Interview: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ guest star Edward James Olmos

03.31.15 2 years ago


No stranger to taking command of a carrier on a sci-fi-tinged show, Edward James Olmos made his debut on “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” last week.

We still don't know much about the “Battlestar Galactica” star's Agent Gonzalez, other than that he is apparently the head of The Real S.H.I.E.L.D., whatever that actually means.

I didn't get many answers in a brief conversation with the “Stand and Deliver” Oscar nominee last week. It was one of those things where a nine minute interview became a 7:30 interview, which was made shorter by the need to repeat several questions due to a problematic phone connection.

Still, I learned that Olmos has a long personal history with Marvel comics, which helped the producers woo him even though they couldn't tell him all of the secrets about Agent Gonzalez.

Regarding spoilers, the only tidbit of knowledge I gleaned was this: “When Agent Gonzalez laughs, the whole world laughs with him.” Olmos told me to remember that, so you should probably remember it took. 

Think of this as just a little tease for Tuesday (March 31) night's “Marvel's Agents of S..H.I.E.L.D.” 

Full — relatively speaking — Q&A after the break…

HitFix: This is a character who comes into a show in its second season and there's been a very twisty path that we've traveled to get to The Real S.H.I.E.L.D. Had you been watching the show or did the producers have to explain everything to you?

Edward James Olmos: I did a smash course on it that I totally love. I loved it. I went from the first episode, did the first season in two days and I just had a great time doing it. Saw the first half of the first season the first day, second half of the first season because they gave it to me on DVD the next day and then I got into seeing the first half of the second season and I'm in love with the whole thing.

HitFix: That's a pretty big commitment. What was the hook they gave you for the character to get you so interested?

Edward James Olmos: It was more than the character. They didn't really tell me anything about the character, which is really funny, because I normally don't get involved in this kind of situation unless I'm told exactly what I'm gonna be doing. But they couldn't, because they'd have to kill me. They couldn't tell me, so I had to look at the world that they created and decide whether or not I wanted to step into it.

HitFix: If this is, as you say, not what you normally do, why were you willing to make that exception?

Edward James Olmos: Because of the world that they had showed me.

HitFix: But what was demonstrative enough about that to make you do it?

Edward James Olmos: Well, first of all, you've gotta remember: Do you or do you not like the Marvel World. And if you like the Marvel World, then that's one step closer to doing it, you know? And then the fact that I saw the relationship between the characters and I thought that it was very well drawn and I said, “OK” and they said, “You will be coming in at the very beginning and you come in strong and you'll be leading.” That's it. All I can tell you, because this is very cryptic and very difficult, but at the same time… When Agent Gonzalez laughs, the whole world laughs with him. Don't forget it, OK? [He laughs.]

HitFix: How far back do you go with the Marvel World, then?

Edward James Olmos: I think I started in the Marvel Universe in 1952, when I was five, maybe four. I think my brother probably brought home the first ones comics. I probably was younger and my brother brought home the first comic books and that was it. I was like, “What is this?” Because I couldn't really read it. It was more of looking at the pictures. It was incredible. So I got started early.

HitFix: What were your favorites?

Edward James Olmos: I enjoyed Iron Man. And I enjoyed the world itself, the characters and the way they were drawn. It was all about drawings for me. Really, it was a funny-book. It was a comic. Now they've got to the point of view where it's called… What's the word that they use for comic books now?

HitFix: Graphic novels. 

Edward James Olmos: Graphic novels! Thank you very much! My brain is gone. They're graphic novels, which is true. They serve that purpose perfectly. When I was a kid, they were comic books, period.

HitFix: How long did you read them? Did you ever outgrow them?

Edward James Olmos: I have a son that was really into them. I didn't outgrow them, exactly. I was a baseball player, so I played a lot of ball and so I was constantly playing baseball and reading books about baseball players, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth. So when I started to read, I read about baseball. So I didn't get into it like other kids in respect that I had a whole shelf of comic books from the first run to the end, all of them. My son did. Jesus Christ. He still has them. They're collector's item. He's 44 now.

HitFix: A lot of the things Agent Gonzalez says, stuff about the need for transparency and fear of aliens, those are political buzzwords. Do you view him as being an ideologue, to some degree?

Edward James Olmos: Not really. What ends up happening, as you well see because I'm not gonna tell you, but you will see it, is something that is very difficult to fake, because basically we haven't stated exactly the amount of reference that we know about his DNA and what he's going through, but I will say that we know that he is making decisions that are getting people hurt. We don't know what to do. The very first scene that I do is breath-taking, when you stop to think about it. Go back and see that segment. The first time I appear, I walk in and I see Mack and Mack is one of my closest and dearest friends and you can see the way we connected at the very beginning. And then later on, you'll understand why as you see our relationship unfold. And Mack is in my group along with Bobbi. You see who's at that table. Hunter was blown away. Hunter had to give in. Hunter had to give in and Hunter is going, “I'm confused here.” He comes in very, very skeptical and, as a matter of fact, he's making jokes and Kirk Acevedo, who plays Calderon, was just ready to throw him under the bus. 

“Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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