S.H.I.E.L.D. EXCLUSIVE Interview with Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen

If you haven't been watching or gave up on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it's worth giving the show another shot as there has been a major creative shift in gears. That's the subject of this exclusive interview with executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

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By EdGross - 3/11/2014
When Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned to ABC on March 4 following a one-month break in fresh episodes, it seemed to be a different show. The pace, the storytelling, the action, the characterizations — everything just felt as though it had come together in a way that it hadn't before. Plus we were finally getting a taste of what Marvel is best at: superheroes, first with Deathlok and, tonight, with the arrival of Lady Sif. So what exactly happened? That's what we attempt to get to the bottom of with executive producers and co-creators Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon in this exclusive interview.

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VOICES FROM KRYPTON: It just feels as though a light switch was thrown on the show as things just feel changed up. Was this a conscious decision to up the ante or a natural evolution of the series?

MAURISSA: I would say it’s a natural progression. We’ve had a game plan from the very beginning. We have 22 episodes and there are some folks that feel that we have rolled things out a little too slowly, but we had planted seeds. The standalone episodes all had little bits and pieces of mythology layered within them. Now that we’ve reached the back half of the season, we’re able to start to pay off all the groundwork that we’ve laid. You will feel that with pace, and it’s just natural progression of how the storytelling is thrust. The emotional consequences of that lays out in our characters.

VFK: Finding your legs with the characters and with the show, in your minds what has sort of been the change from where you started to where you are? What has the learning curve been?

JED: With any new show, you sort of just dive in and learn to swim. We’ve made little adjustments along the way as episodes come in and we see what’s working and what’s not in terms of shooting style, or how we want to approach music, how certain characters are responding to each other, and chemistry between the actors and that sort of thing. Any show will improve as they move forward. We’re also in a position now where we had to be very careful early on in terms of how we introduced characters into this Marvel universe. It’s a cinematic universe they spend a lot of time and a lot of money creating that we’re playing in. When our show started, there were really only two human beings with powers…

MAURISSA: That were established in the Marvel cinematic universe.

JED: Right, which were Hulk and Cap. We had to be very respectful of those films and not just have someone every week with a new power, which would sort of undercut the films and the importance of them. We were trying early on to respect that by slowly dipping our toes into the world of powers and having more gadgets early on, meeting characters and fleshing out the world slowly to be responsible storytellers in terms of the cinematic universe. Now that we’re in this back half of episodes, it’s easier to ramp things up and have that forward momentum. Things are really starting to hum in terms of us knowing the actors, the characters and the storylines.

AGENTS-OF-SHIELD-Tahiti

MAURISSA: There were many firsts going into this endeavor. It was Marvel’s first live-action television series, it was Marvel and ABC’s first collaboration and with a first season show we’re inevitably going to face some challenges and have some growing pains. I think at the very beginning we were very conscious that not only would we be bringing a Marvel audience to our show, we would be working with the existing ABC audience. So we were very mindful of creating a team of characters that are human, that are relatable, something to ease the ABC audience nto this world of Marvel that they may not have been exposed to before. To Jed’s point, now that we’re at episode thirteen we’re introducing people like Deathlock, Lady Sif. Now we’ve sort of eased them into this fantastic world that we live in.

JED: Also, putting our characters through their paces, we wanted to stand on our own, we wanted to have our characters have their own identifies apart from the films. Now that we’ve spent some time with them and set up how they operate and how they relate to each other, we can start creating drama between them. The drama will become more team-related and less outside threats, and that always feels more serialized and more fun.

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VOICES FROM KRYPTON: In that first batch of episodes, the superhero component was something that the show felt like it desperately needed. But you’re saying that from the beginning that was something you knew you were going to get to, you just weren’t ready for it then?

JED: Exactly. One of the things also is that unlike all of the other live-action Marvel content that had been created before, in a film the characters are established in the first twenty minutes. We had 22 episodes. Deathlok is an example of how rewarding it can be to show the progression of someone from a normal person to something else. We didn’t want to come in on the first episode of our TV show saying, “Yeah, there are superheroes everywhere!” We wanted to earn it and get there slowly. Now we can open up the throttle a little bit.

