Recently, ComicBook.com had the chance to chat with Joel Stoffer, the actor best known for playing Enoch the Chronicom on Agents of SHIELD. The highly advanced, semi-robotic alien has been an important part of the series since the season four finale, and his adventures with the team have made him a fan-favorite. During our interview, Stoffer talked about everything from working with Steven Spielberg to playing a vampire on an episode an Angel and even revealed that he'll be appearing on Stranger Things. He also shared his thoughts on Enoch's growth as a character, praised his co-stars, and talked about the possibility of playing the lovable Chronicom again. In case you missed our full interview, you can either watch in the video above or read it below...
Working with Spielberg
ComicBook.com: You have a fun scene with Harrison Ford and Neil Flynn [in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull]. As an actor, you got [to be] directed by Steven Spielberg. [Was that] on the checklist?
Stoffer: It was huge for me. I mean, it was a giant moment. I had done a bunch of TV and a little bit of film up until that point. It's the kind of thing that you joke around about, like, "Oh yes I'm off to shoot my film with Spielberg." And then I got to actually do that and I was pinching myself most of the time.
CB: [Are] there any other directors that you dream of working with?
JS: Agents of SHIELD, of course.
CB: Well, I mean Mo [Tancharoen] and Jed [Whedon], of course.
JS: Yes. Oh, I mean, there's a ton of directors I would love to work with and have that kind of fantasy about, but just to get one of them off the bucket list is pretty great. I hope to get to do it again.prevnext
Angel and Other Television Roles
CB: Over the years, you've appeared on a lot of cool TV shows, and a lot that are in our wheelhouse as Comicbook.com like Charmed and Sliders. Other than Agents of SHIELD, does any series stick out to you as a favorite or most memorable?
JS: Some of the ones that I have watched over the years, well, one that I got to be on which was great [was] another one with the word "Shield" in it, ironically. The Shield, that was around back in the '90s and early 2000s. I just thought it was such a bar-setting kind of show; so gritty and real and authentic. And that was one of my favorites at the time.
Before that, it was a lot of the [Steven] Bochco stuff and NYPD Blue, and some of those shows I just thought were great. Then Breaking Bad came along and that kind of brought a whole new level. I auditioned for that show and came so close to a couple of roles I never got, but that's okay. I still love that show. I don't actually watch that much TV, I don't have a cable hookup. If there's something I wanna watch, I have Netflix. If it's a show I'm gonna be on or audition for I'll get caught up to speed a little bit, but I'm not such a huge TV buff.
CB: Agents of SHIELD is not actually your first time on a Whedon family show. You played a vampire in an episode of Angel.
JS: That's right.
CB: I know it was 20 years ago, but do you remember what it was like getting in that iconic vampire makeup? How does a Joss set differ from a JedMo set?
JS: Vaguely, I mean, it's a long time ago. My memory of it was that we were shooting the day before Thanksgiving. And I was there for a long time. We shot that at Paramount's, I believe, and hanging out on set before my scene, and they had so many delays. I was probably there for a scene that took all of maybe an hour to shoot. I was probably there for 12 hours that day waiting, which is not to say anything about the production. I mean, they were on for years, so they knew what they were doing. It's just that sometimes things come up and delays happen and that kind of thing.
It was a lot of time that I had the eye lenses in to make my eyes yellow. And so, they would think that I was about to come on, and they would get me ready with the lenses, and you get those on and it blurs your vision a little bit. Those are kind of funky to wear. So, I'm sitting around wearing those with my blurred vision for however long, and then they're like, "Oh, it's gonna be a while longer. Let's take them out." I had them out and it was just this back and forth. I mean, I had a great time. It was just one day, and it was a fun shoot. I remember it was midnight before everybody got to go home and everybody was kind of anxious to get started on Thanksgiving the next day.prevnext
CB: You've obviously played humans in your life, but you've also [gotten] to be a vampire, the Species half-breed in Species III, and now you're a Chronicom. Do you find playing non-humans to be more fun and freeing or is it a little more challenging?
