small? Quiet, loud or explode-y?

“I don’t think S.H.I.E.L.D. does anything small, for sure!” Wen answers with a laugh. “I’m just always amazed we’re able to finish each episode in eight, nine days. And our post-production team, the visual effects people, Mark Kolpack and his whole team… it really blows my mind how much we accomplish in a very short amount of time.

“But we’re all very tired,” the actress adds. “I can reveal that!”

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27 Comments
  1. Hipper says:

    Most improved show of the season. Too bad it may be too late.

    • John says:

      It’s never too late. It took Star Trek The Next Generation 2 seasons and part of the third to improve.

      • macanoodough says:

        TNG was watched by 20 million viewers who loved it. It left TV to make 4 films in the next 8 years and spinoff 3 other shows. All while reinventing a model loved by millions already.

        This show is from Movies, started with 12 million viewers and now barely holds 4.

        Where on god’s green earth can you compare the 2?
        They are not in the same sport, league or even galaxy in terms of success, never were and never will be. TNG was NEVER in jeopordy of being cancelled and it’s first 2 seasons out paced Wheel of Fortune for Pete’s sake. This show can’t out pace 2 broke Girls…..

        • The TV landscape then was a whole lot different. TNG had no competition. The whole ST franchise after TOS suffered from the same thing.. It took about 3 seasons for each of the spin offs to hit it’s stride. TNG, DS9 and VOY. after Voy there were a bunch of shows out there.. so ENT couldn’t follow the same model. People just abandoned the show.

          • David4 says:

            Voyager was garbage from beginning to end with only a few decent ideas here and there.

          • macanoodough says:

            You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. TNG was a smash hit off the bat (27 million viewers worldwide). The producers wanted to tweak some things they didn’t like from Seasons 1 to 2 and they got some steady writers and that’s all the change there was.
            TV line ups were much thicker in competition than what AoS faces and again, you cannot even try to explain how AoS lost 8 million of it’s viewers except to say the show is not well recieved by the vast majority who watched it. When they started to hype episodes, they’d get some of what they lost back temporarily. Folks want to like the show. But ultimately the show bottomed out to the 4 mil who watch now. They love it, as I assume you do, but love for the show cannot change the facts. It is struggling to stay ont he air and totaly failing to make itself relevant in the Marvel universe.
            TNG beat out LA Law and Cheers in it’s first season. That’s the equivilent to AoS dethrowning NCIS, but it doesn’t even come close.

            As for TNG; 6 of the episodes in the First season of TNG were nominated for emmy. The show has 18 total. It’s premier episode was the first TV show to win a Hugo award since 1972. Some of the episodes are still voted in the top of all time. The shows success spawned Comics, Video Games, Movies etc…And TNG became the first (and I think only) show to win an Emmy for best drama while it was syndicated. The show syndicated before it even went off the air.

            AoS does not even manage to carry what others built in the successful Cinematic Universe and their dwindling viewership is proof.

        • KCC says:

          I believe the comment was about the quality of the shows both improving in the early years, not total number of viewers. While you can subjectively compare the quality of the shows, you cannot compare the ratings. Total viewers 20 years ago is a lot different than today. The TV landscape has changed significantly in that time. Your 20 million viewers number is not correct, it’s is more like 10-12 million (US) average per episode for the first run of TNG.

          TNG did not “spin-off” 3 series, it was itself a spin-off, everything started with the original Star Trek. The Marvel Universe is from comic books not movies and while the comic books predate Star Trek, the most recent popularity is from the movies. They cannot be compared now because SHIELD has just begun and TNG ended decades ago, not because of the quality of the shows. We’ll have to wait and see how they compare after SHIELD ends with regard to popularity.

          • macanoodough says:

            My reply to KCC was posted above, don’t know why as I replied directly to KCC.
            Anyway, I totaly understood the mans point. It happens to be wrong.
            Your opinion could be that the show improves, but the facts are that the shows success and format is not. TNG never changed. It never “Improved” any more than any show improves as the actors hit their strides.

            His point was that TNG made improvements to save itself, it did not. All changes was PAramounts own desire. It’s viewership was strong and stood consistent.

