Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show pilot is in post-production, with ABC expected to formally order additional episodes in the foreseeable future. The pilot was written and directed by the studio's Phase Two architect and The Avengers director Joss Whedon, with the cast including several new characters written specifically for the comic book-inspired series - and Clark Gregg, reprising his fan-fave role as plucky Agent Coulson following the events of Avengers (despite his apparent death in that movie).
This past week Whedon visited Austin, Texas, in order to attend the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and premiere his modern Shakespeare retelling Much Ado About Nothing (watch the trailer here). /Film is reporting that Whedon and Gregg took questions about about Coulson's return in S.H.I.E.L.D., confirming that it's "for realsies" and joking about the Heimlich maneuver being responsible for his resuscitation after Loki's attack.
Whedon was more serious during an interview with Deadline, where he revealed the personal interest that motivated him to bring Coulson back:
"The idea of the Little Guy is something that I am very fierce about, and there has never been a better Little Guy than Clark Gregg. That intrigued me, this world around the superhero community. It’s the people whose shop windows get blown up when the Destroyer shows up. It’s the more intimate stories that belong on television that we can really tap into the visual style and ethos, and even some of the mythology, of the Marvel movies."
The smaller-scale afforded by the television medium has served Whedon well in the past. Indeed, he made his name working on geek-friendly shows that favor overarching character development and storytelling that goes beyond an episodic basis (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel's season-long narratives). That approach should benefit his desired "more intimate" approach on S.H.I.E.L.D., as will the show's hopeful outlook and optimistic philosophy, as was previously described by Whedon.
The filmmaker also re-emphasized his desire for viewers to accept S.H.I.E.L.D. on its own terms, rather than focusing on how much (or little) the show affects larger events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
"I think we’ve put together another really great ensemble headed by Clark. And how much it’s actually seeding or hinting or reacting to what’s going on in the movies is something we’ll let play out as we go. For me the most important thing is that people fall in love with it on its own merits, rather than constantly asking, “Is there gonna be an Avenger?” Well, there’s not gonna be a Hulk because that guy’s too expensive."
Whedon's last comment harkens back to his recent claims about the difficulties of Hulk solo movies; not mention, it's an off-hand explanation for why Marvel's been hesitant about moving ahead on Guillermo del Toro's proposed Incredible Hulk TV show. Furthermore, the filmmaker has a hand in that gestating project in addition to S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything else Marvel does over the next few years - which is why his brother Jed Whedon and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen will be handling a good chunk of the showrunning duties, along with executive producers Jeph Loeb (Smallville) and Jeffrey Bell (Angel):
"I will be as involved as I can be – mostly on a story level. On the TV show I can say, “No, do it my way.” I’m just trying to keep it exciting and meaningful and surprising."
In the meantime, Whedon is making his way through the writing process on The Avengers 2 (not the official title) ahead of production beginning sometime next year.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is expected to be picked up by ABC for a Fall 2013 premiere.