12:00 am EST, December 2, 2017

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ cast and crew weigh in on Simmons’ predicament, aliens, and more

On the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hypable spoke to cast and crew about the wild season premiere — and got a few hints of what’s to come.

The premiere episode, “Orientation,” served as a no-holds-barred introduction to the new frontier of the team’s space-bound predicament. Requiring an entirely new set, costumes, and indeed a new vernacular, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon say that the shift has been as invigorating as it was creatively difficult.

“Having this opportunity, as challenging at it has been, has been given everyone a little juice,” Tancharoen says. “It’s buoyed a lot of people. In the writers’ room at first, staring at that blank board, knowing the new territory we were diving into, it felt daunting. It felt overwhelming. But then once you start rolling, it was fun.”

“There’s so many formal structures you can use,” co-executive producer Jeff Bell adds of the new paradigm. “It’s a prison show, it’s a horror show, it’s an upstairs-downstairs. There’s all these sort of different things that for us felt like they were different kinds of stories for us to tell.”

The double-whammy of the shift in both space and time (the team has been catapulted 90 years into the future as of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 premiere) also held some tantalizing advantages for the writers.

“When we first started talking about space, it wasn’t necessarily the future,” Bell says. “But after throwing ideas around… we came up with ideas like, “Well, what if the earth has been blown up and we’re like, hanging off the side of that? What does that mean?””

“And we sort of got intrigued with that. So the future didn’t so much buy us future tech, or things like that, but just a way for our team to go into a situation together — because last year, they were always splintered apart.”

As exciting as the new prospects are for the writers, the characters of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., are not having quite as swell of a time. All of the agents are suffering in their new circumstances, but Simmons — kidnapped and turned into a drone-line beauty slave for a Kree master — has a few extra challenges.

“It’s really smart how they did it, because [her mind is] her strongest suit,” says Elizabeth Henstridge. “She still gathers information and stuff, but she’s just so powerless. It’s everything that she has never pertained to be — like, she doesn’t care about being pretty, or being accepted, or being liked. [Simmons has] always been so headstrong and kind of arrogant to a point where she feels like her brain is just the best, and who cares about anything else?”

“This is just a completely different realm for her,” Henstridge continues, “And she hates every second of it! So it’s brilliant. It was very frustrating to film, because you just can’t really do anything. You just have to be still and hope — she just has zero power, and could be killed any second.”

“It’s a happy show,” Ming-Na injects wryly. “It’s kind of one of those seasons where everything’s been taken away from S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Alone and without allies, Ming-Na says that May will be struggling with her own physical limitations. “I think it’s kind of great that we were stripped away from everything,” she says. because we have to be more vulnerable and and concerned every moment.”

“We don’t know who the enemy is,” Henstridge adds.

Clark Gregg agrees — though he has a more optimistic view on the team’s outlook.

“At this point, we’re suspicious of everything,” he confirms. “And yet, I think pretty quickly, there are reasons to believe that it’s a good thing we’re here. And that the special skill set of this evolving family of friends, lovers, and agents might be beneficial here.”

Of course, there are still the Kree — and perhaps other aliens — to deal with. Questions remain as to whether or not the shape-shifting Skrulls could pop in the new season, and what role the strange bald man from the opening scene has to play.

“There will be more revealed about him later, I will say,” says Bell. Jeff Ward, joining the cast as Deke, adds “It’s good. It’s very good. It’s very, very good. I like it a lot.”

Tancharoen and Whedon are a bit more equivocal.

“Keep digging. Keep digging!” Tancharoen chuckles.

Adds Whedon, “One of the fun things is, it could be something there [and] if you dig deep enough, you’ll find it — or it could be something that we made up on a Tuesday. But that’s part of the fun of this.”

“More than often,” says Tancharoen, “It’s something that we made up on a Tuesday.”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5, episode 3, “A Life Spent,” airs Friday, Dec. 8 at 9:00 p.m. on ABC.

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