Disclosure: I attended this event as a member of the press. All opinions are completely my own.
Exclusive Interview with Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg on the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 11, 2015
Okay, let me set the stage again…25 bloggers hanging out on the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D. set. We were sitting next to the Bus and Lola. Sitting in front of us was Ming-Na Wen (“Melinda May”) and Clark Gregg (“Phil Coulson”). Um, hello? Can we say AWESOME?!? Once we got settled in and after Ming-Na posted the bloggers on Twitter, it was time to ask the questions.
Of course, the first question was if they’d seen the new Avengers. Neither Clark or Ming-Na had, so Ming-Na was trying to grill us on if Clark was in the movie. We listened as they started laughing and had this little tongue-in-cheek banter.
I still didn’t even see the part after I got killed in the first one ’cause I was– -Clark Gregg
Too emotional. -Ming-Na Wen
Frankly, I was too sad. -Clark
Way too emotional. -Ming-Na
The way they interact and their banter was simply amazing to see in person. They finish each other’s sentences and act like life-long friends. So, in case you were wondering, the chemistry between this cast is real.
Now back to the Avengers question. We may have mentioned that we had already screened Avengers. Love it when we do that. I remember when we had cocktails with Ming-Na last year at the Moms of ABC reception and we had watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier before she had, so it was a sense of deja vu.
You did not! Let us ask you questions then. What happened? -Ming-Na
Okay, be honest. Am I in it? -Clark
Is he in it? Seriously because I keep bugging him that he’s in it. And he’s not telling anybody. -Ming-Na
No one believes me. -Clark
It’s like you’re secretly in it, and you’re not telling us.
It’s so crazy that you’re not in it because it’s– -Ming-Na
I didn’t want to be in it. It’s too scary. I mean I haven’t seen it. -Clark
Okay. So you weren’t lying. I’m glad you weren’t lying though. -MingNa
Now, pay attention! There are lots of great tidbits in this exclusive interview.
How May Became The Cavalry Clip
How much information did they give you in the very beginning?
They gave me the name of my character and that I was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. [LAUGHS] and that she left the field for a reason and that’s about it. Really I didn’t get very much. -Ming-Na
Even in the pilot though, just from the script. -Clark
Yes. You know she was a– -Ming-Na
The first scene– 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 S.H.I.E.L.D. We only gradually come to learn that she’s got this reputation– -Clark
As the cavalry. -Ming-Na
As the cavalry and that she’s a legendary warrior who quit and pushed away from the table because of a traumatic experience. -Clark
I used my thing as an actor not want– just I’m quitting. That’s what I draw from. -Ming-Na
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
Yeah, that’s right just box yourself in… -Ming-Na
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 this involved a powered person and 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. But it’s only been little piece meal hints.
We were kind of excited three days before we started shooting when we found out that this was gonna be the reveal. -Clark
Right because we’ve heard a lot about Bahrain. And there were always references to it. But the details of it wasn’t really known until the episode. Or maybe a couple of episodes before there were some hints about that storyline but nothing very specific. 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. -Ming-Na
They tell me some stuff. -Clark
That’s because you’re the director. You’re Coulson. -Ming-Na
What has been one of the most emotional scenes to shoot?
In Season 1, episode 11 – I think it was called A Magical Place or Tahiti. And it was when Coulson was put in the memory machine by Raina. The people we did not yet know were Hydra and 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 the things he had lost. 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.
Like you [to Ming-Na]. That was pretty painful. -Clark
Yeah. Well, you’ve lied to me a lot obviously. I think for me there was this episode about this kind of ghostly figure that May had to fight with.
And it really brought back her own personal issues about having to let go. It had a reference to Bahrain, and I think that particular episode she was struggling with various things of just not wanting to engage but having to to take care of a situation and allow herself to….
I think the other scene was when Skye was… -Ming-Na
When Skye was shot. It’s the family. This show is about a family. -Clark
Yeah, that was a big one. -Ming-Na
People who don’t get to have real families because they work too hard. I suspect you know what that’s about. And how they become a family. 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. Even some of the bad guys – we love them so much off screen. This is a really good set. There’s others. This is a really good one. We have fun, and we take care of each other. 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 a buoyant person.
I think we had five different goodbye parties just to keep him coming back around. -Clark
Season 1, Episode Eleven Promo Clip (this is the one Clark was talking about in response to the question above)
What are your stunts versus stunt performers?
It’s a very collaborative effort between our stunt coordinator — a lot of people who do rigging and special effects of wire work, as well as my stunt doubles. I have sometimes two or three depending on their levels of skill of what they can do. It’s always an intense but really fun process. And I learn the entire choreography of every single fight scene.
