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Secrets of ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

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The mysteries of the universe are popping up on Earth – and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are ready to respond! I spoke with the cast and creators at San Diego Comic-Con to find out all the secrets.

In the new series from ABC, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) leads a newly-assembled team of special agents as they handle strange situations occurring on Earth following the events of The Avengers. In addition to handling the aftermath of the Chitauri attack on New York City, the team’s missions include addressing strange new phenomena and the emergence of superhuman abilities among the world’s populations.

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At this point, you may be wondering how you’ll keep up with the show if you’re not familiar with the specifics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, Marvel’s Jeph Loeb has your answer: “You don’t necessarily have to know anything about the Marvel universe, you just need to go, ‘These are really sick, cool people that I want to hang out with.’”

So what kind of excitement can we expect from the series? “There’s weird and unusual and unexpected things out there in the Marvel universe,” Loeb explains. “This is a group of individuals who work for a good organization which is out there, and their intent is to be able to find out, ‘Is this item/person/phenomenon a threat? And if it is, what is the best way of dealing with that threat? Or is it a good thing, and does it need to be protected from an outside threat?’”

Another mystery waiting to be solved is the survival of Agent Coulson after his apparent death in The Avengers. The circumstances of his recovery will be revealed over time, but executive producer Jeffrey Bell assures that “Agent Coulson’s story and the price that was paid… in The Avengers wasn’t a lie, and so to say that something didn’t happen, we were all just pretending, would do a disservice to the movie and the whole Marvel universe.”

Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Coulson, shares his thoughts on his character’s survival and participating in the show: “I didn’t want to undo that part of The Avengers or do anything to cheapen it. When I got the spin of the direction they were thinking of going with it, and it was deep and interesting and… Whedon-esque, I was signed on and thrilled.”

The resurrected Coulson will lead a team roster consisting of Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a weapons expert and pilot; Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a black ops specialist with a tendency to argue with co-workers; Skye (Chloe Bennet), a civilian computer hacker-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D. operative; and Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), an engineering specialist partnered with Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), the team’s biochemist/life sciences expert.

The names of the last two agents are a great play on words (Fitz-Simmons), and with their partnership forming in the S.H.I.E.L.D. laboratories, it’s likely we’ll hear their names together quite often. “They are always together, kind of bickering but in a brother-sister relationship… Through their bickering and amazing chemistry, they pull the rabbit out of the hat,” says Henstridge.

Those rabbits may prove useful in helping the novice member of the team, Skye, who “stumbles into the S.H.I.E.L.D. world and she definitely stirs it up a bit,” according to her portrayer Chloe Bennet. “She’s kind of Coulson’s last puzzle piece of putting together this ragtag team of people who’ve… never really met, never really interacted, who have all these different assets but don’t really know how to use them in a team situation.”

Skye’s onscreen partner is Agent Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton, who describes his character as the “polar opposite” of Skye. “[She] does all of [her] work behind the computer and [Grant does] all of [his] work out in the field. Ward is like a Swiss Army knife, he has a tool for every situation but he’s just not used to working with other people… It’ll be interesting to see how this lone wolf becomes part of a wolf pack.”

Another wolf in the pack, Agent Melinda May, is described by actress Ming-Na Wen as “a soldier, tough” and holds the mysterious rank of Level Seven; she’s also the team pilot, a job that will likely see some excitement as she ferries the team around the globe. “We’re definitely having action and explosions, and I’m so happy to have a character who facilitates that, who’s going to be part of it,” says Wen.

While the globe-trotting potential is certainly present, creator Joss Whedon is quick to define what is at stake in the show versus the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “We don’t have to worry about whether the world is at stake. What is exciting about the show… is that the world is at stake for someone. Someone is having an apocalypse and S.H.I.E.L.D. can get into that on a personal level and not necessarily on a giant level.”

With anticipation of the series at a fever pitch, there’s little doubt that it will be a giant success.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday, September 24 on ABC. Check your local listings for times.

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