MAURISSA: When we started, there were some ground rules as to which characters we could deal with on our show and the characters that we couldn’t even remotely think about. It had to be worked out, because we are working in the same universe as the movies and we have to be very respectful of their possible future plans. It’s definitely a delicate process. As we’ve started to understand and hone how our train moves, that process has gotten to be a lot swifter and now we get to show some powered people on the show.

coulson brain

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: People watching are going to say, “They got Deathlok in there; they got Lady Sif in there. The floodgates are opening, here come the heroes!” I assume the number of heroes brought on to the show will be limited?

JED: We do not want to turn into a show where powers don’t have weight. One of the things about the notion that not all heroes are super and the concept behind the show is that if every week someone has a new super power, it’s going to feel like that doesn’t mean much. We want it to still carry some weight and be a rare occurrence that affects someone to witness it and affects someone to have it, and it could corrupt someone to have it. Those are the things we want to explore and we have a lot of episodes to do it. The other side of that is that there is an expectation early on, as you mentioned, that Iron Man would be flying in at any moment. That’s just not a practical expectation for us or the audience. Not because we don’t want to have them, but there are certain properties that have to hold their value in the films, so we have to build our own.

Deathlok-J-August-Richards-Mike-Peterson

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: The fact that you can, and, like you said, you’ve built this core of characters as the sort of prism through which these superheroes are viewed, that’s pretty cool.

JED: That IS the goal!

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Early on the show took a lot of hits online. When you read those things, do you say, “Oh my God, they’re right” or do you say, “Oh my God, they’re out of their minds"?

MAURISSA: We’re not blissfully unaware of the criticism. We know that’s a part of the gig, but if we focused on everything that people said was wrong with our show, I feel like we wouldn’t be able to make the show anymore.

JAIMIE ALEXANDER, CLARK GREGG

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: You’d be in a corner in a fetal position.

MAURISSA: [laughs] Exactly. We just set out to make the show that we would like to see and respond to. We’ve been huge fans of Marvel and the Marvel movies and we’re chugging along.

JED: When reading that criticism, there’s nothing that anyone writes that we haven’t at some point thought about the show ourselves, because all we do is pick it apart, see what we can do and weigh out different options.

MAURISSA: There have been so many times when we’ve wanted to say, “Just wait for the back half. I promise you, everything you’re asking for is going to happen.”

JED: We’ve been anxious to get to this point in the season just because of our reaction to it. People have been impatient with the show at times, and we’ve been trying to be patient with them and saying, “We understand, the Marvel brand carries a lot." When that “flip” happens at the top of a show, you expect something amazing and that’s because they’ve had such great success bringing that to viewers with the movies. We were eager to get to this point in the season where we feel we’re really delivering on the promise.
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Nomis - 3/11/2014, 1:31 PM
Pasto - 3/11/2014, 1:31 PM
FIRE HIM MARVEL!
JillyMcBeam - 3/11/2014, 1:32 PM
here come all the haters
Omarvls - 3/11/2014, 1:35 PM
I know this was to be DC Only Fanboys Marvels Failure trophy but the show is getting MUCH better is it too late?

I have no idea

But Flash looks Amazing can't wait for that show
Arrowhead77 - 3/11/2014, 1:37 PM
Ask them who the blue dude was!!
CapFanLex005 - 3/11/2014, 1:37 PM
Im digging it
JillyMcBeam - 3/11/2014, 1:38 PM
I agree. The show has done a complete 180 and is heading in the right direction. I think it will get renewed for a second season.
blackandyellow - 3/11/2014, 1:38 PM
Nice job, Ed.

