‘Agents of SHIELD’ Star Jeff Ward Talks Season 5 Time Jump, Star-Lord Comparisons & That Major Daisy Reveal
By Meredith B. Kile
Turns out, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t just in space -- they’re in the future!
ABC’s Marvel series made the jaw-dropping reveal in their two-part season five premiere on Friday, as the agents learned that a mysterious new monolith had transported them not just into outer space, but far into a future where Earth has long-since been destroyed -- by one of their own, no less.
In this bleak new world, the Kree rule over what remains of humanity, who live out a desolate existence in a sector of a massive space station known as The Lighthouse. As the agents struggle to come to terms with where -- andwhen -- they are, they meet Deke (Jeff Ward) and Tess (Eve Harlow), citizens of The Lighthouse who end up becoming their unwitting guides to life in this dreary dystopia.
ET spoke with Ward over the phone a few days before the premiere to get a better sense of his character, and what’s to come in his adventures with the S.H.I.E.L.D. team this season.
“Deke’s got life figured out here. And these people are coming and screwing with it,” he explained. “And it’s not just that these people are coming here and screwing with Deke’s way of life, but this is a place where people are murdered all the time. People are killed left and right for innocuous, meaningless reasons, and I think that Deke is frustrated that he feels like some of them are not appreciating the gravity of that all the time.”
One of those harrowing moments comes soon after Deke meets the agents, when Daisy (Chloe Bennet) uses her Quake powers to kill two Kree guards. The defensive attack ensures the team’s immediate safety, but sends Deke into a panic when he realizes that the powers-that-be will demand human lives as retribution.
“They’re kind of wanting to run out willy-nilly and be superheroes, not understanding that that’s not how life works here,” Ward continued. “I think as much as Deke’s got life figured out for himself, he also does very much care about the people around him, and the population of The Lighthouse, and what everybody means to each other as the last bastion of humanity… He doesn’t like it when anybody tries to threaten his self-preservation, but I do think that there also is something bigger at play, in terms of protecting everybody there, and not wanting to rock the boat and get people killed.”
While some characteristics of this season’s bleak future-scape are reminiscent of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Joss Whedon’s cult hit Firefly, Ward’s character was inspired in part by another Marvel property. Fans’ first look at Deke comes when he enters the space station wearing a somewhat familiar-looking mask, which, when combined with his leather jacket and tendencies towards snark and self interest, calls to mind Chris Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy character, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord.
“A lot of people have been saying Star-Lord,” the actor admitted with a laugh. “First of all, I’m humbled at the comparison, because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it as well as Chris Pratt. He’s so unbelievably good at it. But I do think of Deke as somewhere between Star-Lord, Han Solo and Chris Evans’ character in Snowpiercer. I’ve always kind of seen him as the triangulation of those three guys.”
“He does have self interests, obviously, he lives in a world where you have to look out for yourself. Han Solo was a big touchstone for him,” he continued. “This is a character that I’ve always wanted to get a shot at, and it’s fun too, because as much as he is up for violence if it comes to it, he deals with most situations with an acidic sense of humor, and that really starts to develop of the next couple of episodes. So it gets very, very fun.”
Ward also explained that the Snowpiercer influence extends beyond his character to being a touchstone for the details of the future world as a whole, adding, “As you learn more about The Lighthouse, you’ll see even more similarities, but you know, [it’s] that kind of ‘born into the back of the train’ mentality, where you’re all just kind of surviving in any way you can.”
Deke’s reluctance to help the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents upon first meeting is understandable, and not just because life under the Kree’s ruthless rule -- which includes Hunger Games-style reckonings in which the humans are forced to kill or be killed -- means toeing the line as closely as possible. His introduction to the team comes by way of a knock-down, drag-out fight with Agent May (Ming-Na Wen), which Ward revealed was the first scene he shot after joining the cast.
“That was actually, literally, my very first day,” he recalled. “I’ve done some fight stuff, but this was probably the most intense fighting I’ve done… I got right in there, and I thought it was a great way to hit the ground running, because it was really fun and it was also really challenging. I kind of had to like, pull up my bootstraps and keep up, because they weren’t going to slow down for me. It was a great way to get right in there and be like, ‘OK, I can do this!’ And it was so, so fun. I love that scene.”
Another pivotal moment in the two-part premiere -- and one that sets up perhaps the season’s biggest question mark -- comes when Daisy makes her way into Deke’s Framework-like virtual world that he operates as a form of escapism for The Lighthouse’s beleaguered denizens. It’s here that he tells the Inhuman agent that her powers are what fractured Earth into the pieces the agents see scattered around the solar system.
“He finds out in that moment that this is this person,” Ward said of the revelation. “He knows who Quake is, and what he doesn’t know is that this random person who just showed up, beyond all explanation, that he’s gotten into all this trouble with, is Quake. I think it’s a huge bombshell for him, also.”
“It’s a bit like turning around and, all of a sudden, the person you’re having lunch with is Keyser Soze,” he added. “It’s like, ‘Oh my god!’ I think it’ll take a second for Deke to kind of be able to come to terms with that, and, you know, you’ll start to see how they’re gonna deal with what happened. That’s all I can say about that.”
While he’s sworn to secrecy on the particulars, Ward said he can’t wait for S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to get to know his character better and see what the creative team has in store for season five.
“It’s really exciting because this season is, yet again, completely different than anything they’ve ever done,” he marveled. “Obviously I’m biased, but I’m really excited for everyone to see it… This [season] is in an entirely new direction, but I think they’re building from where they left off, and they’ve done some really smart and great stuff.”