            You say we have to wait to compare. I don’t. They are incomparible, nothing alike. They share no similarities of any kind other than they are both TV shows. You might as well compare Sesame Street with The Blacklist.

        • Shawn Hicks says:

          I also think the ratings get screwed up now because of dvr viewing. I personally have a pretty busy schedule and dont watch some shows until i have 2 or 3 and have a free weekend. I also dont know how internet viewing skews results either, as now many people have cut the cord and view solely on the internet. All of these make things way different then when TNG was on unless you videotaped them.

          • Temperance says:

            The network loves SHIELD and it gets great numbers in alternate viewing across seven days, even in the demo. It’s not going anywhere.

    • David4 says:

      So they are thinking of having a spinoff to a show that might get canceled?

    • Ray says:

      Its average viewers is up to about 7.5 million and they are developing another spin-off. If it were on CBS they would cancel it but its safe on ABC. Its also why Supergirl has no chance on on CBS. I would be concerned about Agent Carter or Once Upon A Time which just hit a series low. But with Castle on its last legs and Revenge and other shows not far behind I think S.H.I.E.L.D. will get a chance to grow. Since Disney owns ABC and Marvel you can bet they are going to get all they can from it.

  2. Dan says:

    Melinda May & Coulson are the reason I’m still watching and also the only couple I could ship on this show.
    So I am a bit nervous about this rift between them… But awesome to see how much they use MIng-Na Wens talent!

  3. kath says:

    My favourite character on the show. That’s the real advantage S.H.I.E.L.D has over Arrow — strong women who don’t need to wear masks to be effective.

  4. Rob says:

    I really hope that corporate synergy keeps this show around. I love it. This season especially has been great. Maybe they can at least come back for a 12 episode season 3 or something.

  5. Rachel says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this interview! I was hoping we would get one. This just makes me even more excited/nervous about tonight’s episode… Should be great!

  6. sylvia says:

    who cares, no one’s watching this trash.

  7. macanoodough says:

    Stick a fork in this show, it’s done. Last week’s was a rare 8/10 episode, very nice. Too bad 8’s are few are far between. It cannot seem to get it’s viewership up to 5 mil though it does decent in comparison to the week competition, it looks too expensive to carry on. Right now the predictions are that it can go either way as far as being canceled.
    After watching Daredevil, I don’t see ABC holding onto it. DD is clearly meeting every expectation while this show is a let down. No offense to those who like it, but there are 8 million people who started out watching and no longer do. Too much dialogue, everybody is always explaining the plot after it has been established and it drags on the mellodrama like a cheap soap opera. I waste no opportun ity to trash it, sorry but as a lifelong Marvel Fan and especially a Nick Fury and the AoS as a kid, I can’t stomach the show. Somehow my childhood fandom of comics and Marvel compell me to watch every Tuesday and I try every week to like it but it is sooo JV. The writing, production, camerawork, acting…ugh!
    When I watched DD, I loved every minute of it, even hating the Kingpin the way tehy decided to portry him, the show made me a believer.

    I truly hope we will soon see the last of this pathetic show.

    • Robert Dassler says:

      That’s a lot of hate for TV show you have there. AoS is awesome. Nobody is forcing you to watch it.

      • macanoodough says:

        It is. Im a fan of Marvel and of teh old SHIELD comics. I cannot stand seeing this trite devalue something I loved as a kid.

    • Brigid says:

      The only thing pathetic is that you are trashing a tv show that you continue to watch every week. It’s sad really.

    • Andrew says:

      Stop watching and stop bitching. Simple as that. It will be back for season 3. GUARANTEED. Too bad for you.

  8. Flick says:

    Hope it gets renewed – it deserves to. Haven’t seen a show hit its’ stride and improve so well since Parks and Rec!

    They’ve been delivering some awesome TV and quite frankly, ratings need to be taken with a grain of salt nowadays with streaming being so popular. Hope they continue it, it’s like getting a dose of a Marvel movie every week!

  9. ms Thang says:

    Melinda May, FitzSimmons and Coulson are my favorite characters. Excited to watch this episode.