JS: In a way, it's definitely more of a challenge because you don't wanna just play everything the same. When it comes to vampire or android, you wanna explore different ways to go with different characters. And so, that's always fun. I think that I have fun regardless of what I'm gonna play. It really depends on what is put out there in the script. Those words… that's what you have to draw from, and if it's a good script and it's well written, it really starts on the page and then I get to kind of let loose.
I think the most fun for me so far has certainly been Enoch because I got the opportunity of a lifetime in a way for an actor because I got to sort of invent the character and that whole android species. I got to set that bar, which was really fun to play. We didn't know where it was gonna go or what it was gonna be. It was just like, "Here be a silhouette admin in this episode, and that's all you get to do, and maybe if we go for season five, we'll have you come back."
They didn't tell me anything. I had no idea until I read the script for episode one, season five, that I was even an alien, let alone what kind of alien or what I was, there was zero information. It was really left up to me to invent. I got to do that, and it worked. I was inspired by what the writers wrote and they were inspired by what I was giving back. And it just got to keep going which is really fun.
CB: You kicked off the entire fifth season with that fun montage of you getting ready for the day. I imagine reading that script was that kind of exciting to realize, "Oh, I'm kicking it off."
JS: It was, in fact, so exciting because I didn't even know that was my character. I knew I was gonna be in the episode. I got the script emailed and I started reading it. I'm reading that opening sequence, and I'm like, "Oh my God, that's one of my favorite, all-time songs. Whoever gets to play this, it's gonna be [a] sweet, cool opening to get to do." And the character name at that time was Silas. So, Enoch was originally gonna be called Silas, and then at some point, after we shot it actually, they changed the name to Enoch because it just sounds better. It just worked better.
There was a period while I was reading that scene where I did not know that was my character, and at some point, it kind of clicked like, "Oh, that's me. I get to be this." It was very exciting. So, yeah, that was fun.
CB: You definitely have a specific voice that you use for Enoch. You have a powerful voice anyway, but you change it up a little. It sounds like you didn't originally know you were going to be playing a Chronicom, so how did you come to choose how he speaks?
JS: Well, if you notice in the first, well, you don't really hear me talking so much in the first episode, but I think it's episode 505 when I reveal more about how I can use my voice more. I think you can hear my voice in that episode, and it's not quite as refined as Enoch yet. It's a little bit of whatever it was I was exploring with at the time, 'cause I was making it up. I mean, I really was, and I was like, "Okay, this seems kind of interesting." I was going with it and then it just slowly evolved from that point as a way of speaking that worked for Enoch. It definitely was not that pre-thought out. You just make discoveries as you go and see what sticks.
CB: Did you watch all of Agents of SHIELD?
JS: I did, yeah. When I got the role it was offered to me, which was great. I had auditioned for a couple of others, like season three, there was an episode in season three that I had auditioned for. And then another one in season four, I believe, that I had auditioned for and I didn't book those. But I had, at that point, started watching the show because I was auditioning for it. And so, I got kind of hooked.
When I got the offer for this role, I was like, "Well, I better get caught up and get up to speed." I was totally hooked. It's hard not to really, it's like a soap opera in that way because there's so much, especially when you get to binge-watch it on Netflix or something because you can just go from one easily and know what's gonna happen next.
CB: Before you prepped for the role, were you familiar at all with Marvel in general?
JS: Yeah, absolutely. Big Marvel fan. Getting lost in all the comic book films that they've put on the screen, it's so much fun to just suspend disbelief and you get to disappear in it and that's what's the best.prevnext
CB: You've now played two different versions of Enoch, and the first one died pretty early on. Once we see him again in season six, he [has] a little more of a personality, probably thanks to his Fitz adventures. [Did you take] a different approach when he came back?
JS: I don't think I did in a conscious way. Up until now really, I had been used maybe one or two or three or maybe four episodes on a series, if I was lucky. But usually, it was just one episode and you go in and maybe you're there for a day, maybe you're there for a week and you don't get the opportunity to really sink your teeth into the arc of the character.
