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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Adrianne Palicki, Nick Blood on emotional exit, spin-off

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Kurt Iswarienkio/ABC

Warning: This story contains spoilers from “Parting Shot,” Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Read at your own risk!

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lost two of their own much sooner than anyone would’ve guessed.

During Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) were disavowed from S.H.I.E.L.D. in a heroic and sacrificial bid to protect the organization. (Read exactly how it went down here, where you’ll also find a postmortem with EP Jeff Bell, who teases what’s next!)

But the dynamic duo aren’t gone for good, as Palicki and Blood are set to star in the S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off Marvel’s Most Wanted, which is in contention over at ABC for next season. For those unaware, Most Wanted follows the ex-spies, on the run with a long list of enemies looking to claim a bounty on their heads, as they form an uneasy alliance with rogue adventurer Dominic Fortune (Delroy Lindo), who agrees to protect them so long as they help with his agenda. Below, EW talks to the stars about the evolution of Bobbi and Hunter, what’s in store for Most Wanted and that emotional farewell. But first, let’s watch that heartbreaking final scene one more time:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That bar scene is so killer!

ADRIANNE PALICKI: It was not acting. No acting required for that scene.

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning: How much did they actually tell you about your characters when you first joined Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

PALICKI: I knew of Mockingbird, obviously, because she’s a comic book entity, but they were putting their own spin on it, which was brilliant. It was that thing where we were all discovering her at the same time. I knew enough to get through, but then the transitions happen as you get to know the character, and the writers get to know you, and you bring what you bring to the character. Having her being an Avenger, I had already known about her, so it was a little bit of an upper hand.

NICK BLOOD: Initially, he wasn’t named as Lance Hunter; that was a bit later that they decided on that. As far as the correlation to the comic books, it was their version of Lance Hunter, rather than the Lance Hunter from the comic books necessarily. They said he’s a bit of an outsider, bit of a rogue, not really sure where his loyalties lies. As Adrianne said, as you go through, you work out the character a bit more and the writers adapt to you. They’re in the process of creating the character themselves. It’s something that evolves over the course of 22 episodes a season. There’s a lot of room for the evolution, so they’re quite adaptable, really.

How do you think these characters have evolved since we first met them? How do you think being part of a team has changed them?

BLOOD: The main thing with Hunter is that, despite himself, he’s become attached to people in the S.H.I.E.L.D. unit. I don’t know whether he’d admit it, but I think he cares about them and about the cause. He’s seen the goodness in what they do. That’s probably the main change in him. You see in that conversation with May [Ming-Na Wen] and he’s saying he would take a bullet for any one of them. I think that’s very true. He’s become very loyal.

PALICKI: When she first came to the show, people weren’t sure whether or not to trust her, and I guess rightly so. But the thing about Bobbi is she’s always trying to do the right thing. She had been a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. for God knows how long. The biggest shift happened in her last season when she was tortured and almost lost the love of her life. That changed her and made her a lot more vulnerable, and also having part of her abilities taken away because of it for a period of time has made her a little bit more vulnerable and a little less soldier-like.  

What do you think these two characters bring out in each other?

BLOOD: At times, their worst sides.

PALICKI: Yes, a lot of humor, that’s for sure.

BLOOD: I think there are two sides to that coin, because there’s the one where Hunter can be very independent-minded, he can be very hot-headed, and she just levels him out a bit more. Also, she can be very much focused on the job at hand and doesn’t necessarily appreciate nurturing a personal life. Hunter’s good at drawing her back to that. The flip side of that coin is they both drive each other nuts. She’s just about the only person that he can’t keep his cool around.

PALICKI: And vice versa.

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Did you ever think this would all lead to your characters getting a spin-off?

BLOOD: No.

PALICKI: No.

BLOOD: I hadn’t considered that at all.

PALICKI: It’s definitely a pleasant surprise.

When did you first hear this was how the duo were leaving the series?

BLOOD: It was only just before, really, wasn’t it?

PALICKI: You knew more than me. I was literally on set for the episode before, and we were like hearing little murmurs and gossip of what was going to happen possibly, maybe down the line. We were trying to put it together ourselves like detectives. It’s all very top secret.

BLOOD: I remember I knew bits and pieces, and you asked me or something. You said something about it, and I went, “Oh yeah, blah blah blah, this is what I’ve been told is happening,” and you were like, “Why have you not told me?!” I was just like, “I thought you knew! I thought I would be the last to know, so I just assumed you knew.” You start to hear, sometimes when there’s something big coming up, little murmurings from people. I tricked the first A.D. into telling me. I probably shouldn’t say this. [Laughs]

How did you feel about their S.H.I.E.L.D. send-off? Did you feel it was fitting? Were you surprised it happened so soon?

PALICKI: We were in the know as far as the fact that it was coming up. It was one of those situations where it was really well done. You never know whether they’re going to try to kill us off or it’s going to be this really negative thing. It’s such a chivalrous exit that we got to be the heroes and take a bullet for the team, in a sense. It was humbling, but it was beautifully written.

What was it like to shoot that bar scene? Was that your last day on set?

PALICKI: No, sadly that was like our second [to last]. Nick and I are very fond of everyone, especially Henry [Simmons]. Looking at that guy every single time just killed us both.

BLOOD: It didn’t take much to channel that. You’re looking at people — although, of course, you’re not saying goodbye — you’re not going to be seeing them every day, and the crew members and so on that you feel the same about. It didn’t require too much.

How do Bobbi and Hunter feel about saying goodbye to this whole team?

PALICKI: For Bobbi specifically, she’s always been part of a team, so it’s a little bit of letting go of the control and having a plan and being very structured. I’m sure this is a really scary leap. Also, now she’s just stuck with Hunter 24-7, which might be a little bit of her worst nightmare. [Laughs] I say that with love. I’m sure on Hunter’s end, and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s probably a lot of relief. This is what he’s been wanting for so long.

