Two of my favorite characters on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are Phil Coulson and Melinda May. No wonder I went speechless as the Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen, the actors who have been amazing in these roles, walked into the room. Plus, they were so incredibly down to earth that I went into full Fan Girl mode.
FYI, Ming-Na is sooooo not like the Melinda May. She was super giddy and sweet. She even started our interview by taking a photo of US and tweeting it!
GREGG: What are you doing?
WEN: I’m taking pictures of the bloggers.
GREGG: Oh, ohhhh.
WEN: Let them be in front of the camera.
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 11, 2015
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Interviews – Clark Gregg & Ming-Na Wen
Ming-Na plays the strong but heavily-guarded Melinda May. To portray this intensely complex character with a life-changing past, Ming-Na was given very little to work with initially. As her story unraveled, there have been hints throughout the show but the SHIELD cast only learned about the full reveal a few days before filming.
WEN: Right because we’ve heard a lot about Bahrain and there were always references to it. But the details of it wasn’t really known until the episode, or maybe a couple of episodes before there were some hints about that storyline, but nothing very specific.
A lot of times for us when we’re acting it’s almost as we’re the audience member because we’re discovering it the way an audience member would discover it watching the show. You know, they don’t tell us anything.
The most emotional scenes to shoot were the ones that involved any parts of this “family” being injured. They become just as close off-set as they appear on-set. That’s why losing a cast member like B.J. Britt spurred on multiple goodbye parties to just keep him coming back. Sweet, right?
It was pretty fascinating to know that both Ming-Na and Clark do a lot of their own stunts. They do have stunt doubles for the more dangerous bits though.
GREGG: We have both crossed a number with a five in it and it’s a huge motivator to stay in shape.
WEN: Between the two of us a century, right? Plus. Wow.
GREGG: I guess I wasn’t prepared for that party.
WEN: I know. Doesn’t it sound worse that way? But, yeah.
GREGG: 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 going to be thrown into one of these fights. And you’re not going want to have them pull you out because you can’t do it.
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. Matt Mullen and Eric Norris 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. Every once in a while they’ll let me throw in a move of that because I might have some practice at it.
WEN: I love just watching fight scenes because the Chinese movies are all about that. So whenever we can throw little Easter Eggs in to the fight scenes that kind of give homage to very specific people like Bruce Lee or any of these like amazing fights that I’ve ever seen. We always try to throw those in too for fun.
I love, love, love what happened when someone asked, “How much of your own personality goes into your character?”
Q : Do you ever get to ad lib your lines?
GREGG: I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not a lot of them. I’d love to claim more of them. But a lot of them are our terrific writers. . . It’s always been something that people really responded to about Coulson. And they give me some great ones. They’ve accepted the fact that at the end of most scenes where that’s appropriate I’m going to do one extra pass and throw in a couple. Boo-ya might’ve been mine.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Interviews – Jed Whedon & Jeff Bell
After this, we also got to sit down with Co-Creator & Executive Producer Jed Whedon (Joss’ brother) and Executive Producer Jeff Bell. While there are some “major tentpoles” they have to move between and sometimes avoid completely until movies are released, creators of the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have a lot of free reign to create their portion of the Marvel universe.
WHEDON: 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.
Some parts are harder to write than others though. They knew way ahead that Hydra was the bad organization but couldn’t say what they called “the ‘H’ word.”
WHEDON: And you can consider it a limitation to have a film that literally destroys the organization that your show is named after.
BELL: Because when we first wrote it, it’s like episode seventeen, do we still exist? Agents of hmm???
We’ve been following Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since days one. Season one started off to mixed reviews and was a little slow but by the end it was almost too action-packed. In season two, the show really seems to have a good rhythm and we can’t wait to watch each new episode. In fact, Jeff and Jed loved it when I said, “It’s just as essential to see the TV series as it is to see the movies now.” So what changed?
WHEDON: 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.
BELL: We knew Coulson but no one else.
WHEDON: Right. That was new for all of Marvel and new for the Marvel fans so I think that initially people reacted to that . . . I think there was a little barrier to entry because these were new names, new faces.
BELL: 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 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.
WHEDON: So our approach hasn’t really changed. It’s just been easier. 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.
The toughest part is just the sheer number of episodes. With 22 episodes in a season, which is more than double that of other popular series, the writers basically have two weeks of vacation for the whole year as prep starts June 1st and lasts through early May.
I know it’s hard work but, man, do I love having all these new episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all of the time! 🙂 Thanks MAoS Team!
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 2-Hour FINALE Tease
“S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” – 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,” TUESDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
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I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney and Marvel in honor of the Avengers Age of Ultron movie. All opinions are my own.