As relatively small as SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson’s role was in Iron Man almost 11 years ago, the character’s gone on to become one of the most important pieces of connective narrative tissue tying the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe together.
In the years since Coulson was first introduced, he’s had what’s arguably the most comic book-y character arc in the MCU, given his involvement with SHIELD, the Avengers, dying and being resurrected only to be flung into a distant apocalyptic future, dying again, and seemingly being brought back once more for Agents of SHIELD’s upcoming season. The irony of Coulson’s wild adventures isn’t at all lost on actor Clark Gregg.
We caught up with him recently to talk about his role in Captain Marvel and what’s next for Coulson. Of course, he was cagey about specific details regarding Agents of SHIELD’s potential jump into the future, but he was open about being game for every twist and turn the MCU’s put him through:
They’ve given me everything I ever could have wanted. I thought I’d had a great journey at the end of Avengers. I’d had a brilliant death and I was happy. That versus showing up to bother Tony Stark and Pepper Potts in four more movies—none of that was nearly as fun as what I did in Avengers.
And then to go as deep as Agents of SHIELD has, to have a new family for six years and to be able to come back to do more origin stuff, it’s just been a good run and Coulson’s had an amazing adventure.
As Coulson’s life has changed, Gregg’s relationship with the character has similarly taken on new depths, and he explained that as time’s gone on, the way he goes about getting into the headspace to embody Coulson has evolved:
There are parts of him that come very easily to me. His organizational, leadership thing—that feels comfortable for me to slip into too. There’s a protecting one’s loved ones and family, that feels natural. But there are ways that his dedication to duty, and his abilities to be serious and mature can be challenging for me at times.
At this point, the membrane between us is very fluid. Sometimes, one of my castmates or bosses will come to me and be concerned about where I’m at emotionally, and it takes me a second to realize that it’s me, I’m still in the moment and I’m worried about the person Coulson’s worried about.
When we pressed Gregg about who Coulson might be worried about when Agents of SHIELD returns, he deflected but did say that viewers can look forward to a season that feels “very, very original.” Make of that what you will.