Heroes and Villains Fan Fest: Interview with Ming-Na Wen of Agents of SHIELD

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By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Only the multi-talented Ming-Na Wen could have portrayed the many different versions and facets of Melinda May on Agents of SHIELD this past season. At Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in Atlanta last weekend, she not only showed her funny and serious sides (her panel ran the gamut!), her grateful side and her tenacious side (she injured her knee in May!), she also showed her mothering side, making sure all of her fans got the chance to have a moment with her and even left candy on her table for them to take with a note that read “Love, Ming.”

While she couldn’t reveal too much about season 5, premiering this December on ABC, she was able to reflect on season 4, detailing what went in to playing all the distinct Mays, what it was like kissing Coulson, and why she’s so appreciative of her fans, plus she offers the teeniest, tiniest scoop about the upcoming 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD.

You played many different versions of May last year. How did you approach playing all of those different versions as opposed to normal May?


The weird thing is they were different beings, but they were very much still May. So to try to find different levels of stoicism was a huge challenge. Hydra May was more sinister and she was all about revenge and killing the Inhumans, and LMD May was really more about having a mission and yet slowly discovering who she was. There were a lot of different layers, but they were all so subtle, so I’m just glad the audience caught it.

You also kissed Coulson as a robot, but we didn’t get too much beyond that. How will that be explored more this season?


[Laughs] I can’t give that away! You can try! But you know, it’s so fun to have a relationship where it spans five years and gone to different levels, and yet ultimately, as much time as they spend with each other, they never take that next step. We’ll see, we’ll see.

So tell me a little bit about the new characters that have been announced this season – Deke, Grill, Tess, and Flint?


Without giving away the plotline – ha ha ha – it’s going to be interesting to find out about these characters and who they are. Because they’re outsiders altogether. So how they are going to help the SHIELD agents get out of space or just deal with the aliens and monsters and things will be part of this world.

That leads in to my next question! It sounds like this season, y’all are going to be fighting aliens in space. What was your reaction to finding out about that storyline, and how has it been to shoot so far?


I was a little nervous when I first heard about it, but looking back now, it really makes sense. And our writers are so incredible, and our visual effects team is so integral in these storylines. They can really make things look terrifying. For me, I think it really ties in with the Kree and the overall universe.

I also know Clark Gregg directed an episode this season. What was he like as a director, what was that experience like?


He was wonderful! He was like a kid in a candy store. He was so excited, and like with everything Clark does, he put his whole heart into it. He was very focused and thorough, and being an actor, he’s able to see that side as well.

A clip that was shown at New York Comic Con shows May to be in peril. What can you tease about how she got there and how she gets herself out?


It’s really fun, and I’m glad they were able to show it, because it ties in to the injury that I sustained in season 4. I tore my ACL and meniscus, and I thought I would be limited. I had the surgery in May and was back to work in July. So that’s two months! But they facilitated when the real world interfered and I was more limited. But then I thought I’d do less fight scenes because of that limitation, and that is NOT the case. She’s going to be a badass.

That’s exactly my next point – she’s going to get herself out because she’s a badass. You yourself are one too, and have participated in our panel at Nerd HQ.


I know! I know, and I’ve always been so proud of that panel!

So what does being a badass mean to you?


It just means a confident woman who knows what she wants and doesn’t let anyone deter her from where she needs to go. She’s heroic and capable and intelligent and is just a strong woman. That’s being a badass. You don’t have to know how to fight, you just have to know how to win.

What does it mean to you to get to come to cons and interact with fans like this?


It’s both an honor and a humbling experience. And a fun experience! Because we live in a bubble when we’re shooting and so it’s just so nice to be able to get the feedback from the fans about how much my portrayals of Mulan or even on ER have helped not just to entertain but to inspire and heal and give them strength to persevere in whatever situation.

Yes, and I bet so many have been fans for so long!


It’s wonderful. That’s why I love coming to cons. It’s just a chance to interact with them.

Speaking of fans, I also asked for fan questions on Twitter. Someone wanted to know what are some of your favorite or most meaningful Phillinda moments.


When we had the flashback scenes where it was young May and Coulson fresh out of the academy. That was a lot of fun because it really showed a different side of them and how their relationship has evolved and that they’ve been through so much together. Of course the Bahrain stuff was really great. And the kiss was odd.

Because it wasn’t real!


Right! But I loved the LMD moment with the LMD Coulson. That moment and scene with their confrontation and the LMD Agent May coming to the conclusion about what’s right and wrong.

Finally, another fan wanted to know anything you hope to see in the upcoming 100th episode.


Oh my gosh. We’re about to get the script next week, and I know it’s a big, epic episode. I just hope it’s going to make people laugh and cry and get excited.

All the things 100th episodes should do.


Exactly. A lot of surprises and twists.

Agents of SHIELD returns with a two-hour premiere episode December 1 on ABC.


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