Disclosure: I attended this set visit as part of an all expense paid media trip. All opinions are completely my own.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Airs Tuesdays 9|8c on ABC
By now you know that I’ve been on the super-secret set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and no, I’m not sharing the location. 😉 What I am sharing is my experience on the set and I’m also sharing my interview with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Costume Designer, Ann Foley.
I’ve even thrown in an unexpected chat with Chloe Bennet and Luke Mitchell.I know! Hold on to your horses. I can’t share the entire five minutes with Chloe and Luke because Chloe may have shared a ton of spoilers with us and the nice folks at Marvel said we couldn’t share those just yet.
While we were interviewing the cast, we were sitting right next to The Bus. Not only that, but Lola was sitting right there. So close, yet so far away. You can see in this tweet that Ming-Na shared, just how close we really were.
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 11, 2015
WAR TEARS SKYE APART, ON “MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” ON ABC
Edward James Olmos Guest Stars as Robert Gonzales
“Scars” – Skye is torn between her loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. and her connection to the Inhumans as tensions rise between the groups — and Coulson reveals a secret he’s been hiding from even those closest to him, on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” TUESDAY, MAY 5 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Clark Gregg as Director Phil Coulson, Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Agent Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons, Nick Blood as Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse.
Guest starring are Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Ruth Negga as Raina, Patton Oswalt as Sam/Billy Koenig, Kyle Maclachlan as Cal, Edward James Olmos as Robert Gonzales, Jamie Harris as Gordon, Christine Adams as Agent Weaver, Mark Allan Stewart as Agent Oliver, Maya Stojan as Kara/Agent 33, Dichen Lachman as Jiaying, Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell, Alicia Vela-Bailey as Alisha, David Douglas as Michael and Crystal Coney as scientist.
”Scars” was written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc and directed by Bobby Roth.
More clips and sneak peeks on ABC.com.
Dirty Half Dozen
Chloe Bennet (“Skye“) and Luke Mitchell (“Lincoln”)
While we were on set, we had a few moments to watch the filming of an episode. It was interesting to see all the parts come together on screen (directing/acting/emotions/fights). We actually had about five minutes for an unexpected conversation with both Chloe Bennet and Luke Mitchell.
I’m serious here, Chloe was in the hallway of ‘the ship’ while she was getting ready for her next scene. Luke was sitting right there next to her during this brief chat. It was all of four minutes, but I’m able to share this bit.
The other actors said that they found out a week ahead of time they were turning ‘bad’. How about you and Lincoln here? How much time were you given?
Neither of us are bad. [Speaking of Skye and Lincoln]
For instance, when Skye found out she was Daisy Johnson. They told me the day before. The day before, when you get a knock on your trailer door and it’s Jeph Loeb , Jeff Bell, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon knocking and they’re like can we come in? I’m like I’m fired. It was really awkward in my trailer and then they sat me down and said you are Daisy Johnson. And I had a nerd-gasm. It was amazing. It was so cool. I did know before because I had done my research. When I did my research I found out she was Daisy Johnson, I stayed quiet and I knew they would come talk to me and let me know. -Chloe Bennet
We received a tour of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set and one of my favorite moments was when we were able to strap into the seats on the QuinJet! Oh, yeah. I was there. You can see the the QuinJet in Season 2’s Afterlife episode. After hanging out in the QuinJet for a few, we walked over to Coulson’s office and I even had a moment to have my picture taken at his desk.
We walked through FitzSimmons’ lab, which looks exactly like it does on set and is immaculate. Next, we ventured into the old S.S.R. base and we were able to see the inside of the small, grey ‘cell’ that was used in Season 1.
After that, we ventured over to the Costume Department to meet with Costume Designer, Ann Foley.
Interview with Costume Designer Ann Foley
Upon entering the Costume Department, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. costume designer Ann Foley showed us her vision boards. They hung on the walls and walking further into the costume department there were the working closets of the entire cast. Some we were able to see included Coulson, Ward, Fitz, May, and others.
What’s a closet?
