'Agents of SHIELD' Stars Ming-Na Wen & Natalia Cordova-Buckley on the Team's Final Season Battles (Exclusive)

agents of shield may yoyo

Ming-Na Wen and Natalia Cordova-Buckley talk May and Yo-Yo's season 7 setbacks and what's to come in their time-travel adventures.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are time-hopping through their final season, but not everything's going quite as smoothly as they hoped!

Last week's episode saw the team making the leap from the 1930s to the 1950s, where they were tasked with rescuing the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D. from a deadly weapon in its earliest stages of development. However, agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) found themselves in some hot water when they ventured out into the field. 

The pair went undercover as pilots as the team infiltrated a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base, finding a profession where two women of color wouldn't have raised eyebrows in the white male-dominated era.

"I was always very interested in these women pilots, called the WASPs -- and there were definitely Asian pilots there," Wen shared with ET in a recent phone interview. "When [S.H.I.E.L.D. producers] were talking about time traveling, and they mentioned that it would be in the '50s, I was like, 'Oh, let me tell you about these WASPs!'"

The real-life Women Airforce Service Pilots, as May mentions to Yo-Yo in the episode, were responsible for testing aircraft, training pilots and towing targets for their male counterparts. "It worked out so perfectly, because May is a pilot and now she gets to be a pilot in the '50s," the actress added. "It's just a nice homage to these very brave women that really didn't get the accolades that they deserved."

However, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents' mission hit a rough patch when they faced off against some of the villainous alien Chronicoms and May suffered an uncharacteristic panic attack -- yet another strange side effect of being brought back from the dead after she was killed in the season 6 finale.

"She died, and then she came back from the dark side, the nether regions of the dead world, and she's a little different," Wen said of May's as-yet-unexplained emotional short-circuiting. "When you don't think that May could be any more stoic and not revealing of [her] emotions, she goes a little bit further."

"I think the writers and producers just find it fun to challenge me with showing as little emotion as possible," she joked. "It's very tough to do that as an actor, because all you want to do is to be able to emote."

The lack of emotion certainly hasn't gone unnoticed by Coulson (Clark Gregg), who, even in his new Life Model Decoy body, seemed to be hopeful that the pair would be able to rekindle their longtime bond.

"An LMD and a sort-of dead woman," Wen teased of the unlucky couple. "The Philinda fans, I don't know how happy they are about it, but they have definitely had a strange courtship, that's for sure."

Despite the obstacles in their way, May and Coulson have always shared something of an unspoken understanding -- which Wen believes still exists in their new states of being.

"I think even though May is not feeling, she knows [something]," she hinted. "She's still got a sixth sense about who Coulson is, and she was able to immediately pick up, especially without all the filters of emotions, she was able to immediately pick up that that was not Coulson and that he is still dead."

"Which Coulson didn't take very well, I don't think," she added with a laugh. "Not that May would have flung her arms around him -- not in front of everyone, anyway."

As for one of the team's other romantic pairings, Yo-Yo and Mack (Henry Simmons) are having an easier time sidelining their romance, with fewer complications and a shared focus on the task at hand.

"Something I love about Mack and Yo-Yo is that they're the adult relationship, there's no child's play, there's no tit for tat," Cordova-Buckley noted. "They are agents before anything. They've given their life to that. I think it's a beautiful message of, not that you need to put your personal life second -- because it's very important to have a healthy individual life -- but, for someone that has taken a oath, for them it was always first comes the team. First comes the mission, and then us."

"They've always been trying to save each other, even within the saving of humanity," she added. "I think that's a beautiful message: When you save yourself, and save those you love, you save the world around you."

That shared passion for heroism will hopefully help guide the pair safely through the final episodes -- despite the fact that Yo-Yo is facing some roadblocks of her own. After being infected by a parasitic shrike at the end of season 6, the speedster has found herself mysteriously unable to harness her time-slowing powers.

While the team has been supportive, the loss of her powers is clearly starting to weigh on the agent, especially when it comes to her ability to help the team save S.H.I.E.L.D. -- and in turn, the world -- from the Chronicoms.

"Something that made me fall in love with Yo-Yo from the beginning, when I got the role and I started reading episodes with her, even when she gets her superpowers, she doesn't own her gifts or hold some sort of protagonism with them," the actress explained. "She gets these powers and the first reaction she has to it is- she's religious, so she says these were God-sent. Meaning, these are of a bigger force and I can only use them for good. They are not of me, they are not mine. They are tools that I've been given to put in the service of others."

"That really taught me a lot about fame and [using your] platform," the actress added, drawing parallels to real-life activism which ring especially important right now. "That's given to us. We don't buy it. We don't work for it. It's given to us if people decide to follow us, and that's what being a leader is. If people decide to follow you and empower you, then you don't really own that power. You can only put it in the service of others and I believe fame and having a platform is only worthy of being had by an individual if it's used in the service of the rest of us and for the greater good. And that's something that Yo-Yo has taught me with her superpowers."

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. PT/ET on ABC.