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SYFY WIRE Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Jeff Ward explains how Deke became a survivor

By Brian Silliman
Jeff Ward as Deke Shaw (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

All of the constantly suffering characters on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been out of their element for all of the seventh and final season of the show, bumping around from one time period to the next. It's been hilarious to see how they deal with it, and it's been even more hilarious that the team member who is best suited to re-inventing himself is the one that most of them would probably say is the least capable. 

Deke Shaw has finally found what he excels at, and it's something that he's had some practice with in both Season 5 and 6 of this series. He's gone from being a selfish survivor in the distant future, to coming to terms with our present time period (and finding out he's actually the grandson of Fitzsimmons), to becoming a thieving tech magnate, and to now to the one agent who can adapt to the Depression, the '80s, anything. He's the ultimate survivor, and his surroundings usually define him. 

Jeff Ward, who plays Deke, talked with SYFY WIRE about his character's survival skills, as well as the how he unexpectedly stuck around this long. And, because we couldn't not talk about it, we also touched on Deke's impossible lemon-happy crush on Daisy Johnson. 

Everyone is a fish out of water this season, but Deke is used to it by now. Is that "welcome to my world" stuff fun to play? 

It’s great. Now it’s an even playing field. He’s really excited that he’s not working at a disadvantage, at least culturally. He’s not only comfortable in the depression-era United States because of where he comes from, he’s also excited to reinvent himself in these new circumstances. Not only because they’re all fishes out of water, but because at the end of Season 6, when he had that cathartic moment where he expresses to Fitzsimmons that the only reason he’s doing the things that he’s doing is because he doesn’t know who he is, or how he fits in, or what he wants. I think he’s taking this as an opportunity to figure out exactly what person he wants to be. 

That's a big part of his overall arc, isn't it? He's always adapting, always surviving, and at the same time transitioning from being a selfish person to being one of service.

I feel like so much of that is wrapped up in the scene we were just talking about, the scene where he’s expressing his own confusion in how he feels, who he is, and what he wants. I’ve heard fans say that Deke was a completely different guy when he was in the lighthouse, how can we reconcile that this new tech-magnate doofus [from Season 6] can be the same guy? To me, it always felt very natural, because I felt like he was embittered and hardened by this family-less, cold, distant existence that was strictly to survive, and taking advantage of people. He was basically living with the Gestapo.

When, all of a sudden, he is transported back into our time, it always felt to me, "oh my god the stakes are so low here, I’m from a place where everything is do or die every single day. Here, who cares, everything’s great!" There’s an outside, and food, and people not looking to murder you for speaking your mind. When he comes into this low-stakes environment, it always made a lot of sense why he would let his hair down. Also, one of my favorite things about him as a character is that I always felt that no matter what situation you put him in, he would figure out a way to not just survive, but flourish. 

He’s like, "oh, people care about money? Then I’m gonna be excellent at making money." Deke is really just a product of his environment, whether it’s the lighthouse, or contemporary Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, whatever it is, he’s just a reflection of where he’s at. Now that he’s kind of dealt with and exorcised that version of himself, it’ll be cool to see, because he’s had this breakthrough of, "wait, who am I? What do I want?" This season it’s cool to see him really figure that out. 

Did you think the character would last this long when you first started on the show?

I sure did not. I’ll tell you, there was a day, we had just done the table-read of Episode 10, which was the episode where I’m talking on the walkie-talkie with them, and I help them to go back to their time. They’re on the ship ready to go back, and the episode ends with a blinding white light. It was an explosion. As far as I knew, I was blown up. I thought I was dead. One of the ADs, he grabbed me and another character who had died in that episode, the two of us. He took us into his office and said, ‘don’t feel bad, look at all of the characters that have died.”

He showed us a bunch of headshots, and it was all these people who had X’s over their faces who had died on the show. There was my face, and it wasn’t X’d out yet, and he said, “don’t worry, look at all the people who have been killed off…” There was a bunch of really awesome actors in there, I was like, "cool, I feel like I got to do some really cool stuff." But also? At the table read, if you die, they kind of clap for you and give you a send-off. They didn’t do that with me.

They told me that I wasn’t dying and that I was sticking around for the rest of the season right after that. The next episode I read was where Deke came back and goes to the bar for the first time, has a burger for the first time, gets drunk for the first time. I was so unbelievably excited that was happening. The episode after that we were shooting when Season 5 started airing, and we were 12-13 episodes in, and I had just found out that I was Fitzsimmons' grandkid. So I found out, and I walked into set, and I remember Jed Whedon was there, and the night before somebody tweeted, during the show, "retweet if you think Deke is the Fitzsimmons grandkid." It was crazy, I hadn’t even been in it for five minutes. It took me filming it for three months to figure it out, I had no idea. Jed was like, "eh, there’s always someone who figures it out, it’s just the law of numbers, there’s so many people guessing." 

The banter runs so fast and furious between Deke and Daisy, is there any hope that she'll warm up to his lemon-fresh feelings? 

Of course there’s hope. Of course Deke always has hope, of course Daisy’s always hoping that Deke doesn’t have hope. There’s definitely hope and we’ll get to see what happens. Deke is for sure crossing those fingers. 

Maybe when he finally figures out who he really is, she will figure out who he is, and like him for it. 

He’s Mr. Right There, come on! You’re looking for Mr. Right, you don’t see Mr. Right There. 

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues its seventh and final season Wednesday nights on ABC.