A closet, the working closet is where I pull their clothes for each episode. I have a little closet that I use for all my fittings, for each and every episode. In my vision board over there, these are ideas that I had at the beginning of last season that I used to show the producers and even the cast of where we were going with each one of them, so that we could create six really strong identifiable characters.
How awesome is it to have a job where you do a vision board as part of your job?
It was really fun. It was really fun, and a lot of this stuff was inspiration for season one. I have a few things up there for season two, and as most of you guys know, there was a big progression in the cast from season one towards the end and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., we went a little darker and everybody grew up. So season two, it was a little darker. It was a little edgier. It was actually a fun, it was kind of a nice change.
Walking through the closet on our way to Ann’s workroom, she shared some more information on the clothing.
We saw Mockingbird’s coats from the first time we see her on screen ad Hunter’s leather jackets that he’s been wearing on film. We also saw Coulson’s ties and suits, along with the permanent working stock, including budget suits for her S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
What kind of background do you have in a typical episode?
It depends. We could be shooting somewhere in Europe. Last year we had a really fabulous, probably one of my favorite episodes, was when we were in Russia and we did a little Russian bar. That was amazing. So that’s what we do. We pull from my permanent stock to address…
Do you have measurements for everyone that comes in? Do you know the sizes?
For specific background we get their sizes and then we pull clothes specifically to them. Definitely for the cast. Any day players that come in, I get their sizes, everybody comes in for a fitting. Every single person on the show pretty much, whether they have one line or they have a big arc, they come in and I dress them all.
Upon entering her workshop we see the sequined dress that Ming-Na wore (the short, silver one) and a dress that Raina wore (blue printed with black flowers).
This is where we build a lot of costumes on the show. The costumes up on mannequins that we’ve made here in-house. One being Raina, the girl in the flower dress. She’s probably one of my favorite characters. We actually print that fabric and then we make each one of our dresses. What we did with her is I really worked with the writers and we sort of went into her head, and depending on where her head was in that episode, we tried to choose that color wisely.
They’re all 100 percent custom made and those, that’s special to our show. Then that’s Ming’s silver sequin dress that we made that in-house, too, which was so much fun. It was so much fun putting her in that. We had about a week to make five of those dresses. Those tiny sequins that you see on there, we were finding those sequins all over studio. They were everywhere.
Agent May Fights…Herself Clip
Why did you have to make five of them?
We made five because Ming was fighting herself, or May was fighting herself in the episode, so we had one beautiful one for May, then we had one that she could fight in, so we, sewed stretch panels inside so she could fight and do all of her movement. She had two stunt doubles and then Agent 33 was in one as well. Yeah, so that was a lot. Then we have Skye’s new tactical outfit for this season, and the hood piece up there is her custom made.
Then of course Mockingbird. That’s another one of my favorites this season as well. Here’s some illustrations that we have. My fabulous illustrator, Phillip Boutte, who I’ve been working with on both seasons and here’s the latest and the greatest, which is our friend Deathlok, who you guys saw on Tuesday night’s [episode]. I wish I could have put him up, but he is not available to be put up yet. [She had photos/sketches of Deathlok’s suit on the wall]
What percentage of the costumes are custom made?
It’s hard to say. It depends on the episode. 30 percent. I could be higher than that, but I don’t want to, I’ll skew lower. It does feel like we’re making a lot of stuff back here and I love to do that. Even Raina, who is coming up, we’ve made a lot of stuff for her and we’ll continue to as well. It just depends on the needs of the character, because sometimes you just can’t find it at Bloomingdale’s.
We made this really beautiful, it’s another hooded piece because she [Raina] needs a hood for her protection. Even if it’s an emotional protection, so to speak. You know it just felt right. I found this really beautiful, it’s an Asian-inspired lace and we put a red, silk underneath it so that you could see the red coming through the flowers that are in the lace. So she still keeps her flowers. It’s very subtle. Hopefully you’ll be able to see it, but it’s just, it’s a character thing.
How many outfits average in an episode?
