Natalia Cordova-Buckley shares her thoughts on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, and teases what Yo-Yo may be speeding toward next!
When did you first hear about the plans for Slingshot? How did you feel about getting to star in an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. web series?
I first heard about it maybe four months ago, maybe midway through shooting season 4, and it was very kind of nonchalant how they told me. Like, well, we’re going to do this, and at first it was just, for me, it was like, really at first it was just shock. You’re going to focus on my character? Why? There was all these questions going on, why is this happening, where, how? But yeah, it was very, they just let me know that it was happening, and it was incredibly exciting for me.
And at the same time, all the emotions that rush through you when you get such big news are kind of all over the place, because you don’t understand why, or where is it going, or how did you get here. Or you know, there’s a bit of the foreboding joy of, is it going to be taken away? You know, there’s all these things that happen when you take a big step, or when you achieve something you’ve dreamt of.
So yeah, it was a bit of everything — excitement, and nervousness, and the whys of why it’s happening. And just also a lot of gratitude because it’s not every day that, as actors, we get these opportunities.
How did you shoot Slingshot? Was it in between episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Yes. Yes, as we were shooting season 4, we were shooting Slingshot.
Wow, so that must have been an interesting experience for you.
Yeah, which for me was kind of interesting as an actor, because I had to be playing, you know, [on] the same day sometimes I would be playing Yo-Yo six months from today, six months in the past, and then a scene later I would have to go on to the main set and play Yo-Yo six months later. So it was jumping times all the time, and as an actor to play that in a character, you have to be focused. There’s a continuity. So there’s a lot of practice and and lessons and learning by doing it.
In Slingshot, Yo-Yo gets to go toe-to-toe with characters she doesn’t usually interact with, and it’s amazing to watch. What was that like for you?
Oh, thank you. Well, it was just that, what you said. If it was amazing to watch, it was because it was amazing to be doing. I really wanted to have more time in scenes with — you know, because Yo-Yo mainly is either around Mack or Daisy most of the time. I haven’t really gotten time ever with May or with Coulson, really. I mean, I had had moments with Coulson, but they were more action scenes. So I really wanted to have acting scenes, where you see more of the relationships between the characters.
And I really wanted to work with Jason O’Mara, because I just find him to be a wonderful actor, and with Elizabeth and Iain, Fitz and Simmons. I just wanted that so bad, because I find them both to not just be brilliant actors, but to be wonderful at their characters and their chemistry, and how fast-talking they are together. So it was just wonderful to be able to dive into all these, let’s call them pools that I hadn’t been able to swim in, you know? So yeah, I was just really, really excited to get to work with all these actors, and even if it was in one scene, you’d just get to play and get to build a relationship within.
And because it wasn’t in the main show, it was all coming up with it, you know? We were already past that time, we were shooting season 4, which takes [place] six months later. So to be able to go back and so, okay, well, what would have been Yo-Yo’s relationship with Coulson when he stepped down? I wanted to make it really endearing, because he’s her first Director, and she kind of starts trusting him after what we go through in season 3.
So it was just really lovely to get to explore those relationships, and to really know which one is where and how, and correlating with how we’re going to show them six months later. So all that kind of mathematical thing you have to do in continuity as an actor was really lovely to get to practice. And again, [to] just get to act with the whole cast, which I hadn’t been able to, was really a gift for me.
That scene with Coulson gave me so many feels, it was insane. And hearing Mace’s bad Spanish was hilarious!
Yeah, it was beautiful. And thank you for saying what you said about the scene with Clark [Gregg], with Coulson. Because that’s ultimately what I really want to give my characters. We’re all superheroes, and you see us fighting the majority of the time, and saying terminology that is scientific and very hard to understand. It can all be a bit heady, and I really want to have Yo-Yo give this grounding to her story, where you really see the human behind the superhero — or the agent.
Even if she wasn’t a superhero, and a human, just the agent, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. With all of that stripped, what do you end up with? And it’s these people. Coulson and Yo-Yo talking, or Daisy and Yo-Yo talking, to really give them relationships beyond the relationship they have just as fighters together. To just show the human behind it was very important to me, so I’m glad you got all those emotions, [and] were able to distinguish the humanity behind both of us in that scene, because I love that scene.
