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Four feature films, two shorts, and more than 100 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have proven that it takes a lot to faze Phil Coulson. The first time we meet Clark Gregg’s agent in Iron Man, he assures Tony that flying metal suits and secret identities are just a regular day at work for him, adding, “This isn’t my first rodeo, Mr. Stark.”
But Captain Marvel finds Coulson in a very different place. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s upcoming Marvel flick is set in the mid-‘90s, starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot with alien powers. At this point in time, Coulson is still a S.H.I.E.L.D. rookie, and when EW sat down with Gregg for our Captain Marvel cover story, he said the young Coulson hasn’t yet learned that there are other, extraterrestrial forces at work in the world.
“This might be the rodeo,” Gregg tells EW. “It’s one of them, for sure.”
Captain Marvel marks Gregg’s return to the big-screen side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following his “death” in 2012’s The Avengers. “There was something really special about going back to the early days when he was just kind of coming up the ranks,” he says. “I had to take innocence workshops and go back to when he was a little less crusty and jaded!”
So what can we expect from this younger, more innocent version of Coulson?
“He’s a relatively new S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who is obsessed with MC Hammer and dresses just like him, and it makes Director Fury so angry,” Gregg quips. “The genie pants don’t really go with the Armani.”
Fashion sense aside, the film does include the first meeting between Coulson and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury — who, at this point, is still a fairly low-level bureaucrat within S.H.I.E.L.D. (He’s also still got both eyes.) Gregg describes it as Coulson and Fury’s “meet-cute moment,” although, he adds with a laugh, “I don’t think Sam will put it that way.”
Marvel hasn’t released any images of Gregg in Captain Marvel yet, but both he and Jackson are being digitally de-aged for the film. Gregg hit the gym pretty regularly to prepare to play young Coulson — “When I got the call saying they wanted to do this and have Coulson be in this ‘90s world, they said, ‘Do you have a trainer?’” he recalls — but he jokes that he’s been sucking up to the visual effects team in the hope that they’ll make him look good.
“People don’t know this but Robert Downey is actually 71,” he says. “So they’ve been doing that for him in all of these movies.”
Captain Marvel will hit theaters in March 2019. For more, check out EW’s cover story on the film.