One of the best ways to stay relevant in today’s short attention span culture is to constantly reinvent yourself, and arguably no show does that better than Marvel’s flagship network program, Agents of SHIELD. The show may have started off formulaic in its first season but since then it hasn’t been afraid to take risks and mix things up, which is evident in the inclusion of magic and space for subsequent seasons, and characters not yet seen in the MCU like the Inhumans and Ghost Rider. Here are little-known facts about Agents of SHIELD.
1. Too Little Too Late
Aside from Agent Coulson, no characters from Agents of SHIELD have made an appearance in a Marvel movie, but characters from the movies have popped up on Agents of SHIELD, such as Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Lady Sif, and Peggy Carter. Producers had also penciled in Agent 13 to appear on the show, also known as Sharon Carter.
Unfortunately, Emily VanCamp—who plays Sharon—had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with her other show, Revenge.
2. Crossing Over Part One
Agents of SHIELD crossed over into the video game universe to promote season 3 of the show, as nine characters appeared in the mobile game Marvel Future Fight. The characters that made it into the game were Agent Coulson, Skye, Deathlok, Bobbi Morse, Lincoln Campbell, Sif, Raina, Gordon, and Melinda May. Unfortunately, the actors who play those characters did not provide their voices for the game, but some did for a different format…
3. Let’s Make It Happen
Fans of the MCU want to see the characters from the movies and the shows crossover, and so does Chloe Bennet—who plays Skye—so much so that she isn’t afraid to share her thoughts on the matter, even if they do get her in trouble. She’s been blunt in her responses when the press has asked if she wants to see a crossover. She says that Marvel likes to claim everything is connected but then ignore everything that goes on in the shows like they don’t matter.
These comments have landed her in hot water on more than one occasion, but she has yet to back down.
4. Crossing Over Part Two
Agent Coulson appears as a recurring character on the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, with Clark Gregg providing his voice for all 29 episodes he appears in. Ian de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge followed in Gregg’s footsteps in season 4 when they lent their voices for Fitz and Simmons—respectively—for one episode.
5. Too Many Layers
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Marvel Studios that decided to make Agents of SHIELD but instead, it was ABC. Apparently, they didn’t run the idea by Marvel before green-lighting it, either. Marvel Studios were not happy about ABC’s plan to make the show. They believed it would only add complications to an already complex narrative they created with the MCU.
6. Keep Them Coming
Agents of SHIELD was Marvel’s longest-running live-action television show to date, and longest-running overall, including animated shows. It surpassed Mutant X, which at the time, in 2004, had the highest episode count at 66. Agents of SHIELD passed that number at the start of season 4, and eventually aired a total of 136 episodes over the course of seven seasons.
7. Award Season
The Emmys have nominated Agents of SHIELD twice for the Outstanding Special and Visual Effects award, once for the episode “T.A.H.I.T.I.” from season two and again for “The Dirty Half Dozen” from season three. Unfortunately, neither episode was able to take home the hardware.
8. Best of the Year
Agents of SHIELD really started to hit its stride near the end of season 1 and only got better as the seasons went on. One of the shows high points came in season 3 with the episode “4,722 Hours,” which ending up landing on The Atlantic’s list of the best television episodes of 2015.
9. Crossing Over Part Three
Agents of SHIELD crossed over to comic books back in 2014. They introduced characters created for the television show, like May, Fitz, and Simmons into the Marvel Comic Universe. They nicknamed the comic series “SHIELD the TV show but with an unlimited budget,” and the series consists of one and done storylines for each issue.
10. The “H” Word
The collapse of SHIELD in Captain America: Winter Soldier was a shocking twist for the fans. Luckily wasn’t for the producers and creators of Agents of SHIELD, as they knew about it long before they created the show. However, because they had to keep quiet about the reveal, the MCU didn’t allow them to say the word “HYDRA” until after Winter Soldier came out.
That’s why the villains at the beginning of season 1 went by different names like Centipede and The Clairvoyant.
11. Where Credit Is Due
Although Gregg had nothing to do with the creation of Agents of SHIELD, according to Marvel Television Executive Vice President Jeph Loeb, it was all Gregg’s idea. At a PaleyFest panel for the show, Loeb told the audience that during a fan event for the Ultimate Spider-Man TV show Gregg kept whispering in his ear, “Coulson lives.” For some reason, rather than take credit, Gregg claims he has no recollection of this.
