PaleyFest, an annual TV fan festival in Los Angeles, brings show runners and cast members together before a live audience—this year at the Dolby Theater, home of the Oscars—to talk about shows, and sometimes, spoilers.
The cast and executive producers of the ABC-TV show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were at PaleyFest 2014 for a Sunday afternoon session discussing the show’s roller coaster first season and tease the remaining episodes. The upcoming April 1 episode, “End of the Beginning,” was screened in its entirety before the discussion, much to the delight of the live audience. (Executive producer Jeph Loeb asked viewers to tease, but not spoil, the episode on social media, so all we’ll say is that it’s a fun, action-packed episode with a big reveal at the end.)
The show’s main cast members, Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May), Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), Chloe Bennet (Skye), Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmons), Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz)—along with executive producers Loeb, Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen—were all in attendance and genuinely looked like they were having fun interacting with the audience and with each other. (Gregg took that fan interaction literally: He jumped into the crowd twice to hug a couple of lucky fans.)
Web star, writer and actor Felicia Day did a good job keeping the discussion flowing and taking as many questions as possible from the diehard fans in the audience.
Here are 10 of our favorite moments/lines/insights from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel:
Though Agent Coulson (Gregg) was killed by Loki in Marvel’s The Avengers, he was brought back to life thanks to a mysterious drug. (Watch the “T.A.H.I.T.I.” episode for the whole story.) Gregg was asked about the differences for his character between the big and small screen. “He’s a little different. When he was on the movies he was alive, and now he’s dead,” he joked. In a more serious note, he likened his character’s experience to what trauma survivors undergo. “Coulson doesn’t feel the same” and is going through an existential crisis. “How can you work for a organization that traffics in secrets, and not have secrets kept from you?”
Without answering the question directly, Loeb repeated often throughout the afternoon that fans should tune into the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode on April 1 then catch The Winter Soldier then tune into the April 8 episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” (We’ll take that answer as a definite maybe.)
Wen is a diehard Thor fan, telling us in the press line and again during the panel. She even has an idea for the crossover between Thor and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “I want Skye to be the love child of May and Thor, and they have to flashback to those scenes…”
Bennet (who’s half-Chinese) was a pop star in China. Google Chloé Wang. Her song ”Uh Oh” was one of her big hits.
Both actors Henstridge and De Caestecker said they’ve been playing their characters more like brother and sister. Tancharoen disclosed that when they were casting for “FitzSimmons,” they had envisioned a relationship like Casey Affleck and Scott Caan in Oceans 11.
An audience member asked about stunts on the show. The panelists responded that the stunts are all carefully choreographed and gave props to the crew and teams. Producer Tancharoen said that she knew at least one of the actors—Dalton—would do well with the stunts because he had “clown school” training on his résumé.
We asked husband-and-wife team Tancharoen and Whedon about the biggest season one challenge. “I think every first-season show has its growing pains and learning curves,” said Tancharoen. “We had to find our pace… Now that we’re in the back half of the season, the audience is responding to an original plan that we had from the outset. We’ve always been aware of certain things occurring in the Marvel cinematic universe, things that we had to be respectful of and be held accountable for at the same time. We sort of did slow play for the first half and planted seeds…” Added Whedon: ”And they just sprouted like little story flowers…”
In the press line, we asked Bennet about how she dealt with Skye being such a polarizing character with fans (and a few critics, too). “I don’t really pay attention to if people like her or don’t like her. She is who she is. She’s not afraid to show it. I’m not afraid to show it.” She also noted that the biggest challenge in playing her character—a hacker—turned out to be the tech talk. “I was at the Genius Bar the other day [because] my iTunes was broken. And they’re laughing at me,” she said. When she asked them why, the technicians said, “It’s just funny because you’re really good with computers on your show and you’re really horrible in real life.”
The producers were asked whether Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was officially renewed for season two. (And the answer is “no.”) But in one of the funnier moments of the afternoon, the audience member asked a follow-up: “Who do I have to shank to [make season two happen]?” At that point, both Wen and Bennet were pointing at Dalton, which confused a lot of people—including Dalton. The women heard “shag” not “shank.”
An audience member asked which Marvel character from the films would they want to act against. Henstridge said that she’d like to be in a scene with Loki, have a cup of tea and sit him down and talk about his “dad issues.” Gregg cracked up the entire audience when he interjected, “You know, I’ve been in a scene with Loki….”
PaleyFest continues through March 28.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.