The most surprising member of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this coming season isn't even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. but of vengeance: Ghost Rider.
Showrunners Executive Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tanchareon, along with executive producer Jeffrey Bell and Marvel Television Head Jeph Loeb spoke about the upcoming season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during a press room set up at Comic-Con International: San Diego, discussing the inclusion of Gabriel Luna as Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes, as well as the show’s new time slot and the status of other characters across the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been about exploring the unusual and inexplicable, and Ghost Rider and his universe is part of that,” Bell said, adding that Gabriel Luna “killed it” during his audition for the part.
“We wanted it to feel totally new and different — and more people aren’t familiar with that version of the character, so it gives us more latitude,” Whedon added, saying that he and Tanchareon immediately jumped on Reyes as their Ghost Rider of choice. “We liked the character, who is a guy from East Los Angeles… we didn’t really hem and haw about it. They asked us which one we’d want, and we said that one, because the car is cool, and that’s the kind of story we’d want to tell.”
With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. moving to a later timeslot at 10:00 p.m. ET, the producers said that could afford new angles for the show to pursue.
“We’re excited… it gives us the opportunity to go darker, and the opportunity to go more sexier,” Tanchareon said. “We can see more coupling in the show. Like, Fitzsimmons are a thing, so that could get sexy.”
Whedon agreed, saying that he hoped the show could “skew a little darker,” and added that time change helped bring Ghost Rider to the show.
“Going later always lets us explore different stories a bit,” Bell added. “It’s still a network TV show, not a Netflix show, but that doesn’t mean we don’t find different ways to tell stories.”
“ABC has responded in different ways to our different shows, and encouraged us to embrace some of that,” said Loeb, adding that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was still pursuing the traditional four-quadrant demographics that it did in its previous time slot. “I don’t know if we’d go quite as dark as some of the other shows, but as long as it stays within the context of the show, we’re open to it.”
While Ghost Rider has drawn much of the spotlight for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. news, the producers were also quick to say that other Marvel characters were still on the table. When asked about the potential return of Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter, Loeb said, “nothing’s impossible,” while Bell teased there could be future tie-ins to the upcoming Doctor Strange film.
Yet the producers said that the main superpower characters in the series — the Inhumans — were not done just yet, with Tanchareon saying, “we have a nice group to draw upon.”
“The Inhumans have not gone away,” Loeb said. “They’re still a part of this world. They’re not going anywhere.”
“The things that happened in Civil War the film have a direct affect in terms of what S.H.I.E.L.D. does for a living, and how people perceive the inhumans. But I think the more interesting answer is where Marvel lives best is what’s a metaphor that’s going on around us, and we live in a challenging time how people see different cultures, diversity, differences between people,” Bell added. “If we don’t figure out we’re all sharing the same planet, and we figure out how to work together, and not put up walls, so we can all be together and figure it out, that’s a world that S.H.I.E.L.D. is fighting for.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for a fourth season September 20 on ABC.