This is a season of milestones for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The series, which airs Friday at 9PM on ABC, will soon air its 100th episode. That's rare in this day and age when new series often get only a few episodes to find an audience. Tomorrow night, however, there will be another first for the show: Clark Gregg will direct an episode for the first time.
Titled "Fun and Games," the episode not only marks the first time that the actor who plays former S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson will become a director of the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it's also a major turning point for the series. Some MAJOR developments take place in this episode -- don't worry, we won't discuss them in this story -- and Gregg was the person calling the shots for this key hour in this season's 'S.H.I.E.L.D. in space' story arc.
SYFY WIRE hopped on the phone for a talk with Gregg to discuss his directorial debut on the show he's been front and center on since its inception. Gregg's no stranger to directing; he's helmed two critically acclaimed feature films, 2008's Choke and 2013's Trust Me. But as he tells us, television is a different beast, especially when you're also the star of the series.
Read below as he discusses how the close-knit cast and crew rallied around their leader for his big moment, and then check back in after you've watched Friday's shocking episode for a post-mortem with Gregg about the big happenings.
Clark, after all these years of turning down the chance to direct an episode of the series, why did you say yes now? What made the timing right?
I would say more honestly, they ran it by me and said, 'Do you want to do one?' And I just, at the time they would mention it to me, I couldn’t imagine adding that job, which is prep during one episode, shoot another episode that you’re acting in, and then edit an episode after that. For me, the 22 episodes of Marvel TV, it’s an endurance race. I’ve just been wary of adding anything to the mix like that. And I just couldn’t see how I would do it. Nobody twisted my arm.
But at the end of last season, Jeff Bell specifically said, "It’s time. It’s time to do this. Try it." And I said, "OK, let’s do it. What the hell." I’ve been watching other directors, trying to imagine how I would try to do it, if I would feel comfortable directing the actors I normally work with … and they were very encouraging, really, Chloe, Iain, Elizabeth and Henry, everybody saying, "you should do it." So that really helped push me over. And then [executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeff Bell] said, "Look, we’ve got this episode before that you’re light in and you can prep during that." But still, I was a bit nervous.
Coulson really takes a back seat in this episode in terms of storyline. Did that make your job as director easier?
Yeah, it did. I was really light in the one before this, the one with Fitz and Hunter. That really helped because I could do the prep. But this one is also not super-heavy episode for Coulson and that’s good because, while it’s not impossible, I enjoy the days more when I get to really direct and focus on everyone else’s stuff and not have to direct my difficult self.
What’s it like walking on set the first day as director? You've obviously directed before, with two feature films, Choke and Trust Me, under your belt. Was it an easy transition for you to make?
It was, actually. It was kind of great, because we’re tight. We’re a close bunch, we get along, we have a great crew, we don’t fight, and we take care of each other. I was just worried about how much grief they were going to give me and tease me (laughs). I was right to worry about that, because there were a lot of jokes made and a lot of teasing. It was really fun and it broke the ice.
And then the actors just couldn't be more … it was like everyone on the team showed up early at the gym. They were basically, 'OK, let’s give him everything we’ve got today.' They really made it an easy first day and then it was, I don’t want to say it went downhill, but it made it very easy.