‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Post-Mortem: J. August Richards Talks Deathlok’s Sacrifice, Spinoffs and ‘Infinity War’
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fully primed us for the Age of Ultron with the direct crossover of “The Dirty Half-Dozen,” but the hour also brought major ramifications for J. August Richards’ Deathlok. We spoke to Richards to break down Mike’s latest change, that Winter Soldier connection, and whether we’ll see Deathlok again this season, or if we’ll have to wait until the Infinity War.
[SPOILERS FOR TONIGHT’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD]
The good news is that Deathlok seems to have survived his latest Hydra imprisonment after all, having spent the majority of the hour locked in a familiar-looking pair of cells alongside the Inhuman Lincoln (Luke Mitchell). With support from the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Coulson managed to lead the original “Dirty Half-Dozen” in a race against the clock to save Deathlok from Hydra dissection, which thankfully only cost Mike his cybernetic eye and leg.
Still, with Mike seemingly shipped off to be rebuilt by S.H.I.E.L.D. allies, we hopped on the phone with Richards to discuss tonight’s events, and where we might see Deathlok 3.0 in the future.
Out for repairs with only three hours left in the season. I certainly hope that’s not the last we’ve seen of Deathlok this season.
You have to watch and find out!
Settle something, was that the actual Winter Soldier set used for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the post-credits?
Yes, I believe so! I’d have to verify, but I believe that it was, yes. They were really awesome, weren’t they?
Your costume got a serious upgrade this year, but with Deathlok seemingly out of commission again, do you have ideas on what version 3.0 will look like for your return?
Ha! Yes, I do, I definitely do. I don’t exactly know where the story is going, so it’s all very dependent on that, but believe me, I definitely have some ideas of my own. Not only for visual effects, but also for practicality. My costume is practical, but they did have to kind of shut down production when I had to go to the bathroom.
Was the costume revamp this year about improving practicality, or less makeup?
I don’t think so, it was more about the evolution of the character, and how Mike’s new situation working with S.H.I.E.L.D. was reflected in the costume. The earlier look was Hydra’s attempt at turning Mike into Deathlok, and now this is the S.H.I.E.L.D. take on who Mike was, and what he needed. It was definitely generated by the story and the evolution of the character, and they wanted a different look, because Mike is in a different place.
Your return this year saw Mike embracing his role as a hero a bit more.
I’ve always said that Mike was a hero, I don’t think that Mike ever was a villain. If he was anything, he was what I term the “anti-villain.” From the beginning, Mike was always doing what was best for his son, and best for his family. He did those things in Season 1 because they were gonna kill Ace. Some people will say to me when I meet them, “you made such a great villain,” and it rubs up against me, which lets me know how close I am to the character, to actually be slightly offended. But I’ve always seen the character as a hero.
Still, working for Coulson again landed him in another Hydra cell. Is there any part of Mike that feels betrayed by his and Ward’s plan?
I’ve read a lot of stuff on Twitter, like “oh god, he’s in Hydra’s grip again,” but I feel like he’s in such a new place in terms of owning his powers and abilities, and taking responsibility for his situation, it’s under totally different circumstances. Mike, he’s only concerned with blowing them up and getting the hell out. He doesn’t feel like a victim.
How does Mike feel about Lincoln and the Inhumans, for all they represent?
He and Lincoln had a very contentious run-in when they first met, but I think Mike instinctively understands the confusion Lincoln must be under. So he’s not going to see Lincoln as an enemy, but I think he sympathizes with people who are new to their powers, and other people with abilities. He doesn’t see them as an enemy at all.
You and Skye only had so much time to interact this time out, does her Inhumanity change their friendship at all?
We had a few moments together [tonight]. Mike and Skye did start this journey together, the same way that Chloe [Bennet] and I started this journey together. I was the very first shot in the pilot, and then Chloe joined me shortly after, we worked together on the first day, so the journeys are very parallel. It will be great to see how they relate to each other, now that Skye has powers. I’ll be interested to see that.
Do you enjoy being able to drop in and drop out of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or does a permanent place on the team appeal to you?
Honestly, I do like how it’s been up until now. It gives me the opportunity to play other characters, and every time I come back to the show it’s a really big challenge to find the character again, especially since so much has happened to him offscreen. But it’s kind of awesome to be able to do other jobs, like last year I did four recurring roles, and this year I’ll be doing Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce on the hiatus.
It’s a dream for me, because when I was a kid, I was always really fascinated by actors who could play multiple roles and were very versatile. That’s what I aspired to be, so this is all really in in alignment with what I want out of my career.
Since so much of Mike’s evolution takes place offscreen, how did your time in Season 2 change for him?
That’s something I struggled with a lot when I returned this year, how much he’s forgiven himself, how much he’s allowed himself to live, separately from his son. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be able to answer, because I know that Mike can’t fully answer it. But it’s the way that people function when tragedy is occurring in their lives. Sometimes on TV when someone is going through a tragedy, they become obsessed with it and can’t function. But human beings really still go to work, they still live their lives when tragic things happen. It’s something I’m constantly toggling with, how much Mike has forgiven himself, how at peace can he allow himself to be.
What would it take for Mike to earn the right to see his son again?
He would have to save the planet. There would have to be an asteroid, or a villain, or an Ultron, somebody coming to destroy everything. And if Mike saves the day, he could probably face his son again. I hope.
You’ve talked before about Deathlok as an extremely dark character you look to find the light in.
Absolutely, I try to approach it as a comedy role.
If you’ve watched Netflix’s Daredevil, they get pretty dark, for Marvel.
I’ve started it! I just started it this weekend. I love it.
Is Deathlok a better fit for that darker world, or a Netflix series?
Not necessarily a better fit, but I think he would fit in that world very well. [Daredevil] is very dark, but they are still able to find the light and the comedy, something those actors do very, very well. It’s done well on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too, so Deathlok could fit a lot of different places, and Netflix is definitely one of them.
I’m not at liberty to discuss that, unfortunately, [but] I’m so interested in it. I’m as in the dark on a lot of things as the audience, you know Marvel is very top secret. I don’t even know what the John Ridley one is going to be about, but I’m excited about it, and I love watching the universe expand.
There’s also plenty of chatter about the Defenders and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. popping up for Infinity War. I have to assume you’d be up for that.
Oh, absolutely. I want to play this character for as long as I can. Deathlok is the Swiss army knife of the Marvel universe, I think that his powers are almost infinite. There’s so many things that he can do, and there’s so many ways to explore the character, and I really want to try to find a way to perfect the severity of his circumstance with the humor. It’s something that I want to keep working on, so I’ll play the character anywhere.
Does playing Deathlok differ from how you’d have approached any other superheroes, like those early Luke Cage rumors?
What I love about the way it was revealed to me was that I was very entrenched in the circumstances of Mike Peterson before I even knew that I was going to be a superhero. It gave me a very human place to come from in playing this character. I always started out as a single father, and I play him now as a single father, just under wildly different circumstances than your average single father.
Who would win in a fight, Deathlok or Gunn? Gunn’s resourceful.
He’s scrappy! Gunn is so scrappy, and even though Mike is enhanced, Gunn has a lot of ingenuity, so it would be a fair fight. But to answer that question, I feel like I’d be betraying one of my best friends, and I don’t even have an answer.
You can check out our full recap of tonight’s “The Dirty Half Dozen” at the link above, and stay tuned for J. August Richards’ next Marvel-ous Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appearance. Who will next face the fury of Deathlok, and what might he look like in the next incarnation?
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