Joss Whedon is not big on spoilers. Nor, for that matter, are the folks at Marvel. So when Whedon joined the other producers and the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. onstage in Los Angeles Sunday evening to talk up the new Avengers spinoff, it was not surprising that … they did not give out a ton of specific plot information or other massive surprises. And yet Whedon did have some interesting things to say about S.H.I.E.L.D. during his half-hour chat with reporters gathered for the ABC portion of the TV Critics Association press tour. Here are five of the most interesting things Whedon said, including one kinda sorta spoiler about a possible new addition to the roster of series regulars.
Angel alum J. August Richards will almost certainly be back on the show.
Richard plays a man with an unstable superpower in the pilot, and while we won't get specifics, the end of the episode seems to leave open the possibility of his return (perhaps, and this is just speculation, as part of the S.H.I.E.L.D team). Whedon technically didn't say if Richards will make future appearances, but he strongly implied it. "I can neither confirm nor deny whether he’s coming back, but I thought he was great," he said. "So do that math."
S.H.I.E.L.D. will not just be about stopping a new bad guy every week.
Episodes will be relatively self-contained, with some continuing story lines. But Whedon said he and the producers plan to shake up the plot possibilities each week. "Every week, it’s not going to be some new hero," he explained. "There could be a device. There could be a mystery. There are so many aspects to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out that there is a superhero team, and there were aliens that invaded New York, and we want to be able to change it up every week. We want to be able to deal with every aspect: the spy stuff, the hero stuff, the heartfelt stuff. We want to make sure that … every week, you get something that feels a little bit different so it’s not just, you know, turkey every day."
Don't expect any radical experiments with the show's format.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer would sometimes play around with the form of TV, with episodes in which characters didn't speak or broke into song. S.H.I.E.L.D. probably won't go there. "We are not out to pull stunts," Whedon said. "Buffy lent itself to a musical [episode] because it was so hyperbolically emotional and so over the top in its mythos." This doesn't mean S.H.I.E.L.D. will have a super-serious tone. "There is an element of absurdity in the Marvel universe that’s … satirical and bizarre," Whedon explained. "And the fact that we’ll be able to tap into that will keep the show from feeling too self-important or dry. We definitely want to push our boundaries and give people new stuff, but we’re not just looking for a cool angle. It's always going to be built from the characters and their stories."
Yes, ABC and Marvel give notes.
But Whedon actually doesn't seem to mind hearing from the suits. "We've gotten trust, which is different than freedom," he says, adding that he enjoyed working closely with Marvel to break the story for Avengers. Now, with S.H.I.E.L.D., "ABC and Marvel have been very active in making sure the show is what they want for their company and their network and their audiences and, at the same time, very supportive of the vision that we first laid out to them," Whedon said. "The most important thing is that we all sort of are trying to make the same show. It’s not really about, 'Oh, we’re past them, and we don’t want have to deal with them.' We're all on the same page, which has occasionally not happened to me." Whedon also said that Marvel and ABC's main concern about the pilot actually mirrored his own. "Their biggest note after we presented the thing was, they wanted to make sure that our investment in the characters and their interaction and their evolution was as big as the case of the week," he said. "They wanted to make sure that people were coming for the recurring story, as well as for the story that would conclude in a single episode — which is how I've done all of my shows. So they basically said, 'Would you please do it that way that you do it?' And that made me very happy."
Whedon doesn't know when — or even if — he'll create another TV show based on one of his own ideas.
Until he wraps the sequel to The Avengers in 2015, Whedon, unsurprisingly, says he's not going to be doing any other TV shows. But even after that, Whedon wouldn't say if he'll return to TV with an original series idea. "The goal is never about the medium," he said. "It's always about the next story. It’s always about the thing I haven’t done before. It’s about learning, or it’s about becoming better and whatever story grabs a hold of me. And sometimes I don’t even know which medium is best for that story, but, usually, I go, 'Well, that’s a TV show.' 'Well, that’s a movie.'" Bottom line: Whedon says he's platform agnostic. "I don’t have a particular ambition in any medium," he said. "I just want to keep telling stories. If somebody pays me, also good."