‘Agents of SHIELD’s Henry Simmons on How Life Aboard the Lighthouse May Push Mack 'Past the Edge' (Exclusive)
By Meredith B. Kile
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are lost in space -- and the situation is only getting more dire.
After a mysterious force transported the agents to a dystopian future -- where Earth has been destroyed and its remaining citizens live out a bleak existence under Kree rule on a massive space station known as The Lighthouse -- in the season five premiere, the team has quickly learned that staying alive in this latest reality might be their most dangerous mission yet.
“It’s incredibly new, a new domain where there are entities and people that are much more powerful than us, and we don’t have our resources,” series star Henry Simmons, who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, tells ET. “We have to figure out how to survive. Usually it’s just fighting people and beating back bad guys, but now we have to survive.”
As they attempt to navigate life in these unfamiliar -- and increasingly perilous -- circumstances, the agents have found themselves in indebted servitude under a Lighthouse resident named Grill (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who runs a salvage operation and has little tolerance for the group of newcomers. According to Simmons, that dynamic may get even more dangerous in this week’s episode, foreboding titled “A Life Earned.”
“Grill puts us in a position where we have to do things that we don’t want to do... a position where we may have to hurt people -- or worse,” he hints. “And that’s not what we were there for, but it’s going to be interesting to see how far we go in order to survive, and appease Grill as well, because he’s part of our survival.”
And the surly salvage overseer isn’t the only threat the team have to contend with. At the end of last week’s episode, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) was betrayed by Deke (Jeff Ward) and captured by Kasius (Dominic Rains), the Kree ruler of The Lighthouse -- a particularly grim fate, as the episode also showed how Inhumans like Daisy are bought and sold like chattel in this future, traded for sport amongst the overlords of the galaxy.
For Mack, who often serves as the group’s moral compass and voice of reason, the perilous new world the team has found themselves in also presents challenges beyond the mere struggle for survival. The ruthless nature of life aboard The Lighthouse means that sacrifices must be made -- such as in last week’s episode, where Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) doomed one of Grill’s underlings in order to save Mack and the rest of the team.
“Needing to kill to survive, I think that’s the biggest challenge [for Mack],” Simmons notes. “Sometimes as individuals, we’re pushed to do things that we don’t normally want to do because of extreme circumstances.”
“He is the one member that I think hasn’t quite come around to see things quite like that, that’s it’s necessary to take that drastic of a [measure] to survive,” he adds. “But, like I said, when your loved ones are in danger, whatever the limit may be, or how extreme it may be, sometimes we’re pushed past the edge and have to do things that we don’t like doing.”
After his time in the Framework’s alternate reality last season -- where Mack’s daughter, Hope, lived to childhood rather than dying shortly after birth -- the actor also admits that his character is “more willing” to fight for those he loves, especially Yo-Yo.
“I think it has definitely left a scar on him,” he says of the memories that Mack now carries with him. “But I do believe -- and we saw a bit of it at the end of last season -- that it has made him appreciate the relationships much more that he has now -- particularly with Yo-Yo… Where he’s been reluctant to fight so much in the past, I think now, because Yo-Yo is part of the equation, not that he’s bloodthirsty, but he’s more willing to do whatever it takes to protect the people that he loves.”
Simmons also opens up about what’s to come for the couple, admitting “there really isn’t much time for romance” in their current situation.
“They’re trying to survive,” he adds. “I think because we are close, because we love each other, there is that friction that also happens… where Mack is more trying to protect her, and she is a very strong, independent woman, so she pushes back a little. You’re gonna see a little bit of that back and forth.”
So, is Mack really ready to walk away from S.H.I.E.L.D. for good, as he keeps threatening?
“Absolutely,” Simmons says with a laugh. “I’d say Mack is the kind of guy, he could step away tomorrow… I know he’s starting to think in terms of a future with Yo-Yo, and yeah, I think he could step away very quickly. He keeps reminding Coulson. He’s ready.”
But before any of the agents can worry about their future, they have to get back to the present -- a feat that may require the help of the one S.H.I.E.L.D. team member that didn’t make the journey to space: the currently-still-MIA Fitz (Iain De Caestecker).
Simmons of course had to play coy on the whereabouts of the missing agent, and couldn't even divulge who was making an appearance first: Fitz, or Mack’s beloved Shotgun-Axe.
“That’s a good question,” he teases. “You may have your answer soon.”
He was able to say more, however, about another returning member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. family, Nick Blood, who will be reprising his role as Lance Hunter in next week’s episode.
“Nick is one of the people I hold in the highest esteem in my life... He’s one of the best people you will ever know,” Simmons raves. “He just adds an element to our show that I think is wonderful, but even besides all that, I just want him around... I miss him, and it was great to see him in that brief time. It was great to see him. He’s an exceptional person.”