"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has become one of the fall TV season's most highly anticipated series, which is not surprising considering how well received Marvel Studios' film output has been. Billions of dollars of worldwide grosses aside, how do the cast and crew of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." plan on topping the show's big-screen predecessors with none of the big stars or the big budget? MTV News caught up with actors Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dalton at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International to get a debriefing.
"The bar is definitely raised super-high and we can't wait to meet the challenges," said Wen, who portrays pilot and pain-bringer Agent Melinda May. "I don't think an audience — a television audience — has ever experienced a show of this collaboration and level."
Even without a Robert Downey Jr. anywhere in sight, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." does have two holdovers from last year's "Marvel's the Avengers" — "Avengers" writer and director Joss Whedon and actor Clark Gregg, who returns as Agent Phil Coulson. Whedon serves as executive producer on the series, a role he holds in addition to being the co-writer and director of the series' incredibly epic pilot. The pilot proved to be so epic that the cast was almost certain the series had blown most of its budget right out of the gate.
"Because we spent so much money and there are so many amazing visual effects in the pilot, we were pretty sure [the second episode] was going to be our team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents stuck in an In-N-Out Burger bathroom talking, just talking it out," Gregg explained. "Instead we got a script [for the second episode] that kind of makes the pilot look low-tech."
Indeed, the biggest fear of fans leading up to the debut of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." had to be that it would look noticeably cheap compared to the glossy Marvel Cinematic Universe. Agent Coulson himself revealed that he understood that fear, as it was one he shared. "I'm a little bit surprised," Gregg admitted. "I thought we were going to get the TV version [of the Marvel movies], which would be a lot of meetings in boardrooms and then a big sequence at the end, and so far that is not what they're doing at all."
"We are kind of doing a Marvel movie a week. It's pretty amazing," added Dalton, also known as Agent Grant Ward, the team's resident loner and jack-of-all-trades.
Gregg was sure to note the one major difference between the TV series and films, and it's one that will hopefully play to the new medium's inherent intimacy. "What's clear is that it's TV, so there is more of a focus on the characters, and putting together this new team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, there is more of a human element."
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." debuts on Tuesday, September 24, on ABC.