If you caught last week’s season four premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., chances are you noticed just how different the show seems to be with the inclusion of Gabriel Luna as Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider. The show not only appears to be heading in an even darker direction this season, but also seems to have been rejuvenated following the loss of multiple cast members last season. And although the show’s same day ratings haven’t necessarily improved (much), the series did see a huge bump in Live +3 day ratings, making it clear that the addition of a comic character like Ghost Rider was a smart move on Marvel’s end.
Still, given the character and the possibilities he brings along with him, what has it been like for the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to incorporate Reyes’ Ghost Rider into the show this season? Taking some time out of their busy schedule, S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon explained that it has been a welcome challenge to the series.
CBR News: Maurissa, Jed, Ghost Rider coming to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and that’s a big deal — and he’s not necessarily the first major Marvel character you’d expect to show up on the series, which is likely part of the point of it. What’s it been like to introduce this new element into the show in season four?
Maurissa Tancharoen: I’ve definitely felt the testosterone level turned up to, I don’t know how many notches.
Jed Whedon: The first time they showed us the car, they peeled it out and did a little demonstration, and she just turned and looked at all of us boys: “I”m happy, but you guys are really happy, aren’t you.”
Tancharoen: Everyone’s faces — their eyes were popping out of their skulls.
Whedon: We’ve been very much enjoying the new flavor. It has been a challenge in terms of how to introduce it and get it right — we don’t want it to feel not of our show, so there was a lot of discussions about how to get that right. I think Gabriel Luna was a key factor in making sure it landed.
Tancharoen: He’s doing an incredible job. He’s playing someone whose skin melts off and his skull sets on fire, but when he is Robbie, he’s very grounded. There’s an emotional weight there. He’s doing such a great job.
Although Marvel has rightfully been called out on their lack of diverse characters throughout the years, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t received nearly enough credit for just how diverse the series is compared to the films. Not only is Daisy “Quake” Johnson (Chloe Bennet), a biracial actress, essentially the lead of the series, but actors and actresses such as Henry Simmons (Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie), Ming-Na Wen (Agent Melinda May), and Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Elena ‘Yo-Yo’ Rodriguez) have become important characters within the show. For Tancharoen and Whedon, diversity is hugely important to them and also played a role in why they decided to go with the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider.
One thing about the show is that it’s always appeared very mindful of representation — it was personally exciting that there were two Asian-American main cast members from the start, and the show has further diversified. The Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider is one of the few Mexican-American genre characters, period. How important has diversity continued to be for both of you, as the show grows and evolves?
Tancharoen: It’s very important to us.
Whedon: One of us is diverse. [Laughs] I won’t say who.
Tancharoen: Actually, as a team, our first job together, we were a diversity hire because we were a team.
Whedon: I don’t know if we should tell people, they already think I got the job from my brother.
Tancharoen: Well, truthfully [Jed] got the job because of me. [Laughs]
Just as Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts has made it a point to showcase the diversity of New York in that film, Tancharoen and Whedon want to showcase just how diverisified Los Angeles is when it comes to S.H.I.E.L.D..
Diversity’s very important to us. We are both born and raised here in Los Angeles. We grew up with diversity surrounding us. It’s everything that we know. We like the show to represent the world we live in. Thankfully, we work alongside people who are advocates for diversity, as well. It’s not just us. It’s everyone we work with.
Whedon: That was a big part in picking this version of the character. That’s the world we wanted to live in, and it does matter to us.
Tancharoen: It was important for us to have a Mexican-American actor play the role, as well.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight on ABC at 10 PM EST.
Source: Comic Book Resources.