BLOOD: Yeah, he’s cool with it. [Laughs]

PALICKI: He’s cool. He has Bobbi all to himself now.

BLOOD: Yeah, he orchestrated the whole thing, I’m sure. No. I think despite himself, he’s going to miss them, obviously particularly Mack, because they’ve got a long history as friends, but he’s developed relationships with all of them. Despite himself, he’ll miss them, but at the end of the day, he’s cool with it. He can live without them.

Turning to Marvel’s Most Wanted, how different is it tonally? Is there a lot more action? More comedy?

BLOOD: It’s definitely got its roots in Marvel comic book world. It has got its own tone. It’s a bit more expansive.

PALICKI: I think it’s a little less based, at least in the pilot, in the mythology of the Marvel world and more about these two characters, and how they drive each other, and their adventures, like a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-type. There’s a lot of banter, there’s a lot of humor, there’s a lot of action.

BLOOD: It’s exploring how you make a relationship work with the backdrop of all this crazy stuff that goes on when you live in the world that they live in. Essentially, it’s about those two characters and how they negotiate their relationship, which is what people enjoyed about those characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., watching how they deal with each other. Those are fairly universal themes that people can relate to. We all know that compromise and negotiation goes into any sort relationship, friendship or romantic whatever.

There was worry initially about removing Bobbi and Hunter from the equation and how that would affect S.H.I.E.L.D. How do you feel about that a year later? Do you feel like you know these characters more now?

PALICKI: Going on to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. not knowing Bobbi yet was very nerve-wracking. I’m sure for you too, Nick, in playing Lance Hunter. These are real comic book characters. It’s one of those things where there’s a little bit of pressure, especially with Marvel fans. It’s taken very seriously, as it should be, but there’s a fear that goes with it. In this situation, we know our characters backward and forward and it’s like stepping onto a different stage. It’s not necessarily different people, but different surroundings.

BLOOD: What the pilot does is give us a chance to explore more about them, because you’ll learn a lot more about their backgrounds and how they got together. It’s a chance for us to get to know them better as well.

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They’re been divorced before. Who say it’s actually going to work this time?

PALICKI: Well, you never know. That’s for sure. Now they’re stuck together. They’re both on the run and they’re going to need each other.

Bobbi and Hunter don’t always agree on things. How much does their bickering and different personalities factor in the spin-off?

PALICKI: It’s a big part of it. It’s the fun part of it. Their entire views on life are just very different. Bobbi believes in the universe and things happening for a reason, and Hunter fundamentally believes that you make things happen yourself, and you get what you want when you want it. That difference is going to be a big through line throughout the entire show.

BLOOD: That’s where a lot of the humor comes from. It’s one of the things that Marvel does so well is juxtapose these high intensely dramatic situations with those moments of lightness and humor.

If Bobbi and Hunter can only trust each other, can they trust Dominic Fortune?

BLOOD: This is the question. We know the answer to that.

PALICKI: I know Bobbi trusts two people: One of them is herself, the other is Lance Hunter, and that’s it.

BLOOD: Good line, Adrianne. I’m going to steal that one off of you for the next interview. [Laughs]

What’s it like getting to work with Delroy?

BLOOD: He’s a lovely dude, very interesting guy. He’s actually from just around the corner from where I live in London. He lives near, so we talk loads about football — proper football. He’s a great dude.

PALICKI: We have the football argument a lot. [Laughs] He’s not only just a really sweet human being and incredibly professional, he adds a gravitas to this character, a very interesting charm to Dominic Fortune.

BLOOD: You could tell straight away on set that he’s going to nail it.

They’ve always seemed to work for the side of good, so will working for a private contractor test their morals?

PALICKI: Absolutely. I think they’re going to run into situations where they find themselves probably in bad situations that they didn’t know that they were entering into, and they’re going to be surrounded by criminals and people who are ex-spies, and surrounded by all kinds of people. It’s their way weeding through who to trust, who not to trust, who’s after them, who’s not after them.

BLOOD: A lot of it is going on in the shadows. I imagine Hunter’s had a bit more experience with that, where the line to cross is a bit fluid. It might take Bobbi a bit more to adapt to that.

The logline for Marvel’s Most Wanted reveals they have a bounty on their heads. How do their new missions and challenges then compare to what we’ve seen on S.H.I.E.L.D.?

BLOOD: It’s what you tapped into with your last question: With S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s more of a clear line between the good guys and the bad guys and between protocol and going off grid. Whereas in the Most Wanted world, it’s all shades of gray and judgment calls have to be made. It’s a case of the ends justifying the means a lot of the time.

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Do you hope to see them ever pop back up on S.H.I.E.L.D. again sometime in the future?

BLOOD: Yeah, there’s always the hope of crossovers. It would be a really fun chance to get to work with people again. Marvel is doing a great job of interweaving the whole universe across film and TV. Fingers crossed down the line that’ll happen.

What was your favorite part of working on S.H.I.E.L.D.?

PALICKI: I got to work with this guy.

BLOOD: [Laughs] See, I can’t say anything else apart from, “I got to work with Adrianne!” So there’s that. It’s always the people; the friends that you make and relationships that develop. You’re with these people more than you’re with your families most of the time. To get to work with some of the crew members or see them outside of work, it’s the same with the actors and the cast members we’re really close to and hang out with. That’s the main thing, it’s the people you meet.

PALICKI: The friendships, it’s always the friendships.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. A decision on the Marvel’s Most Wanted pilot is expected to come in May. In the meantime, read our full postmortem with EP Jeff Bell, who teases what’s next and drops scoop on Most Wanted.

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