Clark Gregg Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
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Clark Gregg on the Coulson revival elevator pitch that launched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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May 25, 2021, 2:55 PM EDT

It might not be the highest profile project that comes to mind, but the small-screen Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. remains the longest-running super-series in the MCU with a full seven seasons on the shelf. But how did it get started? 

In the latest episode of the At Home With The Creative Coalition podcast, Clark Gregg (aka Agent Phil Coulson) opened up about how the series came about in the first place. Gregg, like most everyone else who watched The Avengers, assumed Coulson was dead after he took a spear through the chest from Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

But fans loved Coulson, so director Joss Whedon and Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb found a way to bring him back — which was key to the pitch to get him back in that S.H.I.E.L.D. suit. The big mystery of how and why Coulson came back was baked into the DNA of the series, and it turns out was also the elevator pitch to get the project off the ground.

“In 2012, I was in ‘Avengers’ and I got killed off. Then I got a call saying, ‘You know, you might not be dead. It’s a comic book world. You might…’ Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel TV said, ‘We think that you think you’re dead. We think that you think you got out a close call. But it turns out you were super dead. And it turns out they used some very dark stuff to bring you back. And the whole first season is about you discovering what you are now and being really uncomfortable with it,’” Gregg said.

Gregg also looked back on what it was like when he was brought in to play Agent Coulson in the first Iron Man film, which was a risky project at the time. But despite the long shot feeling of launching the first MCU film, Gregg said he knew from the jump it was going to be a hit.

“From the minute I saw that Jon Favreau was directing this movie of ‘Iron Man’ with Robert Downey as that character with Gwyneth [Paltrow] and Jeff Bridges, I knew that if Robert was able to show up and, you know, become the talent that we’ve all hoped he would be able to be -- you know, with the addiction issues -- that it would be one of the greatest versions, the best possible version that could have ever been,” Gregg said. “And he really, really nailed it.”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wrapped its seven-year run last season. If you’re looking for a bit of throwback Coulson on the big screen, his most recent appearance came in the 1990s-set Captain Marvel.