After 12 years, Clark Gregg prepares to say goodbye to Agent Coulson. Maybe.

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Enlarge / / Clark Gregg never imagined that Agent Phil Coulson would become an emotional touchstone in the MCU, and beyond, when he first signed on for the role.

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Prepare to say goodbye to another Marvel property when the seventh and final season of Protection agents. premieres next week. Over the course of six seasons, the team has battled Hydra, hostile Inhumans, and alien species, and has traveled through time, sometimes aligning with the broader MCU, sometimes sticking to its own separate stories. It has been an equally hectic journey for actor Clark Gregg, who plays team leader Agent Phil Coulson.

(Spoilers for The Avengers and six previous seasons of Protection agents. down.)

First introduced in 2008 Iron Man, Coulson quickly became a fan favorite, appearing on Iron Man 2 (2010) and Thor (2011), before director Joss Whedon broke our hearts by unexpectedly killing the character in The Avengers (2012) Protection agents. He brought Coulson from the dead to lead a squad of elite agents to confront the terrorist group Hydra, eventually incorporating the superhuman race called Inhumans into history.

Many expected Protection agents. to end after S5, especially since Coulson died (again) in the finale, spending his last days alone on a romantic tropical beach in Tahiti with agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). Instead, ABC renewed it for a shortened 13-episode sixth season, adding a surprise makeover for a seventh and final season before S6 was released. Gregg returned in S6 as "Sarge,quot;, a hardened bounty hunter who turned out to be a non-corporeal being who confused his own memories with Coulson's when he took the latter's form.

S6 found our heroes fighting the "Shrike," invading parasites from planets that enter human hosts and cause them to explode into crystalline structures. There were also some aliens called Chronicoms seeking the help of Fitz and Simmons to solve the problem of time travel in order to save their home planet, Chronyca-2, until there was an internal blow and their focus shifted to take Earth as his Chronyca- 3)

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Enlarge / / The original equipment in Protection agents.

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The shield. The team eventually defeated the Shrike (and Sarge) invasion, but May was mortally wounded. So our heroes placed May in a stasis capsule, and an upgraded version of her time-traveling ship, the Zephyr One, destroyed them several decades ago, where they were trapped in S7. Meanwhile, Simmons built a Coulson Decoy Life Model (LMD), packed with insight into the entire history of S.H.I.E.L.D., to help them navigate through history and hopefully save the future of the Chronicoms.

That is where we enter this final season. Up News Info sat down with Gregg to learn more about his experience playing this beloved character for so many years and incarnations.

Up News Info Technica: Did you have any idea when you assumed the role of Agent Coulson that this character would become who he is now?

Clark Gregg: No way. I think it was just one of those happy accidents for an actor where, putting together this giant story that they told in all these movies, they realized that there was something about having this normal person in the middle of all this. super powerful people. They gave him a slightly sarcastic attitude, without taking him too seriously, which was really hiding how much of a secret fanatic he was. It gave the audience a connection through an on-screen point of view. And it was still the gift he kept giving.

Agent Coulson in the MCU

Up News Info: It was so devastating for fans when Loki killed Coulson in The Avengers. Did you expect to receive a call for a television series after that?

Gregg: It was a lot of fantastic scenes and a great outing for the boy. It was very emotional, because Coulson had already played for six years or so by that time. The writers were giving Coulson lots of cool moments. And I thought, "Because they're killing him. You want people to care when he freezes." They made a lot of jokes. I mean, how dead can you be? It's Marvel. I asked him, "Don't you want to do a shot where it looks like I'm a little hurt?" They said, "No, we don't need to do that." So it was really clear that he was dead.

The fan-powered #CoulsonLives movement really had a huge impact. I don't think anyone was thinking of doing something to undermine the importance of what had happened in The Avengers. So Joss called (about a possible series) and said: "He (Coulson) believes he had a close call and throughout the season one has to delve into the mystery of why he doesn't feel good, unraveling the truly devilish magic darkness, carried out against his will, to bring him back that he himself has not left. " I thought, "Wow, that's a mythology that I can back up." And the next thing you know, Phil Coulson is leading a new team in a new arena in a new medium and trying to find a way to bring some of that Marvel magic to network television. It was a hellish seven-year journey.

Up News Info: Coulson has obviously changed as a character since those early days. There is an innocence, a purity to him that slowly fades over the course of six seasons of Protection agents. What do you see as the central element of your narrative arc?

