Clark Gregg has amassed himself something of a cult following over the last few years, something the actor admits is both welcome and a little bewildering. This, in case you don't know, is the man who was previously best known for writing the Harrison Ford/Michelle Pfieffer thriller What Lies Beneath and the film Choke and was perhaps best recognised for smaller, recurring roles in shows like The West Wing and The New Adventures of Old Christine. However the role of Agent Phil Coulson has no spanned a whole raft of Marvel movies, the dry, sardonic agent often appearing in the post-credit teasers and also in a series of online mini-episodes that also linked the Marvel movies.
In the flesh, he's both funny and reticent. When you mention the trading cards that Agent Coulson carries with him and ask him how he feels about being part of one of the biggest movies of the year, he draws that 'in the headlights' comparison… “I’m waiting to the very last moment before I go around and get their autographs – I get to pretend to be cool until then!” he smiles, perhaps only half joking.
Yet Clark's made a real impression and rapidly become a fan favourite – created for the big-screen, his character will soon debut in the comic version of the Marvel Universe itself. Coulson has no super-powers to fall back on, but with a strength of patriotism and strong self-belief in the planned 'Avengers Initiative', he uses other ways to make his presence felt.
“Generally Agent Coulson’s weapon repertoire consists of only one thing which is a snide retort… but in this movie he does what any sane human being does when faced with this threat… he reaches for the largest gun you can possibly imagine!” he smiles.
Was he prepared for the attention he's received and the important part he plays in getting the Avengers together in this latest outing?
“I was about to do the panel for Thor at Comic-Con and, partly because of this amazing relationship Marvel has with its stories and its audience, I’d gone from shopping around for comics the first year I was there to needing a security detail. There were people dressed as Coulson! I was already a geek having the time of my life. Then at the night before the panel in the green room, the guy I recognised as the ‘King of Geeks’, Joss Whedon comes across and says ‘Listen, Coulson’s gonna have a big part in the Avengers. Can I introduce you as part of the cast?’ It was the shortest decision-making period I’ve ever needed!" he laughs. "When I got Joss’s scripts it was one of the best days I’ve had as an actor. It’s been a chain-letter of different directors handling this character, revealing new facets and it’s always been entertaining for me. What Joss did was magnificent and the perfect extension… as it’s the Marvel universe, I think of it as an extension, not a resolution…”
Gregg is probably right – rather than rounding things up into a nice bow, Joss Whedon has helped launch a movie phenomenon. And made Gregg the coolest Shield agent on the block (eye-patched Samuel L Jackson not withstanding!)