The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 premiere is fast approaching, and it's bringing vengeance along with it.
The new episodes will introduce Ghost Rider – Robbie Reyes, played by Gabriel Luna – to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The season will also introduce AIDA, an A.I. given flesh, and sees the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. organization move out of the shadows and back into the public eye.
ComicBook.com spoke to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. costume designer Ann Foley (follow on Twitter) about bring Ghost Rider to television, beginning a new era for the show.
There’s a big shift in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 with S.H.I.E.L.D. beginning to work in public again after operating in the shadows for two seasons. How has S.H.I.E.L.D.'s coming into the light affected the show’s style and how you build the character’s wardrobes?
Ann Foley: The great thing about this show is that each season definitely has its own feel and this season will be no different. I think that you're going to see some subtle differences in the costumes of the characters. Daisy is still going to have her Quake costume as you've seen, but you saw at the end of season three that she was incognito, she was undercover. She's not part of the team. Her style is going to reflect her head space and where she's at, which you saw at the end of season three.
For everybody else, again, we're just going to pick up where we left off at the end of last season and you will continue to see, for example, Fitz where he was at the end of last season, we changed his look up. He became a man in season three in his hunt for Simmons when she disappeared through the Monolith and went to Maveth.
That change, that looks that we did for him last season, is going to continue along with Elizabeth [Henstridge], Simmons, you'll see her shift as well. What we saw at the end of season three, she had on her coats, she had on her blouses and her pants and was just a little more adult looking. Coulson, we're still going to be seeing our badass civilian look that I loved so much on Clark [Gregg] last season.
In the past, characters on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have dressed differently while on a mission than while they were just out and about in the world. Does that line blur now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is working in the public eye again?
AF: I think that each one of the characters last season, we defined a pretty specific look, their civilian look, as I call it, versus their tactical look. I think that you will see that continue into this season.
You mentioned how Daisy has gone underground and is no longer part of the team. If that’s the case, is what we’re seeing of her really who she is, or is just one or more disguises she’s using to avoid Coulson?
AF: That is a question you are going to have to wait for when you see the first episode next Tuesday.
Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, is the biggest new addition to the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4. We’ve had our first look at Ghost Rider, and it's fair to say he’s the most accurate page to screen adaptation, visually speaking, that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has managed so far. Can you talk about what your goals for Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were, what your biggest challenges were, and about the process of achieving those goals?
AF: I was super excited when I heard that he was going to be joining us this season. I'm so lucky that we have such amazing writers on the show and how they manage to bring these characters into our universe and fit them into the universe, it's great for me and it's such a great collaboration. Just like any time we introduce any character on the show, we always want it to fit into the universe of the show that we have established. With Robbie Reyes, it was no different.
We have a really great creative director over here at Marvel Television by the name of Joshua James Shaw. He did concept art for me of the jacket, which was based on the illustrations that Felipe Smith did in his comic books. I just wanted it to stay true to the comics, which is what I think that we achieved that. I also wanted it to fit into our world as well.
We kept him grounded in the reality of where he was brought up in Los Angeles and his clothes reflected that, with his jeans, where they’re Levis, and we put him in some really great Vans and just kept him really grounded, but also paying tribute to Felipe and Tradd [Moore].
Ghost Rider is a character with a flaming skull head, so clearly there’s some CGI involved in bringing him to life. Does that present unique challenges or affect your approach to design?
AF: Not really. I've worked so closely now with Mark Kolpack over the last three seasons, going into season four, four seasons now, that whenever anything comes up that involves visual effect, we just work it out together so that we don't ever have any issues between what Mark needs to achieve and what the costume needs to do as well. It's been a pretty fabulous collaboration with him over these past four seasons.
Another new character coming to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 is AIDA. We haven’t seen her yet, so what can tell me about her look?
AF: We're really excited by her costume. We built it here in-house so it's completely custom made. It's a very beautiful suit that has very interesting style lines along the lines of Alexander McQueen. I wanted to keep it very simple and to not take away from the character at all, but I didn't want it to look like something that just came off the rack. I wanted it to have a sort of a "Where did this outfit come from?" kind of a feeling so that it's specifically hers. It just adds to the mystery of who she is.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a very grounded look, but it debuted when superheroes on television was still a new idea. Today, there are shows like The Flash and Supergirl, where the major characters wear brighter, more traditional-looking superhero costumes. Has that changing television landscape affected how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s approach to design, and can you see the show moving more in that direction?
AF: Oh no. The great thing is about all of these shows is they each have their own world and each one of these shows stays true to the world that they've established within their own universe. I think that's what's so great about all these shows is that each one is fantastic on its own and they offer up something different for the fans.
I love those CW shows and what they do and my hat's off to them and what they manage to achieve every episode, especially Supergirl. I love that our show is different. What we're trying to do, it's more about staying grounded within the framework of what's happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I've always said that I wanted what we're doing to sort of tie in with what's happening on the feature side. Quake, I think, could easily be part of the Avengers or even Agent May for that matter. Their costumes stay in line with what's happening over in the MCU.
In that case, has the gradual expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Doctor Strange introducing the magical side of Marvel and the grittier Defenders series existing on Netflix, affected your design choices?
AF: That's more of a story point that I can't really speak to yet. I love the movies. I love the MCU. I think they're so much fun and they're great, but there's also a very specific vibe and feeling in all of them. I think that's what we try to do and that's what we try to achieve is to make sure that what we're doing makes sense within the larger scheme of things for our universe, whether it's on the feature side or whether it's on the television side.
Now that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 is about to premiere, what is the design you are most excited for fans to see?
AF: I was really, really excited for everybody to see Ghost Rider of course. I just couldn't wait for that to finally drop in. The response to that has been so positive. I'm really, really excited by that. I really love what we did with AIDA, I'm very excited for people to see that as well, very proud of that. My cutter/fitter this season, Henry Poe, did a beautiful job creating that jacket and skirt for her. She looks fantastic. Mallory [Jansen] is a dream to dress and I'm really looking forward to people getting to see that.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.