At the San Diego Comic-Con, we attended the press room (singular) for both of Marvel’s network TV series, Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. These roundtables can be frantic under the best of circumstances sometimes, but this one, conducted minutes after the Marvel TV panel at the peak of SDCC madness, was especially crazy.
This made it even more of a relief when we had an opportunity to ask Agents of SHIELD executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen a few questions that they actually had time to give reasonably thoughtful, but mostly quite funny answers to.
A member of our table brought up the fact that Agents of SHIELD boasts a remarkably diverse cast of characters, and how specifically what that means to Ms. Tancharoen as an Asian-American. “It means the world to me,” she said. “It’s something I’ve experienced my entire life working in this business. It’s very hard, as a woman of color, to see a prominent face on a television show.”
But she was quick to point out that it all comes back to the characters. “The thing about our show is that the characters that Ming (Ming-Na Wen, who plays Agent May) and Chloe (Bennett, who plays Agent Skye) play weren’t written to be Asian-American, they were just designed to be very cool, strong women, and Ming and Chloe were the ones who came in and stole the parts. I just think that just goes to show that if you write interesting characters with people of diverse backgrounds, people will care.”
“That’s actually not true,” Jed Whedon interrupted with a laugh. “She said, we need two asians!”
“I’m all for putting even more Asians on the show,” Maurissa continued, “but it seems that we’ve reached our quota. (laughs)”
On the subject of what they thought of the sudden influx of superhero programming on different networks, Jed Whedon was thoughtful. “For a long time you just couldn’t do it, because, truthfully, the budget of a television show to do powers and stuff like that…” he trailed off. “Now we’re in a position where we can tell these stories on a TV timeline and budget. I think that the desire has always been there and the success of Arrow and our show and others make it seem like it’s not such a bad idea.”
On the subject of whether they’re excited for the newly-minted Marvel/DC television rivalry, well, they practically finished each other’s sentences.
Jed: “We’re planning on starting a Marvel softball team and challenging them…”
Maurissa: “…and then kicking their ass.”
I asked them about the change of time slot from 8 pm to 9 pm, and how that might affect the tone of the show going forward. Maurissa said, “I think towards the end of the season there was a shift. Our violence might have taken it up a notch for an 8 pm show. Now that we’re at nine we can live more freely in that area. We’re excited about it. We keep asking standards and practices what words we can say. We go through a list…can we show a little bit of boob? These are the things we’re worried about!”
“These are the things that drive our stories!” added Jed.
“Can we show sideboob?” she continued, “The answer is absolutely not. We’re just coming from Spartacus where…” (in unison with Jed) “…there were no rules.”
Jed, however, disagrees. “On Spartacus we weren’t allowed to show sideboob because you had to show the whole boob.”
At this moment, and I really wish that we had a video of this to show you, a grinning Clark Gregg appeared out of nowhere to interject, “ummmm…I have a Spartacus question!” He then promptly vanished to another table.
I asked them how the fact that there aren’t two major Marvel movies with release dates smack in the middle of the Agents of SHIELD season two schedule could help them out. “It’s sort of up to us at this point to redefine SHIELD, so that’s liberating,” Maurissa said. “The fact that Hydra is out there, the word is out there, the organization is out there, that is also very freeing. We can start the season with a very clear big bad.”
“We also don’t have to introduce our characters again,” Jed said. “The thing that was so hard about that was they weren’t established comic characters either, they were entirely new. It took a lot of time to get people used to them and get people to like them. Now they know them and they can go through a whole year of adventures, and we can just hit the ground running.”
We tried to press them a little about the new characters coming to season two, but they were on to us. Keep in mind, this was mere days after the announcement that Lucy Lawless would join the cast, and less than an hour after we were first promised Mockingbird (but before it was revealed that she would be played by Adrianne Palicki). The good news is that BJ Britt should return as Agent Triplett.
“Agent Triplett is around,” Maurissa promised. “He’s fantastic. We really like BJ Britt. We sort of have to reach outside of the organization. So, the new faces will be around.”
Of course, Jed couldn’t let this be. “They’ll come in, and if we like them, they’ll stay. And if we don’t, they will DIE!”
“Yeah,” Maurissa said with a smile, “Die really bad!”
Thanks again to Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen for taking the time to talk to us!
Agents of SHIELD season two premieres on September 23rd at 9 pm.