I sat down with Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last month while in LA for the Avengers: Age of Ultron press junket and had a little chat about what it's like to be a part of this awesome show.
You might be able to guess this from other interviews Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen have done, but these guys are pretty funny! Ming had us laughing right off the bat when she whipped out her camera and started taking photos...of US!
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 11, 2015
We asked them: Have you seen the new Avengers?
Clark (to Ming): You saw Avengers.
Ming: The first movie, yeah.
Clark: I still didn't even see the part after I got killed in the first one 'cause I was--
Ming: Too emotional.
Clark: Frankly, I was too sad.
As you all may recall, Agent Coulson was killed in the original Avengers. It was a sad day for us all...I mean, he never even got his Captain America trading card signed!!
Us: We saw it (the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie) last night.
Ming: You did not! [LAUGHTER] Okay, well, let us ask you questions then. What happened?
Clark: Okay, be honest. Am I in it?
Ming: Is he in it? Seriously because I keep bugging him that he's in it. And he's not telling anybody.
Clark: No one believes me. See then now someone can - it’s like you're secretly in it, and you're not telling us. I’m not!
Ming: It’s so crazy that you're not in it because it’s...
Clark: I didn't want to be in it. It’s too scary. I mean I haven't seen it.
Ming: Ugh, okay. So you weren't lying. Well, I’m glad.
Okay, enough about Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron for now - we've talked about this super awesome movie in lots of other posts. Today I want to really focus on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Tonight's season finale is going to blow your socks off!!
We asked: How much information did they give you in the very beginning?
Ming: They gave me the name of my character and that I was an agent of SHIELD [LAUGHS] and that, you know, she left the field for a reason and that's about it. Really I didn't get very much.
Clark: The first scene where we meet you, is me going to find her where she's behind stacks of boxes and paperwork having checked herself out of SHIELD. And we only gradually come to learn that she's got this reputation...
Ming: As the cavalry.
Clark: As the cavalry and that she's a legendary warrior who quit and pushed away from the table because of, uh, traumatic experience.
Ming: And I used my thing as an actor - just, I’m quitting. That's that's what I draw from.
Clark: Oh, that's your thing. A friend of mind gave me a Monopoly card that says get out of show business free. Just when you’ve had enough of the abuse.
Clark: But it was referenced a number of times. There was little hints of it in different episodes of what had happened. Eventually some pieces got filtered in that is this involved a powered person and, you know, deeply scarring stuff, which I always really liked. It’s where the show kind of veers into something topical, the concept of people who do defend other people militarily, the scars they carry in PTSD. And, uh, and-- but it’s only been little piece meal hints. So we were kind of excited, you know, three days before we started shooting when we found out that this was gonna be the reveal.
Ming: Right because we've heard a lot about Bahrain. And, you know, there were always references to it. But, uh, the details of it wasn’t really known until the episode. Or maybe a couple of episodes before there were some hints about-- about that storyline but, uh, nothing very specific. You know, so 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.
Clark: They tell me some stuff.
Ming: That's because you're the director. You're Coulson.
We asked: What has been one of the most emotional scenes to shoot?
Clark: In Season 1, episode 11, I think it was. I think it was called A Magical Place or Tahiti. And it was when Coulson was put in the memory machine by Raina. And, the people we did not yet know were Hydra kind of forced to confront the fact that he had been dead that he’d been through this tremendously excruciating, experience. And also that, stuff about the cellist and kind of the things he had lost. And that part of the journey of someone who’d been a kind of no questions asked company man, realizing that he too had been lied to by all kinds of people.
Ming: I think for me it was, there was this episode about this kind of ghostly figure that May had to fight with. It really brought back her own personal issues about having to let go. So it had a reference to Bahrain, and I think that particular episode, you know, she was struggling with various things, just not wanting to engage but having to - you know, to - to take care of a situation and allow herself to yeah...But, and then of course, I think the other scene was, when Skye was...
Clark: When Skye was shot. It’s the family. This is a show about a family.
Ming: Yeah, that was a big one.