12. Change on the Fly
The writers of Agents of SHIELD didn’t originally conceive of the characters of Fitz and Simmons—the engineering and bio-chem geniuses—being from the UK. Their backgrounds were changed after Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge landed the roles. The characters were also based off of the Malloy brothers from Ocean’s Eleven, which factors into the brother-sister relationship the two displayed at the beginning of the series.
13. It’s a Long Way From the Heart
While filming the one-take fight scene in season 2, Bennet suffered a stress and hairline fracture in her arm. However, she fought through the pain and finished the scene and then went on to film one more take after that! She didn’t stop or take a break because she’s so tough but also because, according to her, she “didn’t think it was broken.”
14. Bunch of Nobodies
Series co-creator Joss Whedon compared the concept of Agents of SHIELD to a standalone episode of another show he created, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Whedon is referring to the Buffy episode “The Zeppo,” which follows the least important character in the show and makes them the focal point. Whedon claims that Agents of SHIELD is essentially a long-form version of that because in a world full of superheroes, SHIELD agents are the last characters people generally want to see.
20. Same but Different
Originally, the acronym S.H.I.E.L.D meant something completely different in the comic books. Back in 1965, when the comic writers created S.H.I.E.L.D., it stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division. In the show, it stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Grant Ward put it best in the show when Maria Hill asked him what SHIELD meant to him and he replied, “It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out S.H.I.E.L.D.”
21. Not the Grand Rapids Area Code
The call sign for SHIELD’s plane, also referred to as “The Bus,” is 616, which actually has a deeper meaning that the casual fan may not have picked up on. In the comics, there are alternate timelines and universes, where they refer to the “real” or main universe as “Earth-616”. So, calling the plan 616 can either be an Easter egg or a subtle way of the writers letting the fans know what timeline and universe the show takes place in.
22. You Said One More Time Five Times Ago!
The producers of the show put Chloe Bennet through the wringer when she auditioned for the role of Skye in Agents of SHIELD. They brought her back six times before they gave her the part. On top of that, she originally auditioned for the role of Jemma Simmons, which ended up going to Henstridge. However, Henstridge had a similarly stressful auditioning experience as well.
23. Not As Bad As It Seemed
After Elizabeth Henstridge’s first audition she had to wait weeks before getting a call back, and the second round was in front of the executive producers. According to Henstridge, this was the worst audition of her life and a potential career-ender. She read twice, and on the second attempt, got every single line of dialogue wrong.
However, they must have seen something in her. They called her back for a screen test and she performed a scene with de Caestecker. Thankfully, their chemistry landed them both their respective role.
24. The Big Reveal
The script for the episode where everyone finds out that Ward is an agent of HYDRA originally didn’t have that scene in it. Brett Dalton—who plays Ward—knew about the twist, but the writers waited until the table read to put that scene in. So, the cast found out that Ward was a double agent at that exact moment and Dalton got to see their reactions in real time.
25. Bulking Up
Chloe Bennet knew that Skye was more than a human. However, before she found out that her character was an Inhuman, she thought she was going to be She-Hulk. To show a bit of initiative and prepare for the reveal, Bennet jokingly said during an interview that she started hitting the gym a lot more incase her hunch became reality.
26. Higher Power
The network almost canceled Agents of SHIELD after its fourth season as ratings declined significantly, which is a shame because reviews only got better. Fans and critics praised the writing, storytelling and acting. Ultimately, it was Disney that forced ABC to keep the show on the air. As for the reason why? No one in charge gave a definitive answer. Maybe the executives at Disney just really like the show.
27. Taking Credit for Someone’s Idea
Joss Whedon admitted that the higher-ups at Marvel do not give the TV shows the same treatment as the Marvel movies. He said that they actually give the TV shows the shaft when it comes to ideas and storylines. According to Whedon, the TV shows get “leftovers,” meaning the best ideas go to the movies. An example of this is when the writers came up with a storyline involving Loki’s scepter. The MCU took that idea away from them and used it in Avengers: Age of Ultron instead.