Gregg: People who make that sacrifice to put the safety of others first cannot have a normal family type. I would say of all the various threads that Coulson goes through. There are some really profound points about his disenchantment with the secret after having hidden this secret from him about his own destiny. And being in command of this team and the family it becomes, their relationship with Melinda May, with Daisy Johnson / Quake, how she would become Skye, with Simmons and Fitz and everyone else, feels driven by that. How do you have a family when you have to put these people in danger? The changes that come to him, in large part, are driven by the chaos of the world around him. But (the arc) is really about becoming a family man up to a point.

Up News Info: Many people expected the series to end after S5. Instead, you have to stretch a bit as an actor to play Sarge. He still had to channel Coulson to some degree, but in a fresh new way.

Gregg: It's hard to talk about this trip without talking about the ways our experiences as artists bled out, with a very porous membrane between Coulson's experience and the company, and the cast. At the end of each mission, and each season, we never knew if we would see again, not knowing if we would be picked up (for another season) or if that was it. It was a strange time to be on a network, because its metrics didn't really work. We knew that our program worked very well with people who recorded it and watched it later, but not because of the metrics that the networks still wanted, which was to see it live with commercials.

At the end of S5, it was no different. The (final) episode was called "The End,quot;, and the writers had made the decision that this time, the Coulson we knew was going to die. We thought the show was ending, so we all said goodbye. It was one of the most emotional days on set. Then we got a call: "We're actually going to do two more seasons of 13 episodes." It was a little jarring.

They had ideas about who Sarge was going to be, but they were finding out on the fly. There were a lot of questions that they couldn't answer me about who this guy is and why he was wearing this skin. He sounds like me. He is like my. But how different is he? What does he know? Who does he think he is? That was really the puzzle. It was very awkward not knowing much about the new character. And yet it was very liberating to break free of Coulson's desire to find the moral way to do very dark things. Sarge had an agenda and was ready to do whatever was necessary at any time. That was fun.

Everyone in the family

Up News Info: As we head to S7, Coulson returns again, this time as a decoy life model (LMD). Essentially you have had your consciousness charged with an artificial being. So there must be some identity issues in the future.

Gregg: We have addressed this idea of ​​sentient artificial beings (in the program). The setup for this version of Coulson is that he is a LMD in name only. It is a much more advanced version that uses Chronicom technology that is beyond anything we have seen so far. So when we meet him, he's struggling with: "Wait a minute, I gave very specific instructions that this wasn't going to happen. I'm not sure I want to be here like this. So what am I? Way? " At the same time, the team is again in a situation where the way humanity exists within these time frames is under assault, so duty places them in an unfortunate position.

Up News Info: As an actor, you play a role and you infuse yourself a lot. How have you changed and what have you learned from playing Coulson all these years?

Gregg: That is a very good question. In the first season, Coulson led a team of misfits that didn't feel like they belonged anywhere and that was chaotic and seemed to go wrong. It wasn't until two-thirds of the season that they discovered, "Oh, it's Hydra, I see." And things really started to click. It was very parallel to what we were going through (like a cast). It was bumpy and I miss trying to be on a net Iron Man. I would spend days where I would feel so upset, so frustrated and betrayed by the cast or crew, and then I would realize, "Oh, these are not them. This is what happens in the episode." And they would realize, "Oh yeah, he's not mad at me right now. This is because he's being ripped apart on this machine right now." That was really amazing: how long it starts living in you after a while.

I would say that there are ways that being the father of my wonderful daughter, Stella, who is now 18 and preparing to go out alone, was very influenced in both directions by my relationship with Chloe (Bennett, who plays Daisy / Quake) and Elizabeth (Henstridge, who plays Jemma Simmons). At first they were very new to this, and in the end they were teaching me a lot of things. Like Coulson, there were people I got really close with on that (AoS) family. There is simply no substitute. We have something together that we go through that I don't have with anyone else.

Up News Info: This is the end of the series. Given that this is the Marvel Universe, where death is not necessarily permanent, do you envision Coulson appearing elsewhere in the future?

Gregg: The only way they brought him back so far has been in flashbacks at Captain marvel. I don't know what the future holds. But at this point I have learned to say, "Never say never."

The final season of Protection agents. begins at 10 PM / 9 Central on Wednesday, May 27 on ABC.

Marvel & # 39; s Protection agents. season 7 preview

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