I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Clark Gregg during this year’s Motor City Comic Con, but his panel was another delight altogether! Most of the questions were obviously Marvel-related. It was great to hear about his experiences on the set of The Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. firsthand.
MCCC Clark Gregg panel: Coulson’s beginning (and original ending)
Right off the bat, the panel moderator asked Clark Gregg to choose between Captain America or Thor as his favorite MCU superhero. His response was exactly what we’re all thinking: “I have to choose between one of those gorgeous men?!” In all seriousness, Gregg responded by saying “[I have] a lot of affection for Tony Stark, who brought me into that world”. I expected his favorite to be Cap, just like Coulson!
On the subject of Coulson’s popularity, Gregg said he was a “super-normal” character who stood out among these superheroes because he’s a regular guy. Of course, Coulson’s “regularness” began to diminish as he tangled with aliens over the years, but I do think he was an important POV for the audience in Phase One. Gregg spoke on that as well, saying “in this world of superheroes, you need someone who is kind of the audience’s avatar”.
That avatar was doubly important in 2012’s The Avengers, where Coulson played a pivotal role in the formation of the team – by dying. Clark Gregg said it was like a “Make-A-Wish moment” when Joss Whedon told him about the role he’d created for Coulson in the film. On a call with Kevin Feige confirming the role, he joked “I feel like they’re going to kill me but that’s amazing!”. Feige’s response was only “Yeah, what happens to you brings the Avengers together”.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that Gregg campaigned hard for Coulson to survive, telling the team “I’m the glue!” and being met with responses like “you’re not the glue, you’re gonna die”. He kept saying “you know, you don’t see [Coulson] dead”, which is technically true! We don’t really see his dead body, only him slumping against the wall and some bloody trading cards (which were apparently all Joss Whedon’s idea) in a later scene.
Despite that convenient way out, the producers continued saying “there’s a lot of blood, you’re dead” until a year later. Gregg was pitched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a call that went “so listen, we may think you’re not dead!” This must have been vindicating for his “Coulson Lives” campaign!
Clark Gregg on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “If you ask me, it’s all canon.”
Clark Gregg headlined the very first MCU-adjacent television show on ABC long before the big-budget Disney+ series exploded into existence. While there’s a lot of debate over Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s canon status, he certainly seems to think it’s part of the main MCU timeline. “If you ask me, it’s all canon,” Gregg said during the panel.
The very last question asked during the panel was about Avengers: Infinity War’s infamous Thanos Snap and why it wasn’t depicted in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Gregg said “I know this was discussed a fair amount [..] I think there’s nothing in there [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6] that acts like it never happened. You could argue that we’re in a slightly different multiverse – okay, gotta go!”
There’s plenty of evidence for the series diverging from the main MCU in the last two seasons, but as a huge AoS fan I don’t really care either way. As Clark Gregg remarked in our exclusive interview, the opening of the multiverse allows for any possibilities when it comes to those characters returning. I thought the show had a perfect ending (although I wouldn’t mind seeing Chloe Bennet and Ming-Na Wen in Secret Invasion). Gregg doesn’t agree with that outlook, though: “I’ve been killed 11 times but from where you’re sitting it’s a happy ending!”
Responding to fan questions, Clark Gregg said that during production on the final season “we [the cast] were a hot mess”. Talking about his daughter growing up throughout the series, he remarked that “Chloe [Bennet] and Elizabeth [Henstridge] were her older sisters”.
He also mentioned “saying goodbye to my surrogate daughter Chloe Bennet”, a sentiment he also shared with me during our interview that Chloe herself noticed on Twitter a few days ago! It’s lovely to hear how close the cast has remained even though Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ended, and how close the relationships in the show are to the real-life relationships between the actors.
— Polyhedra Network (@PolyhedrasZKS) May 30, 2023
Someone also tried to trip Gregg up by asking him if he still remembers what S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for, a question he seemed caught by. We all assumed he had forgotten, but he looked straight at the fan and said “Could it possibly stand for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division? Till the day I die, baby!” That got a big laugh from the audience. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if he forgot, but I never should’ve underestimated S.H.I.E.L.D.’s power!
Clark Gregg on Captain Marvel and his dream Star Wars role
I asked Clark Gregg about his time as a Skrull in Captain Marvel during our interview, but was glad to see the panel moderator ask him about that as well! When asked if it was difficult to play a younger, less-informed Coulson in the 2019 film, he said “it’s really hard to un-know all the stuff you know”.
Gregg spoke about the motion capture de-aging process applied to him and Samuel L. Jackson, saying “my [motion capture] dots were black and his were white, which I thought was hilarious”. I think the de-aging in Captain Marvel was pretty perfect and he clearly agrees, saying “I need to do this every day, I need some of that!”.
I’m afraid I may have tripped him up with my questions about Secret Invasion the previous day since he mentioned “I’m told in Secret Invasion, I don’t know” in response to a question about Coulson potentially being a Skrull.
Clark Gregg also mentioned how in the “big car chase, I might have been a Skrull in that scene”. Samuel L. Jackson accidentally clocked him in the head for real while acting out the fight scene. To no one’s surprise, Jackson was very worried about Gregg, although he did say Jackson will deny the incident ever happened and begged the audience not to say anything about it… oops!
Finally, Star Wars fans will be happy to know that Clark Gregg would love to join Disney’s other mega-franchise. When asked if he’d love to do any other pop culture cameo or role, he immediately shouted “ANDOR. I went to Star Wars [on] opening day [in] 1977, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I stayed to watch it a second time – my mom was worried about me.”
Gregg expanded on his love for Andor by explaining his interest in “[digging] into the fascism and oppression in the Empire and how it’s changing people. [The series is] beautifully done and beautifully acted. I bought an Andor shirt today!”
Clark Gregg was the star of MCCC 2023
It was great to hear about Clark Gregg’s experiences with the MCU, and I’m sure AoS fans will be happy to hear that he thinks everything is still canon. He was certainly the standout guest of Motor City Comic Con 2023 for me, and I hope we see him in the Marvel universe again someday! He’s clearly still a passionate fan with a lot of love for the projects he has been part of.
Considering those rumors about Quake returning in Secret Invasion (which would be a perfect place for any Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. character to appear), hopefully Coulson’s return will also take place sooner rather than later. Once a single character returns, the dominoes will fall for the rest.
That theory was already proven true with the return of the Defenders actors, with Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his role as Kingpin in the same week Charlie Cox returned as Matt Murdock. With Jon Bernthal back as The Punisher in Daredevil: Born Again, it’s safe to say actors like Krysten Ritter probably aren’t far behind. If we can get the Netflix actors back, who’s to say we can’t see the return of Marvel Television’s original heroes? Here’s to Coulson’s MCU future!