28. All Bases Covered
Before the network renewed Agents of SHIELD for a sixth season, everyone involved in the show knew that there was a good chance that ABC would cancel the show. So, they wrote the season 5 finale in a way that would wrap up the show as a series finale but also leave enough open for another season if they got renewed.
29. Where Did All the Money Go?
The addition of Ghost Rider in the fourth season added a new magical element to the show. However, writers sent him away in the midseason finale. The reason for him being written off so early was a fairly typical one—money. Apparently, the visual effects needed to create Ghost Rider each episode dug too deep into the budget and the producers couldn’t afford to keep him in the show.
30. What’s Dead Should Stay Dead
Despite Agent Coulson being the lead on Agents of SHIELD, Joss Whedon was hesitant to bring him back from the dead when the show was first announced. He believed that bringing Coulson back so soon after his death in The Avengers kind of diminished the impact it had and took away the emotional weight it carried. That explains Whedon’s confusing claim that, “As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is gone.”
Agents of SHIELD tried its best to follow in the footsteps of the Marvel movies by making adjustments to the show depending on what the movies are doing. When the release of Doctor Strange introduced magic into the MCU, Agents of SHIELD introduced Ghost Rider. And when several films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok took place in space, SHIELD decided to adapt and set their show in space, too, for the fifth season.
32. Looks Worse Than It Sounds
With the SHIELD team going to space in season 5, it was only fitting that the writers introduced aliens to the show. The aliens’ design and look was inspired by the film Alien, which is a favorite of Joss Whedon and Maurisa Tancharoen. However, even though the cast knew they’d be dealing with that threat, they never actually saw what the aliens looked like until after they filmed the scenes, as an effects team added them digitally.
According to Henry Simmons, they were a lot more terrifying than the cast had expected.
33. Recycle, Redesign and Rebuild
FX teams may have digitally added aliens to the show in post-production, but the crew actually built the majority of the sets instead of green screening them. In fact, they used minimal green screen. Instead, they destroyed a lot of the sets from previous seasons to build the new sets for season 5.
The first four seasons of the show focused mainly on separating the team and splitting them up into different storylines. However, Whedon made it clear that for the fifth season they wanted to bring the team together and make them work as a cohesive unit. That’s why they were stuck on a spaceship with nowhere to go.
35. More to Come
Clark Gregg directed the first episode of season 6. It was his second time directing, with the first one being the sixth episode of season 5, Fun & Games. However, the network reduced the episode count for season 6 from the regular 22 to only 13. While the show made it to season 7, it was also with a reduced episode count.
36. Waiting It Out
The sixth season was actually supposed to come out earlier but the MCU delayed it until the summer of 2019, which just so happens to be after the fourth Avengers movie came out. This is no coincidence, as it will allow the show to avoid having to incorporate Thanos’ finger snap into the show.
37. On a Need to Know Basis
Marvel Studios likes to avoid spoilers and keep plots secretive, so much so that they even keep things from the cast until the last minute. The cast of Agents of SHIELD revealed at Comic-Con that sometimes they don’t receive the script for the episode they are shooting until two days before production and sometimes even as late as eight hours before the table read!
Natalia Cordova-Buckley also mentioned that script changes could happen at any time. She knows this firsthand, as producers once gave her a rewrite at 4 am for a scene she was shooting at 7 am.
38. Top of Their Game
Agents of SHIELD holds an average rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the show’s ratings only getting better and better each season. Going from season 1 to 5, SHIELD has a rating of 87%, 91%, 100%, 95%, and 100%. Season 6 got 93% and the show finished its run on top, with season 7 getting 100%. It is also the top-rated Marvel TV show and second only to Black Panther in all of the MCU.
39. Third Times the Charm
There were two attempts to create a spin-off series from Agents of SHIELD, with both set to star Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood—who played Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter, respectively. The first series was meant to follow events from season 2 but ABC ultimately passed on it in May 2015. Not long after that, the potential spin-off was revived and given the title, Most Wanted.
This one showed more promise, as Deadline called it a “no-brainer” to get picked up, and Palicki and Blood were written off of Agents of SHIELD so they could film the pilot. However, ABC once again passed on the show, and never released the pilot. According to Loeb, it’s a shame no one can see it as, “it’s sooo good.”