Inhuman - 3/11/2014, 1:39 PM
Introduce Spider-Woman and Mockingbird
beane2099 - 3/11/2014, 1:39 PM
I like the show. But if viewers keep dropping then clearly "planting seeds" wasn't the way to go. I'm not saying it's not possible for a show to climb back up and I'm all for a success story here. However that's not the norm. That said, the show still does well in its time slot considering what it's going up against. I'm pretty sure we'll see a season 2 but really, who knows?
EdGross - 3/11/2014, 1:39 PM
I think the last two episodes have been much improved. And as to the haters - let's try and keep it civil, okay? They did NOT have to take the time to talk to me.
EdGross - 3/11/2014, 1:40 PM
Thanks, all. As always, the support is appreciated.
Carl - 3/11/2014, 1:40 PM
This show is ran by boneheads.
If Marvel wasn't involved it would be history.
Half the people ive asked thought the blue man was dr manhatten. free advertising for DC.
the coulson thing is shit too. he needed to be a life model decoy for his death to mean anything in Avengers.
RetroFit - 3/11/2014, 1:41 PM
What a bunch of diplomatic bullplop. The show was a turd for the first half and everybody knew it. Being a turd wasn't part of some grand, over-arching plan. It's improved out of necessity because everyone hated it because it was terrible. Listening to them talk about their grand plan is like listening to George Lucas try to explain why the prequels were exactly what he wanted them to be and they were just misunderstood.
Nomis - 3/11/2014, 1:42 PM
I think it has vastly improved since Coulson found out about his "surgery" and wanted to die.

But even before that one, there was some solid shows in between the ones that was not so solid.

Great stuff as usual Ed!
Marvel1997 - 3/11/2014, 1:44 PM
They had brought up some great POINTS. I bet you half of the people that will comment on this thread won't even [Frick]ing read them. Lmao.... Gotta laugh
ALmazing - 3/11/2014, 1:44 PM
Great interview EG, can't wait for this week's episode.
MrBatmor - 3/11/2014, 1:45 PM
Nice interview.... I agree with them that the powers should have some weight and not be something you see daily
UltimateHunt - 3/11/2014, 1:45 PM
Great Article Ed.

this show now has the potential to go rise, Marvel better do it right
dethpillow - 3/11/2014, 1:46 PM
interesting interview.

a lot of what they're saying just doesn't add up to me.
not really knocking them, cuz they're improving a lot and what else are you supposed to say in interviews, u gotta kind of try to sell this narrative so people feel like everything's in competent hands I guess.
so i don't wanna pick them all apart or act mean about it, but they're saying some things that sound pretty fishy and fakey to me.

doesn't matter as long as going forward, they keep it up, just saying interesting interview becuz of this.
dethpillow - 3/11/2014, 1:47 PM
oh wow... this is a site exclusive interview. cool!! great job.
this is actually a good interview. rad.
MrBatmor - 3/11/2014, 1:49 PM
@carl yes because dc is going to do anything imp with dr. Manhattan...he isnt batman or Superman...as far as this show goes...if you font like it ...dont watch it!!simple as that
blackandyellow - 3/11/2014, 1:50 PM
Anyone who reports people on a regular basis should be viewed as an enemy of CBM.

InfiniteMonkey - 3/11/2014, 1:50 PM
Loved this show since the beginning.

Can't wait for tonight and the rest of the season.
StarYeezus - 3/11/2014, 1:50 PM
Lol, Jed Whedon looks like Evan Peters in that photo.
InfiniteMonkey - 3/11/2014, 1:51 PM
Oh yeah, Well done Ed. Well done indeed.
dethpillow - 3/11/2014, 1:56 PM
@Gusto - actually tonite's is a guest appearance with Sif (Jaime Alexander) coming down to earth to hunt down Lorelei. and i love Sif and all and maybe it'll be a great episode, but i got a feeling from the previews that it's not gonna be that good at representing what's changed about the show.

i might totally be wrong, but just saying maybe don't take this one as a representation of what people are talking about. it looks kinda wacky to me.
the one where Coulson starts remembering, the one coming back from the hiatus, that one and the train one are probably the best examples of how it's improved. definitely the train one, TRACKS. to me, at least. and the last episode with the blue guy is sort of capping that one off in certain ways and it works well.

FZZT and the Hub i thought were good episodes too, but a little older.
DefcoN - 3/11/2014, 1:57 PM
Although I did like the show from the start, it's improvement has been remarkable.
TheRealRemyLebeau - 3/11/2014, 1:58 PM
@EdGross good work. This was a great read. This show has been good with slight road bumps along the way but enjoyable.

