When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for its fourth season, it will be doing so with one major new addition to the cast. The show has so far introduced notable comic book characters such as Mockingbird and Daisy Johnson, but neither have the name recognition that comes with Ghost Rider. If you do know the name of this hero, you might not know the version that will be used in the series. Instead of the Johnny Blaze version, S.H.I.E.L.D. will be featuring the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider.
Reyes is not a well-known hero since his solo Marvel Comics series was canceled after only a year, but he is getting a relaunch in just a few months. It will go hand-in-hand with his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - though so far actor Gabriel Luna has been given the opportunity to experiment with how he will be portraying the character on the small screen.
Luna recently talked to THR about his new role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how the lack of source material has affected his preparation. If you are still not familiar with the story behind Robbie Reyes, do not feel too bad. In fact, not even Luna had heard of him prior to getting the role.
"Because there is so little material on him right now, a lot of the show is going to be expanding the Ghost Rider canon. That's really cool. It's all me. It's all on me.
"I knew about Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, those were really my generation of the Ghost Rider. I in fact did not know that the Ghost Rider spirit of vengeance was now inhabiting Robbie Reyes now. When [Marvel TV head] Jeph [Loeb] and [Agents of SHIELD executive producers] Jed [Whedon] and Mo [Tancharoen] finally cracked the lid on what I'd be playing, I was shocked because when they called me they were very secretive as to what it was. When I finally found out what it was, I did my research and I looked into it, and that's when I discovered that there was this new incarnation of Ghost Rider."
Once Luna did find out he would be playing this version of Ghost Rider, he did what most other actors in similar positions have done. He did his research. His search for the original Ghost Rider comic book run was not too difficult, but it did spark an interesting conversation between him and an employee about the train at San Diego Comic-Con - and showed him just how important it was to get the character right.
"I went to the desk and gave the guy the books and asked him if that was the entire run. And he was like, 'Yeah man. It was a couple years ago, they did 12 issues. You should read it, it's really great.' I had just found out I got the job from Jeph a day before. It was great because the owner of the shop, he was calling from the aisles, 'Did you hear that stuff that's coming out of San Diego? There's like a chain that's got an Agents of SHIELD wrap on it with a flaming chain and everyone is speculating that it's going to be Ghost Rider.'
"He has this encyclopedic knowledge of everything that's going down in the books and graphic novels and comics world. I just loved the excitement that this guy had. That was the very first moment that I realized just how big this role was going to be and the importance that this role had. But even though he had this excitement, I had to bite my tongue and I couldn't tell him that here I am buying my research. But this guy really took care of me. I can't wait to go back and tell him. I'm going to make some time to do that."
Luna has already started filming his portion of season four, which apparently includes a run in with Quake. Even though it is early on in the process, he is happy with how things have turned out as they move into filming the second episode:
"It's so early right now, and there's very little I know right now. We have the first episode in the can. What I'm really excited about is that the Robbie I had in my mind, he's there. It's not just his name or his body. His personality is all there. And it's still the Ghost Rider. The Ghost Rider is a completely separate thing from Robbie. It's something that always inhabits his body and something that he always has to fight. It's an evil thing. That's what they have maintained in the writing. It's going to be a really solid interpretation of Ghost Rider. But as for his family, we're going to have to wait and see if they show up."
Once we get to meet Robbie in his normal, human form, it will then become a question of when we see the transformation take place. The struggle of power that is connected to this is something he is excited to see play out. If you are hoping to see the flaming skull early on, it appears that might be a possibility as well - with Luna revealing he has already done VFX work for it:
"The flaming head? Yeah, that's me. I am playing that. We have this great VFX for it, and I saw the mockup the other day and I thought it was completely finished. I was like, 'Just throw that up on my TV.' It's a combination of CG and also some marking on my face so I can do some expressions."
Ghost Rider figures to be a big piece of the puzzle for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season four, when the threat of the safety of Inhumans is not at stake. This will only further be proven should Luna be named as a series regular once the first episode synopsis is revealed. Until that point, we will have to wait to get our first look at Luna as Ghost Rider.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 premieres Tuesday, September 20 @10pm on ABC.