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
The “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” characters and stars have Level 7 clearance. The PaleyFest audience was granted Level 7 clearance. But the show’s producers and writers are Level 8, and they’re protective of their secrets.
But this much was declassified: Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” opens April 4, and a new episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” airs April 8 — and, it was hinted repeatedly, the two may be related. (Hey, Cap does work with S.H.I.E.L.D. — and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Jaimie Alexander’s Asgardian Lady Sif, both Marvel movie presences, have appeared on the series.)
That piece of intel was released during the ABC comic-book-inspired adventure show’s panel Sunday afternoon at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where secrets were the order of the day.
“This whole season has been one of jaw-dropping surprises” for the cast as well as audiences, said actress Ming Na-Wen, who plays the combat-tested Agent Melinda May. “The writers, they don’t tell us anything….”
Series co-creator Jed Whedon, joking about actors popping by the writers room, pantomimed one trying to get a peek at story notes on whiteboards.
There are plenty of questions around Chloe Bennet’s hacker, Skye. Who were her parents? What’s with the mystery-alien-derived medicine in her blood? The actress is dying to know.
“All day on set, I’m on Wikipedia and I’m on Twitter and I’m on Marvel sites, and I’m like, ‘Am I this?’ And they’re like, ‘Nope,’” she said.
Wen, Whedon and Bennet were joined by fellow stars Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton, Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge; co-creator Maurissa Tancharoen and fellow executive producers Jeph Loeb and Jeffrey Bell. The panel was moderated by actress Felicia Day, who worked with Whedon and Tancharoen on “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”
Loeb, Marvel’s TV chief, said the freshman show, which has aired infrequently over the last several months, would return April 1 with seven straight weeks of first-run episodes to close the season. Its future is uncertain.
And that Level 7 clearance did pay off for the crowd: They got an early screening of the April 1 episode, which included several surprises as the agents close in on the identity of the mysterious villain known as the Clairvoyant. Spoilers? Sorry. Those are classified.
The actors do have theories about their characters’ pasts and future.
“I want Skye to be the love child of May and Thor,” Wen said to audience laughter. “And flash back to those scenes.”
Clark Gregg cracked: “I was gonna say Coulson and Sif.”
During the audience Q&A, a fan in a yellow “Coulson Is My Homeboy” shirt got the cast and crowd laughing when he pointed out that, for a secret group, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a lot of stuff bearing its logo.
“The organization is not a secret,” Gregg, who plays “Avengers” casualty / resurrected team leader Phil Coulson, replied. “What they do is.”
After it was noted the team’s plane has an espresso machine bearing the force’s emblem, Gregg joked, “And Fitz can give you a latte where the foam is the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo.”
OTHER PANEL HIGHLIGHTS:
— Gregg twice hopped off the stage to hug fans, one of whom brought a framed felt artwork for each actor’s character as gifts for the cast. Another was just happy his character was alive after being sad when he had apparently died in “The Avengers.”– When Day asked Brett Dalton about his character Grant Ward, who’s had a physical relationship with Agent May and seems to have his eye on Skye, the actor said the combat expert field agent was no longer a lone wolf, adding waggishly, “He’s learned to play with the team.”
— How did the #coulsonlives Twitter phenomenon get started? When Day playfully asked if Gregg did that, he joked, “I can now confess that I have 11,000 Twitter aliases, all of whom were very integral to starting the #coulsonlives movement.”
— Tancharoen said Agent May was originally called Agent Rice. Then they cast Ming-Na Wen and thought better of it. Also, the scientist team of Leo Fitz (de Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Henstridge), popularly known as FitzSimmons, were inspired in part by Casey Affleck’s and Scott Caan’s character chemistry in “Ocean’s Eleven.”
— Are there romantic prospects between Fitz and Simmons? De Caestecker said the geniuses are more like brother and sister.
— Though the show has yet to be renewed, Bell said the producers know where they’d like a possible Season 2 and Season 3 to end, “and we know which character will still be alive. This is, in fact, a Joss Whedon joint.” (Joss Whedon, “Avengers” director and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” co-creator, was not on the panel.)
— The cyborg Deathlok features on the show, and Gregg said the cast and crew’s lives are kind of like the show. He said that Bell recently had a bike accident that required head staples — “and now they call him Jefflok.”
— Phil Coulson died and came back to life – but it’s still not clear how. Gregg talked about the changes in the character: “The real dilemma has been Coulson starting to feel physically the way a lot of trauma survivors do … he doesn’t feel the same.” The actor noted that some characters who apparently knew Gregg before his “death” think he’s changed, raising more questions.
— Will Day appear on the show? It could happen.
— There will be more appearances by Bill Paxton as Agent John Garrett.
— A fan, after asking the panel whether the show has been renewed for Season 2 and being told not yet, asked, “Who do I have to shank?”
— Bennet, responding to a fan question about what one item cast members would take to a desert island, said “Brett Dalton’s abs” and added that she’d wash her clothes on them. Tancharoen cracked: “This is why we give them dialogue.”
— Asked if “S.H.I.E.L.D.” characters would interact with characters from Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series, Loeb noted that it is all one universe and said, “If it makes the fans happy, I’m in favor of that.”
— Responding to a question about which Marvel character cast members would like to play or share a scene with, Henstridge said she’d like to have one with Loki – “sit around, have a cup of tea …” Gregg, whose character was killed by the mischievous Asgardian in “The Avengers,” piped up: “You know, I’ve been in a scene with Loki. Somehow I suspect you would have a different result.”
And when it ended, what seemed like most of the crowd swarmed toward the stage seeking autographs.
PaleyFest is an annual celebration of television that over two weeks brings fans together with on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent from current hit shows and past favorites. It continues through Friday.
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