J. August Richards is ready to be re-activated. The actor made his debut as Michael Peterson in the 2013 pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Over the course of the first season Peterson transformed into Deathlok, the cyborg soldier who made his comic book debut in 1974. The character returned for the show’s second season, and once in last year’s 100th episode.
But that may not be the last audiences see of Deathlok.
Last week, in an article noting the differences, similarities, and production status of comic book characters with deadly names, Deadline reported Marvel may be exploring a new project featuring Deathlok — which made for lively news to Richards, also known for his work as Charles Gunn in Angel.
“When I got to the part about Deathlok being rumored to be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, obviously the first thing I thought was I’ll tweet ‘Hey Marvel, I’m ready to suit up at any time’,” Richards tells Den of Geek.
“And then a lot of people responded.”
Richards said he is aware that there is little precedent for actors from superhero TV shows to make the jump into movie projects as the same character (note how Warner Bros. has no qualms about keeping the TV and movie versions of the Flash separate, or how Deadshot, played by Michael Rowe on Arrow, and Will Smith in the Suicide Squad movie). Still, he said fans began using the hashtag #RichardsForDeathlok on social media. He also notes there may be a sea change of opportunity with the upcoming Disney+ subscription service, which will feature shows set in the MCU (starring Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, and Sebastian Stan).
“I did think about the fact that oftentimes there is not that much crossover from the show to the movies, but other people started bringing that conversation to me, so hey, if there’s a shot that I could still play this character, I would really want to,” he says.
But Richards added he is not trying to aggressively lobby for the role, which he admitted is not a good look.
“Listen, I don’t want to turn into Sean Young showing up on the Warner Brothers lot in a Catwoman suit and getting thrown off,” he says, “so I am just kind of gently and kindly putting my feelings out there in the hopes to throw my hat in the ring — but not in a pushy way.”
(If you don’t know the reference, Sean Yound was initially cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman before breaking her arm and being replaced by Kim Basinger. When Batman Returns rolled around, she appeared on The Joan Rivers Show in a homemade Catwoman costume, and tried to confront Michael Keaton and Burton during production for consideration.)
Richards continues that the character of Mike Peterson, who was not one of the Deathloks in the comics, has had personal meaning for him, and is part of the reason he would like to return to the role.
“I got the role after three years of not working,” he says. “It came to me at the right time, and I feel so connected to the character because when I booked the role, my back was against the wall in the same way that Mike Peterson’s back was against the wall. I wanted to use this character to inspire and touch anyone else [who experiences that].”
He also adds, as a lifelong comic fan who owns a thousand books – with his favorites being the original 1984-85 Secret Wars and the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man with the black suit (#252) – has been a dream for him.
“The last five years I’ve been playing the character has been a build-up, an origin story, and every time I come back it’s almost like I’m playing a new character because so much has happened off camera.”
And should the Marvel casting gods smile upon him, he says he’d like to see the live-action Deathlok appear more like his comic book character
“It would be a fool’s errand for me to try to theorize or write what they’re going to do. What I know for sure is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is laid out like chess pieces over the course of a decade, so I know that they have figured out so much of what they want to do,” he says, before offering his own theory that “there’s an explosion somewhere in Mike Peterson’s future that scars the rest of his body.”
“Deathlok is the Swiss Army knife of the Marvel Universe, so I want to explore more of what’s in his arm, what’s in his leg, what’s in his uniform — there are all of these cool things that he can pull out, and it would be just really cool to find out what about a thousand more of those things are, and to explore what it means to be sort of locked between life and death.”
Regardless of his future in the MCU, Richards is currently a three-time Daytime Emmy nominee for his work as a guest star, writer, and director of the YouTube series Giants, and is in the NBC pilot for the drama Council of Dads.
And he teases a “something really special” for the 20th anniversary of Angel this summer.
“I won’t kill the surprise, but trust me, you won’t miss it.”