WonderCon 2019: Agents of SHIELD Cast And Executive Producers Talk Coulson’s Return, FitzSimmons’ Reunion, And Early Renewal (Spoilers)

Credit: Stephanie Coats/4YE

The premiere of season 6 of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is a little more than a month away and if you’re not already, get excited. From the clips and trailers already released, we know it’s going to a wild ride with alternate versions of beloved characters, far off adventures into space, and dramatic shakeups. During WonderCon 2019, we sat down with the cast and executive producers to find out what to expect. Since we got to see a screening of the premiere, beware, spoilers for episode 1 of season 6 are ahead!

Space, Renewal, and Quick Teases for Season 6

Season 6 picks up one year after season 5 and the team is dealing with distance of all kinds. To begin with, Daisy and Simmons are off in space searching for Fitz while Mack, May, and Yo-You are on Earth operating a reinvigorated SHIELD out of the Lighthouse.

“It is an interesting way for us to start the season this year with our characters split up so we’ll see how that pans out,” Maurissa Tancharoen, executive producer, said.

She and executive producer Jed Whedon confirmed that the season will be equal parts in space and on Earth. “With the last couple of seasons, they really pushed the boat out with taking the show somewhere different and they kind of carry on that tradition in the next season,” said actor Iain De Caestecker.

Fans were worried during season 5 because word of renewal was slow to come. Now we know there’s not only a season 6, but also a season 7, and if the crowd at WonderCon was any indication, there’s still a huge audience for this show. According to executive producer Jeph Loeb, what makes a “world of difference to ABC” is the “incredibly loyal fanbase” around the world.

The two-season renewal has impacted writing, although Whedon jokes it’s mostly because now they can “end season 6 with just a giant question mark.” A bigger question mark than what other seasons have ended on?? Are we forgetting Coulson drawing alien symbols on the wall or the Monolith absorbing Simmons or Coulson waking up in a space station?

The shorter season order for seasons 6 and 7 has been a blessing for the creative team. The story they might’ve told over one, longer season has now been broken into two short seasons and they no longer had to finish the marathon task of finishing 22 episodes at a time.

“It’s funny, we were all saying coming into today because we’re in the middle of shooting [season] 7 and the fact that [season] 6 hasn’t even aired yet, our brains were going to be all tied up in a pretzel just trying to figure out, ‘What are we talking about?’ There’s bound to be a spoiler that falls out of our mouths,” Tancharoen said.

However, everyone was fairly tightlipped about anything big to come. Natalia Cordova-Buckley did talk about the excitement of working with Lou Diamond Phillips, who directs the fifth episode this season. We may also see some old, familiar characters return as Mack and May try to revive the SHIELD Academy. Whedon also said that although there are no plans to fold in any of the Marvel characters from the now-canceled Netflix shows, he isn’t ruling out crossovers “in some way” with other Marvel shows.

Credit: Stephanie Coats/4YE

Director Mack and the State of Philinda

But there’s also distance between characters in the same location. After the events of last season and his promotion to director, Mack and Yo-Yo have broken up.

“Yo-Yo and Mack, their relationship is one of the real adult relationships that we have not just on SHIELD but in all of Marvel television so to see that go through a fracture it will be something that I think we’ll hear about a lot,” said Jeph Loeb.

Taking on the director role is difficult for Mack because he loses the closeness he had not just with Yo-Yo but the rest of the team, says actor Henry Simmons. “It was quite lonely,” Simmons said of portraying Mack in leadership and he thinks this feeling is reflected in the character. “Because you’re in a position that, really, there’s no one else that can relate to it.”

Part of Mack’s struggle, says Whedon, is he’s trying to be like Coulson but they’re different people. “At this point in the season, I think, he’s trying as hard as he can to emulate Coulson and we’ll see him slowly become his own kind of leader.” Jed

“His confidence, he’s not quite there yet,” Tancharoen adds. “But you’ll see that over the season, him building [confidence] and how that reflects how he runs SHIELD.”

