Yes, Clark Gregg’s character, Agent Phil Coulson, did die in Joss Whedon’s mega-hit Marvel’s The Avengers. But he’s back in Whedon’s new ABC series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the action-packed drama, Agent Coulson heads a team of highly-skilled agents, who investigate super human people and events around the world.
Gregg came to the TV Critics tour to talk about his character’s remarkable resurrection!
Can you talk a little about Agent Coulson’s demise in The Avengers?
My next-to-last day on The Avengers involved this Asgardian fellow impaling me quite convincingly.
And while I was surprised how emotional it was to me to give up the character, and the long-term job, I made jokes like, ‘Is there a rewrite going to be coming from the governor at any point?
Do you want to shoot one where he grazes me a little bit?’ It was really clear that I was dead.
I’d had a great run, and I thought what Joss did with the character was such a magnificent resolve of it. I loved what happened in The Avengers.
Then somebody sent me a tweet saying that they heard that Coulson’s funeral was going to be in Thor 2.
What did Marvel tell you?
[Marvel] made a couple of jokes, like, ‘Hey, it’s a comic book universe. How dead can you be?’
But then I heard that (tweet), and I thought, ‘No, I’m pretty sure the Asgardians do that thing where they burn a guy.’ I didn’t think I was going to be coming back from that.
When did you hear from Joss about the series?
About 5 months after The Avengers, I got a call from Joss.
We talked about how much we wanted to have whatever reason Coulson had for still being alive and walking around, not be anything that undermines that reality of The Avengers.
And when he explained to me a little bit more than what the audience will see in the pilot about the stuff that Coulson doesn’t know, I hung up the phone, very deeply on board.
Throughout the movies, how have you seen the character evolve?
He’s a magnificent chain letter that began in Iron Man with a couple of scenes that my neighbor, Jon Faveau, asked me to do.
The minute I showed up and started getting snarky with Robert Downey Jr. and improvising a little bit, suddenly there were more scenes, and he was in more movies.
Every new director and writer came and put a little bit more of a twist on him. And at a certain point, really in Iron Man 2, he reveals that he’s not afraid of Tony Stark, and he’s going to Taze him and watch Supernanny while he drools into the rug.
Then Joss came around and picked up everything else about him, that he’s a geek and a fanboy. He’s a nerd avatar in this world, who grew up reading this stuff and absolutely believes in the heroic stuff, which is such a complex dynamic with the guy who also is almost bored with [it].
It’s been such a spectacular gift to me, because I can be officious and sarcastic with the best of them, and now I have the TV show. It’s really a great thrill. I feel very fortunate.
There are high expectations for the series, do you feel any pressure?
I hear that when I come to press things, and it’s just not something I feel or I’m aware of. I feel like we have a cool idea.
I thought after the pilot, the next episode would bound to be us stuck in an elevator because they’d spent all of the money. Instead, the second one, if anything, is bigger and more exciting.