Tuesday evening marks the debut of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and executive producers/showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have big plans coming up for Agent Coulson and his crew. And in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the husband-and-wife team talked extensively about the shows ties to the larger Marvel U, what makes S.H.I.E.L.D. special, and even the mystery of Coulson’s return after dying in 2012’s The Avengers.
“I like to look at Coulson’s journey to the answer [about his return] as a sort of existential crisis with a Marvel twist,” said Tancharoen, who previously worked as a writer on Dollhouse television series and the Dark Horse spin-off comic series. But while Coulson’s miraculous return is a big mystery center to the series, her partner Jed Whedon says that it won’t be too nebulous.
“We're going to try to tease it out slowly enough to make it thrilling and not drive people crazy,” Whedon says. “A lot of shows will keep having a hatch within a hatch or keep asking questions without giving answers or payoffs. We're definitely focused on paying off anything we bring up and making it as rewarding as possible.”
There’s already been a reveal that the comics’ villain Graviton – in his civilian guise as Dr. Frederick Hall, at least -- will play a major role in the series’ third episode titled “The Asset.” When asked about other comics’ characters making their way to the small screen for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the duo said they would, to a degree, but also with new characters being added to the mix as Coulson was from the Marvel movies.
“We've have had a lot of Marvel homework to do,” said Tancharoen. “Everything is very much influenced by the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., but we are inventing our own and our main cast of characters is new. So it will be a mixture of all those things, new and old.”
Although Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is guaranteed to have hardcore comics fans tuned in for the debut, the showrunners say that their target audience is broader than comic book readers – broader even than the Marvel movies.
“We're hoping that the general audience, those who haven't seen the Marvel movies, will be able to come to the show and enjoy it as much as Marvel fans will enjoy it,” Tancharoen tells THR.
And while they are targeting a wide range of people, the showrunners promise that there will be “Easter eggs” in the show for comics fans “that we use jut to flesh out our story.”
Whedon does address the complicated rights issue that exists with Marvel Comics’ characters that means several of its properties like Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four aren’t available for use, and reveals a real-life S.H.I.E.L.D. worthy database that Marvel Studios’ maintains that’s bound to get any comics fan’s mind going.
“There's a database that's tailored to our show with the properties we can use as well as the properties that are owned by other studios and things that are flagged for major franchises,” Whedon reveals. “There are certain areas we can't go because we don't want to step on the toes of the movies.”
When asked about the intense pressure the show is under due to fan anticipation as well as that of ABC and Marvel Studios’, the duo says that at the end of the day it’s no different than smaller scale productions they’ve done with Joss Whedon in the past.
“It 's much like the way we made Dr. Horrible,” Tancharoen explains. “We started from a place of fun, and if it ever stops feeling that way we have to check in with each other again and make sure we come from that place.”