Joss Whedon Explains Why Agent Coulson Lives on in ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson

There is life after death, at least in Hollywood. Just ask Clark Gregg and Joss Whedon.

As good fanboys know, Gregg played Agent Phil Coulson, a member of the crime-fighting S.H.I.E.L.D. organization who brought together the heroes of the Marvel Universe.

Coulson has appeared in "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2" and "Thor" before dying in the line of duty in "The Avengers."

But even though Coulson gave up the ghost on the big screen, both Gregg and Whedon have confirmed he’s returning to the land of the living on the small screen, starring in the pilot for Whedon’s proposed "S.H.I.E.L.D." television series.

Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon

Whedon was at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, this weekend, talking up his new screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing," during a panel discussion that included Gregg -- who appears in that movie, too. When asked if Gregg would also be appearing in the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV project, Whedon said he couldn’t talk at length about it, but finally admitted, "Yes. For realsies."

"I’ll tell you guys this," Whedon joked. "Heimlich."

The subject of Gregg and Coulson also popped up in an interview Whedon did a few days before SXSW launched. "The idea of the Little Guy is something that I am very fierce about, and there has never been a better Little Guy than Clark Gregg," Whedon said. "That intrigued me, this world around the superhero community. It's the people whose shop windows get blown up when the Destroyer shows up. It's the more intimate stories that belong on television that we can really tap into the visual style and ethos, and even some of the mythology, of the Marvel movies. I think we’ve put together another great ensemble headed by Clark."

Of course, this invites the question: was Coulson’s death in "The Avengers" for real, was it a trick played on the bad guys by S.H.I.E.L.D., or did he miraculously recover? Neither Gregg nor Whedon are answering that just yet. And ABC has confirmed no air date for
"S.H.I.E.L.D.," which means it may be a while before we find out if the show addresses Coulson’s little bout with mortality. But the president of ABC’s entertainment division, Paul Lee, is said to have high hopes for the show, and told reporters Whedon's script boasted "some great male/female relationships and humor." And given the public's current fascination with all things Marvel, it’s hard to imagine that "S.H.I.E.L.D." won’t get picked up for at least a limited run. The pilot movie also stars Ming-Na Wen, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, and Brett Dalton.

And while Whedon fans wait for "S.H.I.E.L.D.," his modern-dress version of "Much Ado About Nothing," which stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, goes into limited release on June 7.

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