Clark Gregg‘s Phil Coulson has been a near constant within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since his debut in 2008’s Iron Man, the film that kick-started it all. Still, it wasn’t until 2012’s The Avengers that he truly became a large part of the ever-expanding universe that Marvel Studios set out to create. It was his “death” that helped unite the Avengers, and led to the creation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. Although we’ve yet to see him return to the films since the first Avengers film, he’s managed to still play a large role in the films, having helped Fury hide the Helicarrier that was revealed in last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. But that doesn’t mean Gregg isn’t hopeful for a return to the films at some point.
While speaking with the folks over at Den of Geek, Gregg talks about what it was like to learn of his character’s death in The Avengers, what it was like to be brought back for S.H.I.E.L.D., and his desire to make a return to the film side of the marvel Cinematic Universe.
Going into Iron Man, Gregg – and Marvel, for that matter – didn’t know at the time what would become of the Phil Coulson character. Originally, the character didn’t even have a name, and it seemed like a tiny part in the film that was later fleshed out over time, developing the characters into something much bigger than what Gregg thought. According to Gregg, Jon Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man films, was a key part in this.
To start at the start – when you signed up for Iron Man, did you have any idea you’d still be talking about Phil Coulson all these years later?
No… especially in the incarnation when they hired me – his name was literally only ‘Agent,’ and he only had about three lines. And yet they wanted a three picture deal, which I thought was just ludicrous. Because his name was only Agent! I knew they were doing that for everybody, because they had plans, and so we finally made that deal. And then, it was very clear that that was all it was going to be.
But there was something. There was something about what happened in that scene, and I think by the time I showed up there was a little bit… Maybe Jon Favreau did me a solid… And they kind of beefed up that scene.
I think by the time I showed up, he had a name. And yet there was really nothing. Then I remember [Jon] pulling me aside and going ‘are you free? Are you free right now? I think they’re adding some more stuff,’ and I was like [very quickly] ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! I’m gonna get free!’
And every step of the way, as it became this character, people were like ‘you can’t have this guy! He’s not in the comics! There’s plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that could be from the comics!’ And then other people kind-of yelled back at them like ‘no, we like this guy! He’s kind of… us!’
And just, piece by piece, they kept adding stuff for him to do, and movies, and it all kinda culminated in this, you know, magnificent exit at the hands of that Asgardian mischief-making bastard, and I thought that was it! I was well and truly pleased, and kind of went back to making little indie films, and the stuff I normally do, and then, um, got a call from Joss [Whedon] saying ‘we think you might not be so dead.’
The questions quickly turned over to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how the show goes about reinventing itself with each season. Gregg attributes this to the writers, and how they manage to keep the show entertaining, but also mentions how its somewhat reflective of the “binge-watch” world we’ve become used to.
How important do you think it is that the show refreshes like that every few months? So far we’ve had Pre-Winter Solider, Post-Winter Soldier, mid season 2 when the Inhumans show up, and now maybe going towards Secret Warriors…
That’s a really good question! I think it’s because they’ve managed to make that a function. Not just a function of the television, of being entertaining, but really a function of what’s happening. You know, we’re a specific part of a very large canvas. And so, the writers have to work, in a way, to not reveal anything that’s going on in the other parts of it, and find a way to make our particular thing standalone.
And, it’s funny because it feels organic to me, because it feels like what Coulson’s having to do, at this moment, as the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., is to constantly reinvent what they’re doing. To respond to the threats that are going on.
It also seems to be, appropriately, a clever way to do television in a world where people binge-watch, and there’s ten episodes of this, and eight episodes of this, and fourteen episodes of this – and we’re doing twenty-two! So, to kind of survive in that landscape, I think the writers have had to be very nimble and very adaptable.
When asked if there was any character he’d like to see return – more specifically, that of Amy Acker‘s cellist – Gregg seemed enthusiastic about the idea.
Speaking of next season, or series, is there anyone you really want to come back? Would you want Amy Acker’s cellist to return?
For god’s sakes, yes! Let Phil Coulson go on a date, he’s all work and no play! And she’s magnificent, and I love her. I love her as an actress, and just as a person.
The conceit was always that there was business left undone between them. And, err, she’s done a very successful show – Person Of Interest – and she’s brilliant on it. So, I hope that doesn’t come between us.
As to whether or not we’ll see Coulson make his way back to the films? Gregg is rather unsure. According to him, there haven’t really been talks about it outside of the fans, but he also makes the point that should he return to the films, it needs to be a thought out decision – not one just tossed in there for the sake of it.
Just finally: you mentioned the big Captain America: Civil War movie. Has there been any talk at all of bringing Coulson back to the film world? Just to tell Cap he’s still alive?
I don’t know… I don’t know what talk there has been. It’s certainly something. I’ll you what – there’s a lot of talk about it from fans. The fans seem very concerned about when Coulson’s death will be revealed to some Avengers. And, I certainly understand that, to a certain extent I share it.
To be honest, Coulson has his hands very full. Dealing with what he’s dealing with. And I’m so thrilled to be getting to take this – as we said – small character whose name was Agent, and get to have this level of exploration of him.
I think, if I know Marvel, it’s not something that will be done abruptly – it’ll be something that’s really carefully thought out, and a long time coming. It will be, hopefully, satisfying enough that it will justify the wait.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return to ABC in March to finish the second half of its third season. For now, you can stream the first two seasons on Netflix.
Source: Den of Geek.