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'Agents of SHIELD': Will Agent May crack as Skye's powers grow?

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ABC/Michael Desmond

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Blame the real S.H.I.E.L.D. if you get spoiled.

Skye is out of control, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is determined to keep their brightest new agent on the team—the fake S.H.I.E.L.D. though, apparently, because there’s also a real S.H.I.E.L.D.

During Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson (Clark Gregg) faced off against Cal (Kyle MacLachlan), who gathered up his own team of super villains in a bid to make the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.—again, the fake one—pay for killing Whitehall.

Though Skye (Chloe Bennet) continued to shake out of control even in her sleep, Agent May’s (Ming-Na Wen) ex-husband Andrew (Blair Underwood) basically gave her a few therapy sessions and she insisted she jump back in the field to help take down daddy dearest. In the end, that mysterious no-eyed Inhuman Gordon (Jamie Harris) whisked Cal away as Skye literally fractured all the bones in her arms trying not to quake. Good plan.

With Skye facing the real possibility of losing her spot on the team, how will her S.O. help her? EW caught up with Ming-Na Wen to get the scoop, including what’s the deal with that shocking revelation that Mack (Henry Simmons) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) are working for the real S.H.I.E.L.D.:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: With May’s ex-husband in town, we got to see a somewhat softer side to Agent May.

MING-NA WEN: You sort of see a little bit of it, but not really. [Laughs] You see a little bit of her past, which is very exciting.

Was that the first time you ever smiled on the series?

She smirked and smiled under the pretense of being someone else when she pretended to be married to Coulson, but as May, yes, this is pretty much the first time she smiles. It’s exciting, isn’t it? It’s crazy when that’s the exciting part for your character! The note I always get from my producers, writers and directors is—whenever I try to sneak in a little bit more of Ming—”Less Ming, more May.” That’s a constant note I get. I’m trying so hard to warm her up, but they have other plans for her.

This episode was pretty heavy when it comes to May’s relationship with Skye. She fake held Skye hostage, saying to Cal they’ll either contain her or put her down, but that’s actually the truth of what S.H.I.E.L.D. will do.

It’s May’s way of showing her love, by putting a gun to someone’s head. [Laughs]

May has always been pretty infallible, but will this situation with Skye make her crack a bit?

Of course. From the very beginning with May, she never wanted to get back into the field, but the higher callings of Director Fury and her loyalty and devotion for Coulson and wanting to take care of him really forced her hand and put her back in there. Unbeknownst to her, there’s a relationship that she’s developed not just with Coulson over this time period, but with Skye especially. She was someone that she didn’t want as part of the team and didn’t understand why Coulson wanted her. As this episode shows, she also saw great potential in Skye and wanted her to be the best agent that she can be. Now she’s going to be a very powerful agent if she stays on the good side.

Does May really think she’ll be able to help Skye, especially since Andrew said Skye should leave S.H.I.E.L.D. altogether?

She agreed with Coulson to bring Andrew on board because he’s really the only person who has ever dealt with this type of situation. She absolutely needed his help. That brings about a whole new level of memories for her and issues that she’s bottled up quite well. These moments will test her quite a bit. It’s been very challenging to play someone who just does not show her hand at all under any situation and still try to convey what she’s thinking or how she’s dealing with all these various emotional issues.

Andrew mentioned that after what happened in Bahrain, May of all people should know how badly this can end. Are we to infer that whatever happened in Bahrain has to do with someone with superpowers?

I will say that there will be an opportunity where the audience finally gets to see more history to May. It’s definitely a long time coming. They’ve been building up on why she’s considered The Cavalry and why she hates that title. We will be able to explore that. She’s still such an enigma. Andrew definitely plays a very important role in understanding her more in the future.

From the beginning of the series, May was probably as big of a mystery to you as she was to the audience. Do you finally have a sense of who she is or is there still a lot that’s been hidden from you?

Funny you should ask that question because we’re on episode 20, so we’ve already shot seven more episodes. This particular script that we’re shooting right now made me even more confused about her. [Laughs] I had to ask the writers a lot of questions. It’s really challenging as an actor to be in the Marvel world because it’s such intricate storytelling and they have the knowledge of where everyone is going to be connected and not connected and where things are going to go. For us, as actors, we have to understand as much as possible even though there’s this incredible mystery that lies ahead. It’s like living your life—you really don’t know what the next chapter will bring.

A lot of times it’s easy to forget that you’re not just Agent May, you’re also Agent 33.

She pops back up. The fun in playing Agent 33 is she’s unlike May in the sense that May has an agenda most of the time, knows her opinions and her values. She’s a very strong, focused, opinionated woman. Agent 33 is pretty much a lost puppy. She’s this woman who used to be an agent. They didn’t erase those skills that she has. Everything else about her, she is looking towards someone to guide her. With Whitehall dead, her new alliance is with Ward and rediscovering new feelings and new memories. The challenge in playing someone who doesn’t know who she is and is struggling to discover what her purpose in life is, what her rights and wrongs are. It’s fantastic to have that opportunity to explore a different character like that.

Coulson is also now keeping this secret of having Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) investigate powers and finding a way to put these supers down if necessary. How will May feel about that given her bond with Skye?

It’s very deep and dark in some ways in season 2. In the first season, it was the gung-ho family of six. We all fought together as a family to resolve evil and help save the world from evil and pick up knowledge for S.H.I.E.L.D. As time went on, especially when Ward was found to be a mole, it just fractured the family. As the audience is seeing, it continues to fracture the family, even when we bring on the new S.H.I.E.L.D. members. For May, the whole idea of having trust issues now is very, very challenging for her. Nothing is black and white at all. I know she never felt that way, but at least with Coulson, he was her rock. Her motivation and her ideals pegged on Coulson being the absolute company man. She’s starting to waver about that too, because she knows there are secrets. Once she finds out about this, I don’t think she’ll be very happy.

And Skye being an Inhuman, all the unknowns are very terrifying. I try to equate all our story lines to more human, real situations. With Skye becoming an Inhuman, it’s like when you have your child or your daughter losing control or getting involved with situations or people that you’re not sure about. You don’t have the control anymore. It’s very frightening. For Skye to be an unknown entity, May still holds out hope. She hopes that her training with her will help her be able to control her new powers, but you never know. Sometimes the power overtakes everything else.

Mack revealed that he and Bobbi work for the real S.H.I.E.L.D. Is there anything you can tease? Maybe how this will affect the team when they learn the truth?

No. [Laughs] It’s a really long story and you’ll just have to watch the next seven episodes to find out. But believe me, it’s really, really good.

What was the table read like for this reveal?

It was almost like having the Ward surprise all over again. The team itself didn’t know, but as actors, we always knew that Bobbi and Mack were up to something. We thought maybe they’re Hydra or working with someone else, but when that came up—the real S.H.I.E.L.D.—that threw us for a loop. It will all be explained and then we will take all of those explanations and twist it. [Laughs]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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