Titanace - 3/11/2014, 1:58 PM
Whole family was excited for this show. Watched the first episode and we were not impressed. Gave it a shot again and have not watched since. I am going to give it another try tonight after reading how it has improved. Pleeeeeeaaaaaassssse be good. I really want it to be good so we can all watch it and look forward to the next show.
soforizo - 3/11/2014, 2:00 PM
I hate it how AOS gets the bottom of the barrel talent wise in Marvel's production department. I can only see these two being there for nepotism. Demote or fire them all after this season. At the very least overhaul writing team or bring in an influx of comic book writers not named Loeb. Please!
DefcoN - 3/11/2014, 2:01 PM
I used to anxiously await for every new episode of TWD, but as of lately, AoS has taken that spot.
fortycals - 3/11/2014, 2:01 PM
@b&y
Basically. Point Em out
Titanace - 3/11/2014, 2:03 PM
Since I first started following along with this site, There has been one constant and that is the enjoyment I get from Gusto's comments. If someone reported him then they need to give their head a shake.
soforizo - 3/11/2014, 2:05 PM
@Titanace

Not sure when you last watched, but it's improved (not that hard of a task). But it's gotten stuck in the same position for the last 4 or 5 episodes, and clips of tonight's epi don't seem like it will break the streak either. HOWEVER... a lot of people seem to love, even if it were to stay like it is right now. So you might as well give it a try to see if it's to your liking.
TheRealRemyLebeau - 3/11/2014, 2:06 PM
This interview made perfect sense. They didn't want to step on the toes of the films and supervillians and superheroes are not running around on a daily basis. Also this show is about the agents that deal with the extraordinary. Dummies can't see this. What I don't get is people complain when the movies have to cut out development due to length of film but when development happens in a 22 episode show people still complain. Don't make no sense.
dethpillow - 3/11/2014, 2:06 PM
@carl - free advertising for DC?

that is just silly and also crazy. like either of these companies think of things on that level.

and that would be really bizarre and i don't believe that half the people you asked actually thought that was Dr Manhattan. ok? if you know who Dr Manhattan is then you probably know that he's not on a SHIELD show.

people make up the silliest imaginary anecdotes like that, and then in your heads, you're thinking like..."well this could be true. why couldn't this be true? it's basically true."

and then you say it, and either you're lying or you're hanging out with weird people.

that's like when i went to see MOS and my girlfriend's brother and all his friends all thought Zod was Yves St Laurent. they were all asking me afterwards... was that supposed to be Yves St Laurent, why was he in this? i don't get it. why did they keep calling Yves St Laurent, Zod? that was weird.

and then i said, no, no no. that was Thanos, u big dummies. DC ripped Yves St Laurent off of Thanos. and for some reason his name is Zod cuz that's just how it translates in Krypton, i guess.

your story reminds me of that time when i saw MOS. and my sister's husband all his friends were all like... is that Shazam? why doesn't he have to say Shazam to get his powers? i thought Shazam was a little boy and he never got along with Kobe so the Lakers had to fire him. what's going on with this movie? who is that?

2BOOKOO4U - 3/11/2014, 2:07 PM
Blah!Blah!Blah!Blibbity blah!
Arrow is better and it shouldn't be.
I'm just sayin...
The explanation of Coulson's return was so lame...
I had to take the show off my "small list of shows to watch".
"Almost Human"
"Sleepy Hollow"
"Arrow"
"The Black List"
All shouldn't be better than "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." off
of the heels of The Avengers.
But they are!!!
WHY???
So sad.

Note to Marvel...Get your $h!t together!
And make those movie scripts better.
I-M3 and Thor:TDW were weak sause.

Again...
I'm just sayin.
Bekss - 3/11/2014, 2:08 PM
Why so many trolls and haters?

Once I went to a Arrow thread and there wasn't any troll.
And the worst part is that I put a link of a Marvel news and everyone was insulting me and calling me DC hater.
Funny.
soforizo - 3/11/2014, 2:08 PM
@Titanace

I did report Gusto one time.. he had this picture of a little girl with some caption asking if she could pleasure in some way (or some shit like that), and that was too perverted for my tolerance.
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