Aug. 04--BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Perhaps the most-anticipated new show of the fall, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," was the highlight of ABC's Sunday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
The pilot was screened for critics and reporters, giving us a look at how Joss Whedon -- the TV auteur who directed "The Avengers" movie to worldwide success -- and his team would carry the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. to series television.
The lavish pilot re-introduces Clark Gregg in the role of Agent Phil Coulson, the character he's played in Marvel universe movies such as "Iron Man," "Thor," "Iron Man 2" and "The Avengers."
However, Coulson died in "The Avengers." So what's he doing on the TV show, which picks up the story in the wake of the New York-set aliens vs. Avengers battle that was the climax of "The Avengers"?
In the pilot, that question is answered with a speedy explanation: Coulson's death was faked. But -- there's always a but, isn't there? -- it turns out there will be more to that story, which we'll learn more about as the show continues.
On hand to take questions from reporters about the show were Whedon, who directed the pilot and co-wrote it with fellow executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, also appearing on the panel; cast members Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, and executive producers Jeffrey Bell, and Jeph Loeb.
Asked about how much cross-promotion there would be between the show and upcoming movies featuring characters from the Marvel world, Whedon indicated there might be, but said, "We don't just want to be an Easter egg farm."
Would the story about how Coulson came back the dead continue to be explored throughout the season? someone asked.
"No, we're never going to mention it again," Whedon deadpanned. He then added that it would indeed be an ongoing element.
Though Whedon has had some clashes with networks in the past over such TV series as the too-soon canceled "Firefly" and "Dollhouse," he said working with ABC on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been harmonious.
"We've gotten trust, which is different than freedom," Whedon said. ABC has been active in ensuring they get the show they want, but that's the show Whedon and his team also want, he said.
"We all are trying to make the same show," he said. "We're all on the same page -- which has occasionally not happened to me."
Gregg emphasized how thrilled he is to see a character originally introduced with a few lines in "Iron Man" continue through the Marvel universe and now be the lead character on the series.
When he saw the script with Coulson's death in "The Avengers," Gregg said, he was understanding but disappointed. He wondered, he joked, if a rewrite was going to be coming from the Governor at any moment.
Ming-Na Wen, who plays a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with fierce martial arts skills, proudly showed off her bicep muscles. "I hate working out," she said. "But I do like kicking ass."
Whedon said he expects to be as involved with the show as an executive producer who's working on a movie can be (Whedon's directing the next "Avengers" movie). He doesn't think about whether he prefers working in movies or TV, he said.
"The goal is never about the medium," Whedon said, but rather about "the next story." He likes not knowing what's next. "It's all just making people care about people."
"I just want to keep telling stories," Whedon said. "If somebody pays me -- also good."
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." debuts Sept. 24.
-- Kristi Turnquist
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