When actor Clark Gregg returns to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in season 6, he claims won't be playing Agent Phil Coulson - the character he's portrayed in film and TV since 2008's Iron Man.
Instead, Gregg tells Marvel.com he'll be playing a "mysterious" and "groundbreaking" new character - though he wasn't exactly forthcoming in who his new character is.
"The Coulson persona, despite always having new parts of him revealed to me by our writers, became a very familiar skin in a way," Gregg explained. "So to kind of change all that and to find myself suddenly playing this other very mysterious person, who is not Phil Coulson, and the mystery of who that person is, and why he looks like that, is something that they've done groundbreaking, wild stuff with that I'm really lucky to play."
Here's the full video of the interview:
Coulson was last seen in the Agents season 5 finale, in which an apparently fatal disease led Coulson to retire from S.H.I.E.L.D. - however, the trailer for season 6 revealed that Coulson apparently died while in Tahiti, his place of retirement.
Gregg dropped no hints as to the identity of his new character, however some immediate possibilities arise. Could Gregg's new character be a LMD (Life-Model Decoy - an artificial body meant to be a stand in for a real person) that resembles Coulson, but which has an entirely different personality or pilot? That is possible - however Gregg has already played a LMD of Coulson earlier in the series.
Or, could Gregg's new character be a shapeshifting Skrull? Coulson appears (played by a de-aged Clark Gregg) in the upcoming Captain Marvel. Could his new character be an extension of that appearance, bringing Captain Marvel's Skrulls into Agents, which has already featured an ongoing presence from the Skrull's ancient enemies the Kree? As Newsarama has pointed out, he's a prime candidate to be a Skrull in the modern MCU.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 is scheduled to premiere this summer on ABC, though no specific premiere date has been announced.