Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s renewal for seasons six and seven was a surprise to the cast and crew who had planned the fifth season finale as the show's ending, according to Phil Coulson actor Clark Gregg.
"We had this really wonderful end of season five - the [season finale] episode was even called 'The End' - and we had reason to believe that we were done," Gregg told Entertainment Tonight. "We’d had these wonderful five seasons and a very tight family, and it was very, very sad. And then they called everyone up and said, we’re actually gonna do two more short, 13-episode seasons, which is really the number we thought we always could do best at."
The surprise two-season renewal posed a unique problem for Gregg, whose character Agent Coulson died at the end of season five, and who didn't want to simply have Coulson defy death again, as he did following the first Avengers film.
"I didn’t know if it was going to involve me," Gregg explained. "And if it was going to involve me, I thought it had to be something special, something very different. I didn’t want to just kind of like, go, 'Oh, never mind, it turns out he was OK all along.'”
"What [producers] Jed and Mo Whedon and Jeff Bell came up with, with the other writers, fulfilled all those criteria," the actor continued. "And I’m really excited for people to see what they came up with. It may be a little disturbing, but this is a very different person."
The nature of Gregg's new character - who shares Coulson's face - remains shrouded in secrecy. However, Gregg did offer a few new tidbits, not just about his character, but about the direction Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season six will take.
"I know that season six starts out with the S.H.I.E.L.D. team on Earth, grieving, trying to take on on the duties of S.H.I.E.L.D. and dealing with these strange anomalies that have wreaked mass chaos, and they seem to get some images of people from somewhere else who are committing these things," Gregg revealed. "The other half of the team is off in space, looking for the frozen Fitz from the future... And suddenly, it becomes clear that one of these people is wearing a very familiar face."
"There’s a big mystery here," he added. "And I think that this person is as surprised as they are, that they seem to recognize his face... I probably wasn’t supposed to say that."
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 is scheduled to debut later this year. No specific premiere date has been announced.