Coulson Lives & We've Got Him: An Interview with CLARK GREGG
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: How strange is it to make the leap with Coulson from those feature films to the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series?
At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, CBM's Ed Gross had the opportunity with several other reporters to sit down with Clark Gregg to discuss the resurrection of Phil Coulson in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Coulson's ever expanding role in the Marvel Universe.
CLARK GREGG: I love playing the guy. It’s been this bizarre journey, because I grew up reading comic books. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd. I love this stuff. I knew my neighbor, Jon Favreau, was putting together an amazing cast for Iron Man, which was one of my favorite comics, and then I got a call, “There’s a little tiny part; do you want to me in it?” And I was, like, “YESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!” Then to have it get fleshed out in that movie, added to these other movies, given meatier and more amazing stuff to do was great. Then, most movingly to me, to have it connect with the fans in a way where they just didn’t accept his death and kind of waged a campaign on Coulson’s behalf. That’s really amazing to me. He’s THEM. He’s an avatar for the fans, and a human in a world of superhumans. So to walk out there and get that response, and for the show to get that kind of response, was just incredible. And to get to play this guy again, because I thought I was done, is really a dream come true for me.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: How does it feel to be representing this guy at Comic-Con?
CLARK GREGG: The first time I came here I think it was right during the original Iron Man. I was here for something else. I went around and bought my favorite Jim Starlin comics, I walked the floor, and the next time I came here, people were dressed up like me! I was glad I wasn’t here last year, because I saw pictures of Coulson or bloody and zombied and that would have been too upsetting for me. Joss is the true mayor of Comic-Con, but to be the Junior Duke of Comic-Con is really cool.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: What was your reaction when somebody referred to Coulson as their favorite Avenger?
CLARK GREGG: I almost cried [laughs]. It blows me away that people have that response to him, because I stand there on the deck of the helicarrier and I can’t get my lines out, partly because of the actors I’m dealing with, but partly because I’m talking to Bruce Banner and it’s freaking me out! It’s a huge testament to what Joss wrote for Coulson. I really think the show and the response and the “Coulson Lives” thing is really because Joss took what was there already and instinctively turned it into this thing that was really there; that Coulson was a fanboy, that he had a ridiculous man crush on Captain America. I think that’s really what made this happen.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: This is the first time that a Joss Whedon death has ended happily with the character coming back to life….
CLARK GREGG: [laughs] Listen, there are a few actors from the Whedonverse who are not happy with me.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: At least you can be confident that Joss probably won’t kill Coulson a second time.
CLARK GREGG: You know, this is a world where people are vulnerable, so I don’t think that anyone’s safe — including Agent Coulson. That said, it’s a hopeful show. It’s an optimistic world. What’s fun about this for me, and what I’ve always loved about the comics and about sci-fi is that there’s a way you can tell a story in an imaginative universe that you can’t in strict realism. You can take who we are right now and project it forward a little bit, or put a slight spin on it that makes us look at who we are through a lens that’s more real than real. TV feels like the perfect, serialized version of that. So to see the first couple of scripts, to see the way that they’ve found the thing that’s bigger than anything I’ve ever seen on TV, and yet to see the humans of that world represented is really exciting for me.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: As the layers are being pulled back, what’s being revealed about Coulson as a person?
CLARK GREGG: Every movie I learned a little bit more. They had me in Iron Man 2 saying, “I’ve got to go, I’m going to New Mexico,” and at the end of shooting it I said to somebody, “What’s in New Mexico?” And they said, “Nobody told you? It’s Thor; the hammer’s there.” THAT’S how I find stuff out. It’s a chain letter that I’m always happiest to read, because then I get to act it. So far in the two episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D., in each one of them I’ve learned something about Phil Coulson.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: In the films they’re recruiting superheroes to form The Avengers. In the show you’re recruiting elite humans. Has Coulson lost his job recruiting The Avengers?
CLARK GREGG: I think The Avengers have been recruited. We’d have to go to Director Fury to find out why he’s now tasked him to do this. I think it’s clear he sends Coulson to the hottest zones he’s gone. We’re in a world after The Avengers where people have gone from knowing about Tony Stark and The Hulk, for a moment, before he was contained, to a world with a wormhole and alien invaders in New York, and these guys from Asgard who are trouble. A lot of people want in on that action, and some of them aren’t very nice. That said, I think it’s a vehicle for dealing with other new superheroes from the Marvel Universe sometimes, but also all kinds of old and new SHIELD business.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Coulson’s death sort of brought The Avengers together. When they find out he’s still alive, is that something you think we’ll see played out on the series or in the films?
CLARK GREGG: One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about playing this guy and being in this world, is that Marvel are like grand masters of chess. There are an infinite number of possibilities of the way the pieces can get moved, and as a fan I look at it and I say, “Whether it’s about my character or others, I really hope they exploit that spectacular opening.” So far, the reason people are going to see these movies is not because people have an endless thirst for superheroes, but because they have an endless thirst for a developing story where they keep taking the coolest possible opportunity. Obviously there are some Avengers and Pepper Potts who are going to be really upset and feel manipulated, but I don’t know if, when they find out everything, they’ll still feel that way.
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