10 things we learned at the ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Paleyfest panel

HOLLYWOOD – It may have been a PaleyFest for ABC's “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but there was a ton of Captain America swag being worn in the Dolby Theater Sunday afternoon.  That was actually quite appropriate considering how much the events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” opening April 4, affect “MAoS.” The television show has done its best to tie into the larger Marvel cinematic universe with one episode focusing on the repercussion of “Thor: The Dark World” in November, a very impressive guest appearance by Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) earlier this month and a cameo by none other than Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in October. Things will become even more interesting after what transpires in Marvel's latest big screen effort.

Enjoying the packed audience were stars Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Agent Melinda May), Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmons), Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz), Brett Dalton (Agent Grant Ward), Chloe Bennet (Skye) and producers and co-creators Jeph Loeb, Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.  On the red carpet before the panel, the cast all basically admitted they “freaked” out after seeing a rough cut of “The Winter Soldier” knowing it would change things on “MAoS.” Those anecdotes didn't make it to the PaleyFest stage for the live audience and web stream, but the shadow of “Winter Soldier” and slight nervousness over a renewal (Loeb says he's “hopeful”) were apparent during the event.

Before the panel started, the audience was treated to the next episode, “End of the Beginning,” that won't air until Tuesday, April 1. A lot happens during that hour, but don't expect any spoilers here. Instead, look for some insightful commentary that night from HitFix's own Drew McWeeny who has been recapping “MAoS” for us all season.

With that in mind, here are 10 things we learned about the show's past and future during the PaleyFest event.

You must watch April 1 and April 8
If there was one thing the producers want to make sure fans do its watch the next episode on April 1 (the aforementioned “End of the Beginning”) and the following episode on April 8.  The later will tie in directly to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and lead into the last five episodes of the season. One one hand this is partially because Loeb, Whedon and Tancharoen would like an uptick in ratings to guarantee a season 2, but it's also because many of the story lines fans have been following will finally be resolved (even if a few create more questions).  

It's all because Clark Gregg suggested doing a TV show (maybe)
It might be this close to turning into an urban legend (or it might not), but Jeph Loeb says the idea for a Marvel TV show came from none other than Clark Gregg himself. Loeb says he and Gregg were at a fan event for an “Ultimate Spider-Man” animated TV series and that Gregg kept saying “Coulson lives” in his ear as an idea for a television series. It appears this was a few months before his demise was made public when “The Avengers” was released. Gregg kept shaking his head saying he doesn't remember any of it, but Loeb stood by his story. In either case, credit Gregg and fan's passion for the character for resurrecting him and spearheading “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Fitz and Simmons have an “Ocean's Eleven” connection
Intriguingly, Whedon and Tancharoen revealed that the inspiration for energetic and adorable scientists Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge ) came from the Malloy brothers played by Casey Affleck and Scott Caan in “Ocean's Eleven.”  Neither Fitz nor Simmons were originally written as being from the U.K. (Henstridge is British, De Caestecker is Scottish), but once the duo auditioned they made the change to the characters. Also worth noting for all those fans hoping for a potential romance between the two, Henstridge and De Caestecker say they have intentionally been playing it as a brother and sister type of relationship. That could change in season 2, but they joked that might make things a tad awkward.

Ming-Na Wen knows who Skye's father should be
There are some fans who think Agent May (Wen) may have a connection to Skye (Bennet), and if they do turn out to be mother and daughter Wen knows who she wants the father to be — a certain Asgardian God of Thunder. In fact, she joked she's more than happy to endure a whole flashback season chronicling the affair if need be.

Chloe Bennet is just as curious about Skye as the rest of us
One of the more dramatic developments of the season found Skye (Bennett) near death after taking two bullets in Episode 13. Simmons (Henstridge) goes against protocol and injects her with an unknown formula that they believe was used to save Agent Coulson after his “death” in “The Avengers.”  Bennet survives, but recuperates much faster than Coulson did prompting questions about whether the serum has given her special powers or if she isn't as “human” as we all have been led to believe. Bennet revealed she's still in the dark about Skye's origins and will scan the internet on set quizzing the screenwriters abou any number of different Marvel possibilities. Either they are intentionally not telling her or she hasn't hit it yet (we're betting on the former).

You won't believe what's on Brett Dalton's resume
The Southern California native who plays Agent Ward had little on his resume before landing his role on “MAoS”, but series co-creator Maurissa Tancharoen joked there was one thing he listed that convinced them he could do the stunts  required for the series. In all seriousness, the 6'2 actor* claims to have attended clown school. And, no, Dalton didn't deny it.

*It's worth noting, Dalton's IMDB page officially lists him as 6'2, but this may be a rare case of where an actor may be publicly saying he's shorter than he actually is.  I have a ton of friends who are 6'2. Unless Dalton was wearing lifts he's at least 6'3 1/2 or maybe 6'4.

Marvel mutants on TV?
There has been some debate over whether the character rights that Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures have on the big screen also translate to the small screen.  None of the companies have commented on it publicly and Fox and Sony haven't tried to create television shows based on the X-Men or Spider-Man respectively.  That being said, when a fan asked if we might ever see mutants on “MAoS,” Jeph Loeb's answer was a carefully prepared line he's clearly had in his back pocket for sometime.  Loeb noted, “There is no proof that in the Marvel cinematic universe there are mutants.”  And that's that. For now at least.

Elisabeth Henstridge wants a scene with Loki
At one point, moderator Felicia Day asked the panel which Marvel Universe character they wish they could play and it got twisted around to which character you'd like to do a scene with. Henstridge immediately volunteered that she'd love for Simmons to have tea with Loki. Gregg quickly snapped, “Y'know I've been in a scene with Loki. Somehow I think you'd have a different result.”*

*Agent Coulson “dies” at Loki's hand in “The Avengers.”

Clark Gregg tells fans to be vocal
At one point during the panel Gregg responded to an audience question by telling fans to speak out about what they like and don't like. “In my experience,” Gregg says, “Marvel listens to the fans.” It may not always seem that way, but they do (perhaps he's also telling everyone to let ABC to bring it back the show for a second season, too?).

There is a plan
Fans of the show should know that everyone behind-the-scenes knew about the events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before they began writing the pilot script last Spring. They also get to read all the Marvel Studios movie screenplays so they have a better sense of where the larger Marvel Universe is going. So, when Bell noted, “We know where we want season 2 to end and season 3 to end and which characters are still alive” he wasn't kidding.  And, yes, that last tidbit is a bit ominous isn't it?

Look for more on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” including red carpet video interviews with Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, Brett Dalton, and producers and co-creators Jeph Loeb, Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen over the next few days on HitFix.