J. August Richards Talks Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "It Takes a Village To Make a Deathlok"

With the first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to DVD and Blu-ray on September 9, the cast and crew of the series have been speaking with reporters all week to raise awareness of the upcoming release.

Among those dispatched to attract fans is Angel alum J. August Richards, who played Mike "Deathlok" Peterson on the show. First seem as what seemed like a regular guy in the pilot, we soon discovered that his life had been turned upside down by the Extremis technology behind Iron Man 3 and a sleeper cell within S.H.I.E.L.D. who were trying to weaponize it. As Deathlok, he walked the line between working for the good guys and bad -- and made it through the season alive, which is more than some can say.

Richards joined us to talk about the show.

Richards told us that he still doesn't know for sure whether Deathlok will return to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this year, but you can see him on the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday...and you can see Deathlok starting next month in a new ongoing series; click here to see an exclusive sneak peek at the art!

The season was often discussed as being uneven, but your episodes were almost always the ones that fans were really excited about -- the pilot, and then the stuff building up Deathlok and HYDRA. Was that gratifying?

Okay, I'm going to tell you the truth about something and this is kind of quote-unquote personal. The response was so positive every time I was on the show as far as what I was receiving on social media that I thought, "okay, well obviously they're just going to say something positive because they wouldn't direct a negative comment at me," although that's not totally true either. But I just thought, "This is too positive," so I was like, "okay, I'm going to do a search."

So I looked for tweets and such that might not be directed at me. So I started searching "Deathlok," and again, it was unbelievably positive. So I was blown away because usually they have something bad to say.

Some people had issues with the look of the character a little bit before it actually appeared but by the time I appeared on camera, all of the feedback was positive. You just never really get that, and obviously I've been blown away by that.

You've worked with the Whedons before, but this is obviously scaled way up. Is that intimidating, or did you just think, "Oh, well, these guys I have a ton of faith in now have all the money in the world."

Here's the thing: To Joss's credit, whenever I work with him, it always feels like community theater. It feels very inclusive and very much like we're making something that is going to be creatively satsifying for us. And if people like it, cool. If not, we'll try it again.

I brought a certain level of pressure myself but the minute I got there, it just felt like a bunch of friends making a cool, little project. We used to do Shakespeare readings at his house on the weekends during Angel just for fun. And this project, working on it felt like we were doing it just for fun.

He might have felt some pressure but I didn't feel it off of him. And obviously I felt pressure to give a good performance but it wasn't a high-pressure situation. Trust me, I've been on those and they don't feel as good as this one did.

One of the nice things I think for a lot of people is that they were able to fully define their characters. You, on the other hand, had a character with a little bit of baggage and some fan expectations. Can you talk about trying to make Deathlok your own without betraying the source material?

Yeah, you're so right about that. The only pressure I felt was to continue to tell the Peterson's story accurately. It's weird because I got to start playing this man who was very down on his luck and was really only trying to provide for his child and that was enough for me to connect to him so whatever else happened, as long as I kept that through-line, that was fine. It never really occurred to me that people might have an opinion about us touching their character that they had come to "own." It never occurred to me until we started to share it so I didn't feel that pressure. Ordinarily I would, because I'm always nervous, but I wasn't nervous about that.

And by the way, every episode I did after the pilot felt like just a bonus. I didn't expect to do more so it was just a bonus and I had fun with everything.

It's probably safe to assume, but I don't think it's been announced yet: are you going to be back next season?

I don't know anything about that. It hasn't been announced...I don't know anything about it.

The costumes are such a big part of these characters and like you said, the production stills didn't really do justice to the finished product. Was that a change to the physical suit or was that a post-production change?

I'm glad you asked that because I think that's the blessing and the curse of the Internet and social media and stuff. People were judging the look based on a few production stills and I didn't think it was fair because I love the costume that Ann Foley directed and as I always say, "it takes a village to make a Deathlok" and there were special effects that were missing from those photos. I just knew that if you got to see the episode and you got to see the story and the way the character was evolving, then people would get it -- and they did. So I don't negatively engage on social media so all I kept saying to people was, "Just watch the show, just watch the show, just watch the show."

And when they did, a lot of them tweeted me back and were like, "You were so right -- it was awesome."

I think there's an element of video versus photography. When you see something in action it's a lot different because it's interacting with the environment.

Exactly! And as you know, one of my legs is made by a computer so there's many cool little gadgets and things that he has at his disposal that I'm so glad people latched onto when the show actually aired.

So what's your next project?

The next place you can see me is on the new show on Bravo -- it's going to be their first scripted, hour-long show called The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce. It stars Lisa Edelstein and i will be on there playing her brother-in-law. I am married to her brother. That's the very next place you can see me. I was just on The Lottery, which is another original, hour-long series on Lifetime. And I'm not sure if I can tell you this other thing that I'm doing yet. I'm doing another job right now. But yeah, Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce premieres in December. It was written by Marti Noxon, who is another former Buffy and Angel writer so I'm getting to reunite with another one of my Buffy and Angel cohorts.


Everyone from those shows has done so well that you could pretty much just build a career by journeyman-ing around, reconnecting with old friends.

Hey, don't give away my strategy!