That depends on the cast involved. Sometimes, we have up to 38 people in the show that we’re outfitting. The episode with Ming and the dress, our cast was about 38. And then we’re doing the multiples on top of it, so it varies.
For an established comic book characters like Mockingbird and Deathlok, how much inspiration comes from the comic book and how much comes from just your own inspiration?
A bunch. I always go to the source material, because I think it’s important. These are established characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I want to respect that. But at the same time, it’s about bringing them into our world and making it believable for the world of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So, it’s always a little bit of a balance.
Have there been any characters that have been especially challenging?
There’s always gonna be a challenge, even if they’re in street clothes. But I never really look at it as a challenge. It’s just another aspect of it. I love building costumes. I love shopping them as well. I’ve been very lucky in my assistant designer career. I’ve worked on some amazing films that, that’s all we did was build. We were in completely different worlds. And so it just kind of second nature to me.
How much lead time do you get? Actors may not know what coming up until the episode before, but costume is different?
Mockingbird, I got about two months. Same with Deathlok. Ming in the silver dress, about 10 days. Yeah.
What considerations do you have to take for stunt doubles, fighters, and things like that?
That’s one of the most important things to me in the show. I always take the actors considerations into account when we’re building. They have to be able to do their stunts. They have to be able to fight. They have to be able to move really freely, do high kicks. With the dress, the challenge was making sure Ming could punch, so she could move so that nothing would pull here, and she could flip over a table. You don’t ever want the costume to get in the way.
And even with Deathlok, his costume is made out of…the base of it is stretch, like a four-way stretch, very similar to what Mockingbird’s is made out of. So it’s a four-way stretch, and I print on top of it. It’s an ink, so the costume still moves with the actor, and that’s super, super, super important.
What kind of system do you have when you need to find a few pieces for each character?
I have some fabulous shoppers on the show. And also I am a big online shopper. I’m gonna give a big shout out to Shopbop and Net-A-Porter and Mr. Porter.
Talk about the job of shopper.
To shop all day long. It’s great, because we know the characters now, and I think the bigger challenge was at the end of last season and starting this season when we started going darker and edgier, was trying to find that idea of all of the characters. For example Elizabeth Simmons, to me is probably one of the more challenging characters to shop for on the show because she is eclectic.
So it will be one piece from this store, one piece from that store and it’s just about styling her and bringing her together without any of them getting, going over the top, ’cause it, the challenge for me, I guess, going back to your original question is keeping it believable, keeping it real, and not having it be over the top. And, people getting distracted by what the cast is wearing.
Who is the easiest to dress?
I know them all so well that it’s not that hard. Yeah. I guess the harder part is maybe finding those pieces that identify each character, because I can be a little, if you ask my shoppers, I can be a little picky. They’d probably be able to answer that question better than me.
Coulson is so identified by his suit and his armor. When he’s out of it, you have to decide if he’s in a tac vest or something else.
That’s very true. That’s the fun part, because Coulson is always in a suit, so when I get to get him out of the suit, it’s funny because Twitter loves it. They love seeing Coulson undercover. I think that’s probably one of the most fun things for me, is when I get those episodes and everyone’s under cover. I only had a short lead time on that dress [May’s], but it’s so much fun.
Sometimes it makes me laugh. Last season, when Coulson and May went undercover as Fitzsimmons, …probably the best fittings I’ve ever had in my life because Elizabeth has a very specific way of standing in her fittings and Ming did that in the fitting photos for the cast. You could hear her laughing across the studio. It was wonderful. I was really fun.
Do you have a hard time shopping for yourself?
Oh, no. If you see my, if you see my twitter handle, you’ll see it. It says shopaholic. Yeah.
Do you come home with things for the show when you’re shopping for yourself?
Well, I’ve been shopping for so long as a costumer and assistant designer, I’ve always been guilty. I will go to Barney’s and it’s like oh, this is for the show. Oh, I need one of those, too. I try not to do that, otherwise I’d be like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. I can’t buy my apartment when it goes condo, but I have a fabulous closet.