Simmons believes Mack will rely on May as a sounding board and hints at something bigger connected to the holocube of Coulson we see him using.

Which leads to the question, so what happened between May and Coulson after we left them on that beach and will we get to see anything?

“On certain adult sites, you might see…” Gregg joked before saying there may be some allusions in season 6. That’s absolutely what Philinda fans would like because, in the end, we got very little time of Coulson and May actually together as a couple. Speaking about the (relatively) quick relationship the two had in season 5, Gregg believed it made sense.

“I felt like the build-up had been five seasons long,” Gregg said. “They’ve known each other much longer than that and I think they were both really, I’ll just speak for the characters, they were both like, ‘Alright, enough already.’

“And also, the stakes had really changed because he had very little time left. I think when you’re confronted with mortality, whether your own or people close to you, it really makes you evaluate what you’re wasting time about.”

Credit: Stephanie Coats/4YE

The FitzSimmons Family

Of course, fans are eagerly awaiting (yet another) FitzSimmons reunion and wondering when their out-of-time grandson, Deke, will come back. But it’s a long road to get there. The season 6 premiere has Fitz and Simmons flung into different corners of space. De Caestecker was quiet on what Fitz has been up to but did admit that his new alien eyes were “cool.”

Elizabeth Henstridge had more to say about Simmons’ new and darker edge in season 6. “Yeah! Isn’t it fun?” she exclaimed. “She’s still human but she just has to find him so the stakes for her couldn’t be higher. She can’t fit anything else in her head. She can’t fit in too many doubts or too many other people’s feelings, just yet. Which is kind of how I feel as Elizabeth, like, ‘Let’s get Iain back!’”  

 What will the reunion be like after a year apart and separate perilous adventures in space? Henstridge described it this way: “Trippy.”

As for grandson Deke, actor Jeff Ward teased that Deke has changed since we last saw him, even more than we saw him change throughout season 5.

“Personally, I am a big fan of getting to hang out with my grandparents,” Ward said. “I think it’s an amazing thing for Deke because he grew up without any family. I think it really throws his whole state of mind and view of the world through a loop when he all of sudden does have family again because I think being robbed of family is a lot of what made him who he was.”

And what about Deke and Daisy? Asked about how they seemed to be getting closer last season (and here De Caestecker interjected to say, “Yeah they did!”),  Ward responds, “The cool thing about them is I think they see a lot of themselves in the other person. I think that is the reason that they do butt heads and support each other. I think there will be a little more exploration of that.”

Credit: Stephanie Coats/4YE

Coulson Lives

One of the main topics of conversation for season 6 is the return of Clark Gregg and Phil Coulson, even though it’s not the Coulson we all know. The season 5 finale was an emotional and beautiful farewell to the actor and character but now both have returned. What went into that decision?

“We firmly believe that any season would have to have him in it,” Whedon said.

For Gregg, who has played Coulson off and on for 11 years, it wasn’t easy to build a new version of the character. “It was mysterious and unsettling and this is very, very different type of person,” he said. “At the same time, there was something really thrilling about being scared again. Not sure what to do, not sure what felt right. This guy is in an antagonistic relationship with all of the people that Coulson held most dear. So that created some dramatic fireworks.”

Adding excitement to Gregg return (continuance?) on Agents of SHIELD, he also directed the season 6 premiere. It’s an exciting, action-packed episode that Whedon and Tancharoen were excited to have him direct. They and the cast couldn’t praise Gregg enough for his leadership behind the camera and in general.

“He’s already such a leader as a person and amongst the entire production and the cast,” Tancharoen said. “So it was a natural evolution for him to then be at the helm on set. And because they all know each other so well and have worked together for so long there’s this shorthand between them and so it just kind of sailed. It was great.”

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returns to ABC on Friday, May 10th. 

Stephanie Coats