The only thing that I don’t do are the more dangerous things where it’s the wire works. You’re being pulled across a room or you have to smash into a wall. -Ming-Na
She’s pretty remarkable. We both, I think we can divulge this crossed a number with a five in it [speaking of their ages]. It’s a huge motivator to stay in [shape]. Is that a secret? -Clark
No between the two of us, yeah, a century, right, plus. Wow. [LAUGHS] -Ming-Na
I guess I wasn’t prepared for that party. -Clark
I know. Doesn’t it sound worse that way? -Ming-Na
We both really love that part of it [stunts]. She gets to do a bit more of it. But I’m always fighting for a little bit more. It gives us an excuse 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 because you can’t do it. 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 people doubling me get carted off a couple times this year. It’s for real. Yet they let us kind of work in. -Clark
Matt Mullen, he’s our choreographer and Tanner. -Ming-Na
Matt Mullen and Eric Norris, they really do an amazing job 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 because I might have some practice at it. -Clark
I love just watching fight scenes because the Chinese movies are all about that. So whenever we can throw little Easter Eggs in to the fight scenes that kind of give homage to very specific people like Bruce Lee or, just any of these amazing fights that I’ve ever seen. We always try to throw those in too for fun. -Ming-Na
Then I asked them how much of your own personality goes into your character?
Oh! 100% [LAUGHS] -Ming-Na
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. -Clark
Yeah, if I’m hungry. -Ming-Na
But there’s a difference– there’s a difference. -Clark
[Assistant came to pull Ming-Na from the interview because they needed to bruise her (using makeup).]
They need to bruise me! [LAUGHS] -Ming-Na
You go bruise. That’s funny though ’cause they’re gonna go put her in makeup and get a lot of bruises. But after fight day they’re all real, all up and down her arm. -Clark
Arnica is my friend. -Ming-Na
After Ming-Na leaves we keep talking with Clark.
Shield After Ultron Clip
Do you ever get to ad-lib your lines?
I have ad libbed a couple of them, but not a lot of them. My god, I’d love to claim more of them. But a lot of them are our terrific writers. From the get go, Joss in the pilot and these writers, 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 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. Boo-ya might’ve been mine.
Do you have a plane interior where you shoot?
It’s a great question. It’s very similar to the films only with about a tenth of the time and resources. The short answer is you see Lola, you see this plane. That thing really goes up with those cars on it. That’s a practical hydraulic [the back of the Bus]. If it’s gonna be coming out the back of the plane suddenly this [the wall/doors] will be surrounded by either green or blue. And the sky and the wind machines and everything, it’s a blend of practical and digital. Mark Kolpack and his amazing team.
Pretty great info, right? I loved this interview and cannot wait to see the season finale tonight. I actually got to watch a bit of the actors taping the season finale while I was on set, but I’m not giving away ANY spoilers. 😉
That was the end of the exciting interview, but not the end of our time with Clark Gregg. We had group photos in Coulson’s office and even got to take a seat in Coulson’s chair with an individual picture at his desk! How cool is that?
Interviews on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set
Get a recap of last week’s incredible episode on abc.go.com.
Season Finale 9|8c on ABC tonight!
THE INHUMANS’ ENDGAME IS REVEALED, ON THE TWO-HOUR SEASON FINALE
OF ABC’S “MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“S.O.S.,” Part One and Part Two” – S.H.I.E.L.D. puts everything on the line to survive a war that blurs the line between friend and foe. Coulson and his team will be forced to make shocking sacrifices that will leave their relationships and their world changed forever, on the two-hour season finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” TUESDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-11:00 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 on “S.O.S.,” Part One are Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Ruth Negga as Raina, Kyle Maclachlan as Cal, 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, Kyle Mattocks as Agent Harris, Ryan Powers as S.H.I.E.L.D. tech agent and Alicia Vela-Bailey as Alisha.
Guest starring on “S.O.S.,” Part Two are Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Kyle Maclachlan as Cal, Jamie Harris as Gordon, Christine Adams as Agent Weaver, Mark Allan Stewart as Agent Oliver, Blair Underwood as Andrew Garner, Maya Stojan as Kara/Agent 33, Dichen Lachman as Jiaying, Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell, Brendan Wayne as Jiaying’s assistant, Robert Reinis as bartender, Daz Crawford as Kebo, Alicia Vela-Bailey as Alisha and Anthony D. Washington as TAC agent #3.
”S.O.S.,” Part One was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Vincent Misiano.
”S.O.S.,” Part Two was written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Billy Gierhart.
Don’t miss tonight’s 2-hour Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale!! There are bound to be some serious twists and turns. I can’t wait to sit down and watch it live tonight.