Agents of SHIELD Stars Say Splitting From MCU Timeline Was a Blessing

Two veteran Marvel's Agents of SHIELD stars think breaking away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's continuity was a good thing for the series. TV Line spoke to Ming-Na Wen, who plays Agent Melinda May, and Clark Gregg, who got his start playing Phil Coulson in those Marvel Studios films. While the early season of Agents of SHIELD went hand-in-hand with Marvel's cinematic narrative, the series veered further and further away from that timeline as the series went on. For Wen, she much prefers the freedom of leaving the movies behind and believes that the connection to the films held the series back at first.

“Oh, no, I was there for that [first] season and no, uh-uh, no. Because It really, completely tied the writers’ hands,” Wen says. “They had to write and try and coordinate with the release of the film [Captain America: The Winter Soldier]… and it just hampered us. It hampered the writers, it hampered everyone to have the freedom to be our own entity.”

Gregg feels similarly. “There was a lot of treading water in Season One, waiting to reveal what we were doing and how it was crossing over," he says. "I do think the way it crossed over with Winter Soldier, and the use of the amazing Bill Paxton [as HYDRA mole John Garrett], really paid off, and the end of Season One holds up really well.”

Gregg does admit that tying into Marvel's blockbuster films “serves to publicize the features and certainly help to publicize the show, but I liked when the focus [became], ‘What’s the best way to tell stories with these characters, using whatever pieces of the Marvel Universe aren’t already spoken for?’ That really freed up our writers to take chances — and take chances they did, every season.”

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Wen adds, “I think it was a glorious idea to have this all be ‘connected,’ but in the end it was so great because it allowed our writers to just take off and use their imagination and create things that they were allowed to have with different characters and different storylines. But that first season was a bit bumpy, definitely. It definitely had its issues…. There were all kinds of weird things we couldn’t do or say.” It was only as SHIELD struck out on its that, “We found our own identity.”

The final episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.