J. August Richards has been one of the most judicially used tools in the “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” shed.
The Joss Whedon veteran appeared in the show's pilot as newly enhanced struggling father Mike Peterson and then popped up periodically in the first season as the initially malevolent, but ultimately heroic Deathlok.
Every time Richards returns to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” it seems like Deathlok has been modified somewhat, either with an embellished suit or with an evolution in Mike's connection to his humanity.
Richards' latest “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” appearance came on Tuesday's (April 7) episode and the actor just coincidentally happened to be on-set when a group of reporters descended on The Unmarked Marvel Black Site where the ABC series is shot.
“They keep me in the dark as much as you guys,” Richards joked about his return and yet another new costume for Deathlok.
“I have so many cool abilities,” he joked, pointing to different pieces of his costume. “I have three USB ports, a Firewire connection, you can get wi-fi off of me, this thing on my arm makes cappuccinos, and I have all of these cool little powers here and there. Lets see, I do have some new powers though. I think you”ll see them unfold over time though. I mean at the core he still is who he is. He has a bunch of mechanical parts that do a bunch of interesting things. This arm piece shoots rockets and he”s still super strong from the Centipede that he got in the first episode. Even in the comics I feel like he”s a character with a thousand powers that constantly unfold. It”s a character with a lot of possibilities. And again even with reading the comic, I feel like I can”t put a finger on all of his powers and the things that come over time.”
When I spoke with Richards last April about Deathlok's Season 1 return, he observed, “This character is about a constant internal conflict. It's about who's gonna win, Mike Peterson or Deathlok.”
It seems that some of that ambiguity has passed.
“When I”m playing him now, I like to think Mike is now owning Deathlok,” Richards told reporters. “Before I think he was really reluctant. Even back when I was playing the character, honestly I didn”t know how to move, or act. I felt that was really Mike with this body that got forced on him. Like with this artificial leg that we jokingly say cost $10 million, or the rockets on his arm, he didn”t know how to incorporate that into his life, or his movement.”
But merely owning his Mike-ness doesn't mean that this version of Deathlok is prepared for a reunion with his son.
“I think about that, all the time. Seriously,” Richards said. “It”s so funny because that's what makes him such an interesting character to me. Even if he saved the entire world, I don”t know as if even then he could face his son. I think something really big would need to happen for him to get over everything he feels guilty about. I mean Mike suffers from an immense sense of guilt. Even when I came back the first time, I felt like Mike shouldn”t have felt as guilty because it was the Centipede making him crazy, but he takes so much personal responsibility from his sins that it would take a lot for him to feel better about himself.”
Just because Richards has been missing from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” this season doesn't mean that he's been sitting by the phone impatiently waiting for Marvel's call. In fact, Richards has been rather ridiculously busy, co-starring on Bravo's “Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce,” guesting on Lifetime's “The Lottery” and even finding a way to squeeze in a guest role on a different ABC drama.
“My schedule has been an absolute miracle,” Richards laughed. “Every time I”m needed somewhere, I”m somehow magically available. I was shooting a show in Toronto, one in Vancouver and some guest appearances here and there, and for some reason I was always able to work them out. Then miraculously there was a hole in my schedule for me to get in and get out of 'Grey's Anatomy.” Usually, the opposite happens where I get two jobs at once, but I”ve been in the zone recently, where i”m able to do everything and that excites me. I”m super happy about that.”
Check out a vertical version of the current Deathlok suit below: