Clark Gregg has been playing Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over 12 years, and his character has gone through many changes in that time. Coulson has died a couple of times over the years, but his demise at the end of Agents of SHIELD's fifth season seems to have stuck. Gregg returned in season six as Sarge, a somewhat villainous character who was basically an alternate version of Coulson, but who also ended up dying. Now, Coulson is back, but this time as an LMD (life model decoy). During a recent interview with Variety, Gregg addressed if he'd play Coulson again and talked about the "thrilling" time he had playing Sarge in season six. In fact, he didn't really miss playing the real Coulson while exploring Sarge.
"It was really thrilling," Gregg said of playing someone new. "I never think of a person as the bad guy, but he definitely had an understanding of what was happening that left him a lot of room to not worry too much about the moral complexity of issues that Coulson obsesses over. So it got things really simple and clean and dark, and it was really fun."
Here's what Gregg said when asked if he missed playing Coulson: "Um. Did I miss…? Not really. Not during that particular three, four months. But it threw me a little bit at first because the reality of who Sarge was and why he looked that way was very complex and not really revealed to me — or I think even figured out all the way — until we were well along the way. I didn’t have a lot to kind of hang my hat on and figure out how to ground myself. So it really took everything I had just to figure out how to make that storyline work with that tired old face."
During the interview, Gregg also gave new insights into LMD Coulson: "I was a little thrown at first," Gregg said of the decision to turn Coulson into an LMD. "I internalize everything Coulson cares about whether I want to or not. He was really adamant that he didn’t want that. And even though I love [the Star Trek: The Next Generation character] Data, I didn’t want Phil Coulson to be Data, you know, the cyber being following them around doing fast math. Their idea around it was very different. He’s wrestling with some of the stuff that classic AI characters have dealt with in the past: What am I? What am I now, in his case. And he’s also not really the kind of typical LMD. There’s other, much more advanced stuff going on. I think someday when there is extremely advanced AI, it’ll be harder to really tell the difference between organic intelligence and that form of artificial intelligence. [Pause] I went full nerd on you, didn’t I?!"
Agents of SHIELD returns on May 27th.