Yeah! Did you have a favorite moment during filming?
You know, it’s interesting. Those kind of questions, like, your favorite movie, or your favorite color, or your favorite food, or your favorite moment. It’s interesting, because I’ve always wanted to have an answer that is that absolute, but I just, I can’t be that absolute, because everything has its own uniqueness, right? And I had moments with Clark, and with Chloe [Bennet], and with Henry [Simmons], who I adore, and with Iain.
But I think my favorite part of Slingshot though, honestly, was firstly getting to work more with that crew and that cast who I’ve just fallen madly in love with. The crew is one of the most fantastic crews, if not the most, I’ve ever worked with. And then getting to explore my character.
And another thing that I loved was that most of the directors, if not all of them, were first-time directors. And for me, it’s very special to be able to gift back to my industry this way, you know? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has given me so many lessons, and so much practice, and I’ve learned so much [about] the actor that I am and the producer that I want to be through them that it was my way of saying, well, if this is your first time then I’m here to support it, and I want to be that first actor for you that learns with you and who you can ask questions, and I can ask questions. But there’s an exchange being given all the time in that connection, so that was very special to me.
Slingshot isn’t a long series, but it still feels important to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We learn a lot about Elena in terms of her approach to violence, and I feel like she learns a lot about herself over the course of the episodes. Did you see anything in the character that you hadn’t before?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve said before in other interviews that television is very different from shooting a film, or… especially TV. What we do in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is a very long TV season, it’s very different to build a character that way than it is when you do theater or movies, and you have the character, and then you start shooting. And you discover as you go, but really there’s sort of an almost finished product [that you] slowly develop.
But with… TV, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you get the role and you’re doing it a day later, so you’re really growing as you go. So for me to be in season 4 now and meet with the producers and everyone, and having to go back to six months before and finding all that out and seeing what they thought Yo-Yo would have done, it’s just a great discovery. It’s just adventurous, you know? To go back to six months ago and find out that she wouldn’t shoot the man that killed her cousin, it was a huge thing for me because it informs her to me in some way. You know, when she has the gun on him and decides not to do it, there’s a kindness to Yo-Yo that, not even when revenge is a goal, can she take it.
There’s a justice to her, and I think I’m very similar to her in that way. She really wants to find justice and have the corruption and the bad people put away, but she won’t become as low as them. She won’t go that low, she won’t let go of her humanity. And that to me was just so lovely, that she would have the capability of pushing back and going, “Nope, I’m not going to be like you. I’m going to do it the right way.”
And it almost is a bit of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think, coming in to her and saying, yeah, there’s bureaucracy and all that, but you have a team that can supportive, and you don’t have to go on your own. So in this whole journey that she has, there’s many awakenings, and I think that’s why it was lovely that it ends with her giving Daisy the pin back months later, and saying — it really is, she’s saying it to both of them, you know? We’re a team, we don’t have to feel alone. We don’t need to go rogue. We can just be stronger together. So it was just a bunch of little discoveries that were wonderful to make with the team, and with myself and the character.
Has anyone said anything about future miniseries, or more focus on Yo-Yo in the future?
Well, from your mouth to God’s ears because I have heard nothing, and I hope that that is the reason why this was made! I literally know as much as you and anyone out there knows. Even when I was shooting, I knew as much as anyone knows! It’s really a unique way of doing things. But yeah, I’m hoping that it’s a test that the Universe and everyone under it is testing me and testing themselves to maybe go, yeah, we can freaking do this! Let’s make a Latina superhero show, or a Latina superhero movie. Let’s freaking do it, let’s blow this out of the water. I hope that’s why, but I really would have absolutely no idea if that’s why. So let’s put our hands together and pray for it! [laughs]
And can you give us any hints to what Yo-Yo might be up to when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns in January? Can we expect movement on the Mack/Elena front?
As far as Elena and Mack [go], we saw the kiss. I think Elena really wants to be with him, we’ll see how fast Turtle-Man runs toward the next goal! [laughs] I don’t think she’s going to be waiting much more.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×09, “Broken Promises,” will air Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 10 p.m. on ABC.