Chloe Bennet, Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen shoot a scene for Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Director Roxann Dawson, second from left, talks with Clark Gregg, while script supervisor Dawn Gilliam, right, shows them the script. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Chloe Bennet, left, as computer hacker Skye and Ming-Na Wen as agent Melinda May get last-minute touch-ups before shooting a scene. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Clark Gregg, as agent Phil Coulson, films a scene inside the command center of the Bus. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Between scenes, Clark Gregg shows Ming-Na Wen a recent press clipping on his phone. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
A camera operator focuses on Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen during filming. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Ming-Na Wen, who plays agent Melinda May, watches a monitor on the set. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Before a scene is shot, Clark Gregg's mike is adjusted as he talks to Chloe Bennet. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg catch up on text messages while on the set. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg joke between scenes. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennet between scenes. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Inside the command center are Brett Dalton, left, Chloe Bennet, Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
Prop books on the set. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)Link
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” kicked it up a notch with Tuesday’s episode, “Eye Spy,” which enjoyed a preview screening this past weekend at New York Comic Con. The globe-trotting story focused on a former agent and protege of Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson, Akela Amador, whose special abilities posed a real challenge for the team, and it gave Brett Dalton more of a chance to shine as Agent Grant Ward. (Click through the gallery above for a behind-the-scenes look at “Eye Spy.”)
Back in August, Hero Complex visited the Los Angeles set of the series while the episode was filming, and soon after, chatted with Dalton, a San Jose native and Yale drama school grad, about the show and joining the Marvel universe as the special-ops expert.
Hero Complex: How’s the experience been for you, so far, as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent?
Brett Dalton: We’re a family already. We felt it from the pilot. There’s a whole thing with a pilot where you’re vetting your own expectations. You really want it to go and you hope it goes for seven years, but you haven’t gotten picked up yet. You have to wait for that yes before you can scream from the rooftop. We all had a feeling it was going to get picked up, but it’s certainly nice getting that phone call with somebody on the other end saying, “You have a TV show.” Your life changes after that phone call. I was in New York with my girlfriend and my daughter, so it was a really big change. I’m moving my whole family to the West Coast and starting this new chapter in my life. Now it seems real and weird at the same time because I’m looking at myself a lot. Driving home, it’s like, “Oh, there’s another ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ poster.”
HC: Were you much of a superhero guy coming into this? A Marvel fan?
BD: I used to go to the comic store all the time. I was into comic cards, which are essentially baseball cards for comic book heroes. They have these cool stats on the back. I had collections of these things. I still have a lot of my collection at home. I think when I got to about college I stopped getting into it for a while and then in grad school I popped into this comic book store every once in a while and grabbed some. And action figures. I’d go to the flea market and pick up action figures that were super-hard to get. I have whole collections that are still in boxes. I was really into it. I didn’t think I’d ever be a part of it in any way. I was just really fascinated, particularly by the artwork. My dad’s an artist and my grandfather paints — he’s not a painter, my grandfather’s a butcher — but he does a lot of crafts, stained glass, painting, that stuff. There is art in our family and I was an art major in college along with being a theater major. The mood and the aesthetic and the tone of that world they create are just incredible. They can really take you to a place. Often that’s what I do when I go to a comic book store, if I like the graphics, I’m pretty sure I’ll like the story. The last one I got was “[Wolverine:] Old Man Logan,” and it was incredible.
HC: What were your initial conversations like with Joss Whedon about Grant? He appears to be a straightforward hero, but I’m guessing there are some quirks and some complexities people might not expect?
BD: The character I play on the page can seem so serious and so by-the-book and so crisp that it might seem like, oh, there’s not a lot there. But I thought that there was so much there and actually he was really funny too. He is a by-the-rules sort of personality, but that doesn’t mean he’s without personality and without his own sense of humor and his own style and wit, and I think you may see some of that razor’s edge dull in places. You may see just a bit of a softer side every once in a while.
The cool thing about this, too … this character hasn’t existed prior to this project. None of these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have existed in any of the other comic books, so in a way, that was kind of liberating. I could create this thing from the very beginning and I could make it my own. It’s nice to have a chance to do that.
HC: What was your experience like working with Joss as a director on the set of the pilot?
BD: I think Joss is probably the coolest human being in the entire world. I felt that from the very beginning. There’s so much pressure, oh my God, it’s Joss Whedon, [he directed “The Avengers,” the] third-highest grossing film in the world, cult favorite, but there’s no pretense about him whatsoever. He just happens to be brilliant at what he does and has a real sense of play. He knew exactly when to drop a joke and how to make you feel comfortable, how to push you, how to get the best performance out of you too.
HC: Going into the show, did you know how to ride a motorcycle? I would imagine you’ve maybe acquired some cool skills since signing up for S.H.I.E.L.D. duty?
BD: All this stuff was written in there, and I’m like, “Yeah, I can do that, no problem,” or “I can learn to do that.” I realized at the end, I don’t know how to do any of that stuff, so they taught me how to ride a bike. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat that they got me into training for that. And there’s some unexpected stuff that happens, too. Ward is a little bit bigger badass than I am. I probably wouldn’t have learned how to ride a motorcycle on my own or fire a pistol, how to punch people the right way if it weren’t for the show.
– Gina McIntyre
Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex
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