The man whose skull will burst into flames this fall on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a few thoughts on playing Ghost Rider.
Actor Gabriel Luna, who landed the role of Robbie Reyes a.k.a. Ghost Rider for the upcoming fourth season of the Marvel/ABC series, spoke with the Hollywood Reporter about the character -- which he didn't even know existed until after he won the role. With Reyes, the third iteration of Ghost Rider after Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, only introduced in the comics in early 2014, Luna had to do some catching up:
"I knew about Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, those were really my generation of the Ghost Rider. I in fact did not know that the Ghost Rider spirit of vengeance was now inhabiting Robbie Reyes now. When [Marvel TV head] Jeph [Loeb] and [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producers] Jed [Whedon] and Mo [Tancharoen] finally cracked the lid on what I'd be playing, I was shocked because when they called me they were very secretive as to what it was. When I finally found out what it was, I did my research and I looked into it, and that's when I discovered that there was this new incarnation of Ghost Rider."
Luna went out and bought the entire Reyes run, but said that the TV show will be "expanding the Ghost Rider canon" of Reyes since there is relatively little material about him in the comics. But there is enough back story for the character that Reyes hopes to explore it over the course of the season:
"It's so early right now, and there's very little I know right now. We have the first episode in the can. What I'm really excited about is that the Robbie I had in my mind, he's there. It's not just his name or his body. His personality is all there. And it's still the Ghost Rider. The Ghost Rider is a completely separate thing from Robbie. It's something that always inhabits his body and something that he always has to fight. It's an evil thing. That's what they have maintained in the writing. It's going to be a really solid interpretation of Ghost Rider. But as for his family, we're going to have to wait and see if they show up."
Part of that family history in the comics involves Robbie's late uncle Eli, a serial killer whose evil spirit is bound to the black Dodge Charger that Robbie drives and who facilitates Robbie's transformation into the Ghost Rider, but at a cost. Luna didn't say whether Eli would be a factor in the TV series, but did allude to the comics in discussing his take on the character:
"A lot of what happens in the books is that Robbie has this internal conflict with the spirit of vengeance. It's a really strong story. I'm excited to get to show how he's able to exist with this spirit of vengeance and not only harness it but own it. That's always been central to the Ghost Rider story. Sometimes the Rider totally takes over and that's a terrifying process. It's always this push and pull between the two characters."
Luna wasn't able to divulge much more, including how Ghost Rider comes into contact with the gang from S.H.I.E.L.D., but did acknowledge that when you see the signature flaming skull onscreen, that will be him under the VFX: "The flaming head? Yeah, that's me."
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to ABC on Tuesday, September 20, at 10 p.m.