Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then and now
As Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hits its landmark 100th episode, we look back on the show’s beginnings while the cast members share their audition stories.
Chloe Bennet (Skye/Daisy Johnson)
“My first audition was technically for Simmons. I found that tape recently. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Apparently [the executive producers have] never seen it, which is good, because I wouldn’t have gotten an audition for Skye. My actual audition for Skye, I went in and read it three times: The first two times, in the middle of the scene, I completely blanked on my line and had to restart. I did it one more time, just one time through, and it was the only time I made it through with my lines. They were like, ‘Great, thank you so much,’ like a, ‘Great, thank you, you f—ed up twice.’ I got in my car that was all beat up and I pulled over and cried on my way home, because I really felt a connection with that character and with this project, and I cried because I thought for sure I wasn’t going to get a callback — and here we are 100 episodes later.”
Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May)
“I remember being super-nervous, to the point where I could not memorize my lines at all. I was devastated and I was so excited because I wanted to work with Joss Whedon, I wanted to be part of the Marvel world. I went into the audition with the mindset that I already had the job, and that I was just going to work like any other workday. I’ve been in the business way too long not to know what that’s like, and it just put me in that mindset of just focusing on the work, rather than everything else, and that’s what helped me.”
Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmons)
“My audition, I dressed like a nun, basically. I had a long gray skirt, a high blouse. I was so prepared, I had everything in multiple fluorescent highlighters, and they were like, ‘Okay, you can chill for your next audition.’ Then the one when I was with Iain [de Caestecker] was just so fun. We tested together and it was more like a work session.”
Iain de Caestecker (Leo Fitz)
“The thing I really remember was I auditioned with a couple of people for a screen test, and we mixed and matched with different boys and girls, and everyone was really great, but I remember when Elizabeth came in, and she was really something else. That’s the one thing I remember from that.”
Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson)
“On the day when it was Phil Coulson’s final scene in The Avengers, I kept making jokes saying, ‘Okay, he’s really stabbing me. Is there going to be some rewrite pages? Is there anyway we can talk about this?’ But he just kept stabbing me, and it was clear I was very dead. I think Jeremy Latcham from Marvel made a joke like, ‘Well, I mean, are you really ever dead in Marvel?’ But then I saw the blood, and he was like, ‘No, you’re dead.’ So I was very surprised to get a phone call from Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb saying, ‘So, you may not be that dead.’ I was like, ‘Wow, how are we going to do that? Because I don’t want to do anything to undercut The Avengers. How’s that going to work?’ They said, ‘Well, he doesn’t know this, but ….’ They told me basically the pitch of the pilot, which is Coulson thinks he had a near miss and the truth is way darker, and the costs to being brought back are a huge mystery and really grim. You don’t get to come back without paying a price, and that price went on for quite some time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back up in the 100th episode.”
Henry Simmons (Alphonso 'Mack' Mackenzie)
“I didn’t know too much about the show, but looking back, the character that I was talking with during the audition was Fitz, but it was a completely different name. I didn’t know who it was. I just recall getting the audition and seeing — it wasn’t written there, but I saw a lot of humor in the midst of all this action. I was like, ‘I’m just going to have fun with it,’ and that’s exactly what I did. Lo and behold, I got the role.”
Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Elena 'Yo-Yo' Rodriguez)
“I remember not knowing that I was going for Yo-Yo Rodriguez, a superhero from Marvel. I remember being in a room in front of all these people that I love now — the producers, the director, and ABC — and not remembering any of their faces because I was so nervous at the callback, and just being so nervous. That’s it, really.”
Luke Mitchell (Lincoln Campbell)
“I was on holidays back home in Sydney in early January 2015 when I got sent the audition. I had no idea what the role was, what Inhumans were, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t really familiar with the show. I was surprised to be getting an audition so early in the year. Most auditions start flooding in early February, as pilot season picks up. But despite being in holiday mode, complete with a holiday beard, I put the audition on tape with the help of my wife and forgot about it. Next thing I know, I’ve had 10 missed calls from my U.S. manager. Two days later, I’m on a plane back to L.A. for a chemistry test with Chloe! Everyone was really nice in the room and the audition was okay, but it was tricky because it was the scene where Lincoln lifts Skye off the ground with his powers which is slightly harder to do without the SFX and VFX teams! Anyway, I ended up getting the call that night that I got the role and I was going to be starting on Monday! It was all a bit of a blur really, but a happy blur!”
Brett Dalton (Grant Ward/Hive)
“It was on a Sunday, it was in New York. I walked into the ABC casting office with 30 other people who apparently got the same memo that I did to wear a leather jacket and a shirt-and-ztie underneath. I had the same outfit that everybody else did, I looked exactly the same as everybody else as well. It was nuts. I almost walked away. ‘There’s just no way that I’m ever getting this.’ I went in and did three takes of it. They were okay with the third one, but as I was packing up to see my wife, who was probably angry that it was like an hour after the time that I said I would be there, they said that the sound didn’t record, so I had to go right back in and do it again. I felt on the clock. Somehow that was the one and the rest is history.”
Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon (executive producers)
“I remember seeing Brett on tape; he was one of the many we had seen on tape from New York, and there was a quality to him that we were instantly taken by.” —M.T.
“We were taken by him, and we went to work and put it up on a laptop and played it for Joss. Joss watched it and said, ‘Hire him,’ and walked away. That was not the end of the process, but that was definitely the start of getting him out here and testing, but that was our initial reaction.” —J.W.