And so, here I am with Enoch, and I'm getting a whole season and then another season. You get more comfortable, you get more confident with the choices you make, and that frees you up to explore other things. I think they were encouraging me to do that, too, and gave me some great words to play with. And so, as that evolved, I definitely got to explore the very limited emotional range.
CB: I know that a lot of times, actors think about their character’s history when doing a role, [and you have] 32,000 years of history. Are there any moments in [Enoch’s] past that you've thought about specifically or is it just way too much?
JS: Yeah, I mean, I think it's the only thing that I've been able to really cling on to with this role is, first, the word "sentience," which they threw in there when I described who Enoch is in 505. [Enoch's] an anthropologist, he's an observer. What that means to me is, that as a human, any emotional reaction I have to a situation for Enoch, I have to kind of reinterpret that into just curiosity. And so, I would imagine that that's 32,000 years of just being curious...
That's as far as it goes. There's only so much that you can do as an actor for an android like Enoch, in terms of really layering the history of what he's experienced.
CB: I [recently tweeted] that Enoch really needs some therapy. Last season on Kitson, you said, "I am a speck of dust in the infinite." [During “Out of the Past”], you said, "I’m alone in this world as I always have been." People are just heartbroken for poor Enoch. Do you think he's always been this in touch with himself or is this new?
JS: I think it's a new thing. I think him having developed a relationship with the SHIELD team, that's a whole new thing. For 30,000 plus years, it was just "sit back and observe" and maybe engage a little bit here and there. You can just imagine encounters he might've had, but I think this is all new... that's the more interesting choice as an actor to say that this is unique for Enoch, to be in this situation.
And so, it has definitely, I think, caused you not to have new kinds of reactions and responses to situations that he didn't have before, [and] realizations of things like his existential angst and loneliness, and that kind of thing has kicked in for sure.
CB: [In “A Trout in the Milk”], he was reunited with the team after 40 years and he's pretty upset that they left him behind. For someone who's 32,000 years old, you'd think 40 years wouldn't feel like much. Do you think that this is the first time he's felt the weight of time?
JS: Maybe. Especially considering what they set up with some of the storyline for Enoch... his planet was destroyed and that clearly hits home with him on some level. Even though he hadn't been there in however many thousands of years, it was still a shock. And I think that affects his sense of his identity and his place in the universe and then having to make the choice to side with earthlings, as opposed to his own people, and defending the human population, all of that affects where he sees himself on the timeline.prevnext
Agents of SHIELD Co-Stars
CB: You may not be able to answer, but I mentioned the line that you said a couple of episodes ago, and I know that "As I Have Always Been" is [rumored to be] the name of the episode Elizabeth Henstridge directed. Can we expect that to be an Enoch-centric episode?
JS: There will be Enoch in that episode.
CB: What was it like to be directed by her after working with her as an actor?
JS: It was great. She's awesome. She's just like the nicest person, like one of the nicest people I've met and just her being an actress... and it was very similar with Clark [Gregg], too, [who helmed two previous episodes]. They both get what it means to work with an actor and give them space to find their way through a scene. And it's mostly trusting each other. I think you get that with a good director, whether they're an actor or not, a good director will have that, but I think an actor who has a director sense is gonna really find the best path for a scene in that way. Yeah, she was great, very generous and very just warm, I mean, empathetic and giving you so much support. It was great.
CB: Recently, Ming-Na Wen did an interview with SYFY. She said that she went to you for advice on [how to play a character without emotions], but she didn't really expand. Do you remember what you told her?
JS: No, and she texted me actually to say, "Were your ears burning?" 'Cause she did that interview and she sent me the link and I looked it up and I was like, "You didn't say what I said." I was forgetting what I had said to her, but I'm sure it was something along the lines of... what I just said to you, which became sort of my formula, which is just respond with curiosity as opposed to having any kind of an emotional reaction. It's just about, "What's that all about?" "That's interesting."
CB: You have this amazing cast, and you came kind of late into the show. What was it like joining them all? Was it a little intimidating?