Clark: People who don't get to have real families 'cause they work too hard. I suspect you know what that's about. How they become a family. And at the times when the bonds, the trust is questioned when people are hurt, we lose people on this show.
We lost B.J. Britt. And most of us are still recovering. You know, even some of the bad guys, we end up - we love them so much off screen. It’s a really fun, this is a really good set. There's others. This is a really good one. We kind of, we have fun, and we take care of each other. And when we have to say goodbye to people it really is painful. And a lot of times you feel it in the scenes. And it’s just dark around here for a little while. We loved B.J. so much. And he was such a kind of discovery and such, uh, a buoyant person. I think we had five different goodbye parties just to keep him coming back around.
We asked: What are your stunts versus stunt performers?
Ming: It’s a very collaborative effort between our stunt coordinator, a lot of people who do like rigging and special effects of wire work, as well as my stunt doubles. I have sometimes two or three depending on their levels of skills of what they can do. And it’s always an intense but really fun process. And I learn the entire choreography of every single fight scene. And the only thing that I don't do are the more dangerous things where it’s the wire works. And, you know, you're being pulled across a room or you have to smash into a wall.
Clark: She's pretty remarkable. She - we both - we both I think we can divulge this, crossed a number with a five in it. And, it’s a huge motivator to stay in - [LAUGHTER] is that a secret?
Ming: No between the two of us, yeah, a century, right, plus. Wow. [LAUGHS]
Clark: I guess I wasn’t prepared for that party.
Ming: I know. Doesn’t it sound worse that way? But, yeah.
Clark: We both really love that part of it. She gets to do, a bit more of it. I’m always fighting for a little bit more. It gives us an excuse, you know, 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 gonna be thrown into one of these fights. And you're gonna not want to have them pull you out 'cause you can't do it. And we have amazing doubles who really kind of make us look good in the moments where it gets too dangerous. And I mean I've seen guy - people doubling me get carted off a couple times this year. It’s for real. And yet they let us - they let us kind of work in. They're really - Matt and...
Ming: Matt Mullen, he's our choreographer and Tanner.
Clarkg: Matt Mullen and Eric Norris, they 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. And every once in a while they’ll let me throw in a move of that 'cause I might have some practice at it.
Ming: Yeah, and I love just watching fight scenes, you know, because the Chinese movies are all about that. And so whenever we can throw little Easter Eggs in to the fight scenes that kind of you know, give homage to very specific people like Bruce Lee or just any of these like amazing fights that I've ever seen. We always try to throw those in too for fun.
We asked: How much of your own personality goes into your character?
Ming: Oh! 100% [LAUGHS]
Clark: I mean for us it’s hilarious to watch the taciturn and lethal Melinda May and then hang out with the giggly and hilarious super sweet Ming. I mean you don't want to mess with Ming either.
Ming: Yeah, if I’m hungry.
Clark: But there's a difference - there's a difference.
We asked: Do you ever get to ad lib your lines?
Clark: I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not, you know, a lot of them. My god, I’d love to claim more of them. But a lot of them are our terrific writers. They really - you know, from the get go, Joss in the pilot and these writers, you know, one of the reasons they I think brought Coulson back to life is that to their surprise in a super hero movie like the first Avengers and the ones leading up to it there was something that the audience really connected to in the super hero world, someone who was quite vulnerable, who, you know, this was kinda their job. Like, oh, God, what does this guy have for a super power? And got to have some kinda snarky lines.
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 gonna do one extra pass and throw in a couple. Um, boo-ya might've been mine.
After this awesome interview, Ming had to go get ready for a scene and we posed for a photo with Clark - and guys, he spoke directly to me. HE SPOKE TO ME. And he patted me on the shoulder. I texted Chris as soon as I was able to use my phone to tell him and he told me not to wash my dress. ha ha!
After this interview wrapped up, we met with Jeff Bell and Joss Whedon and previewed tonight's Agents of SHIELD episode! You can read all about that interview and a little teaser of the episode here. It airs tonight at 9 PM EST on the ABC Television Network.
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All photos courtesy of ABC/Marvel.