JS: Oh yeah. Which was only my issue, not their's. They were incredibly welcoming and treated me like one of them, even in episode 422 when I was "silhouetting man," and nobody knew what was gonna happen, where it was gonna go. I was sitting down and I was nervous. I mean, I'm kind of a little socially awkward anyway. I was just a day-player and just hanging out and having conversations with the actors and producers, and they were very willing to include me. And so, that was great. I think that my nervousness kind of got lifted pretty quickly.
CB: Do you have a favorite person to work with now? I'm not saying, "Who do you like the best," but in terms of playing Enoch with another Agents of SHIELD character.
JS: That would have to be Iain [De Caestecker]. Everybody was great, to be fair. We all had so much fun together, but Iain and I got to do some really fun stuff. I think that his energy juxtaposed with Enoch's energy... kind of set the stage for a lot of really great interactions. And he's just a great guy, we had a blast from day one. So, I would have to go with him.
CB: I’ll refrain from asking when he's showing up this season.
JS: I would be killed if I say.prevnext
Season Seven, Enoch’s Future, and The Fans
CB: We've seen the ‘30s, ‘50s, and ‘70s so far, and we know the ‘80s are coming eventually. If there are any others, I know you can't tell me. Did you have a favorite time period to act in?
JS: I have to say the ‘70s… we just had the most fun. Mostly because we got to be outside of our soundstage in Culver Studios. We got to go to Warner Bros. and shoot on those great sets that they have that were revamped for New York at that time. And then, just the wardrobe and the energy of the ‘70s that I think was captured really well with a lot of the background actors and just the feel of that time. That was a lot of fun to walk through.
CB: I tweeted that I would love to see some Marvel One-Shots of Koenig and Enoch during their little 1930s adventures, and Patton Oswalt responded and said, "That would be so fun." If Marvel came knocking and wanted you to play Enoch in another capacity, [would you]?
JS: A hundred percent. Yeah. Unless I'm already committed to something else, which at the moment I had something else coming up, but I don't think it would be a conflict. Absolutely would love that. Especially with Patton, how fun would that be? That guy, he's like one of the most spontaneous improvisational actors I've been around.
CB: I spoke to Darren Barnett recently and he mentioned some ad-lib lines that Patton had done. I imagine he's a fun person to act alongside.
JS: Yeah. Super nice guy.
CB: Is it true that he ad-libbed the Casablanca line with you at the end?
JS: I’m pretty sure there was a line. I don't think it was that one, though. There was another one that he ad-libbed and I'm not remembering what it was, [but it] ended up staying... it was great.
CB: I wanna talk a little bit about the fandom because I've been an active member for a long time and they're really a passionate group of people. Right now, Enoch is hot. Everybody loves Enoch, and [he] was trending on Twitter.
JS: I saw that. It's awesome.
CB: I’m sure that must feel so cool. What has that been like, just to get that kind of love for the character?
JS: It's been so great, it really has been. As an actor, you hope that you affect the people that are watching in a way that that's memorable and stands out. And so, to have some kind of validation for that has been really great. I have been acting for a long time and I've done a lot of, maybe not as much work as I would like to have done, but I've done what I can do. And so, to have this kind of response is new for me. I've been relishing it, I'm not tired of it yet.prevnext
CB: Before we say goodbye, [do] you have anything you want to plug or any upcoming projects?
JS: I’ve got a role that we haven't shot yet on Stranger Things. I don't expect it to become anything like long term, but it'll be coming up. They contact me and I'll go to Georgia, to Atlanta, and shoot it when they get back up and running. 'Cause they've been obviously shut down for a while.
CB: You don't know when that's happening yet? No one really does, I guess.
JS: Yeah. They haven't formed their schedule yet.
CB: Do know who you'll be acting alongside?0comments
JS: I literally do not know anything. It was cast during quarantine a couple of months ago and I was sent the pages of my scene, and that was it. I didn't know any of the actors or recognize any names in my scene. So, I don't even know if I have additional scenes beyond that one scene. I expect that I do, but I really don't know. You know as much as I do, they're really secretive.
Agents of SHIELD airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 10 PM EST.prev