Tomorrow you will be able to check out Season 2 of Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC. Last season ended where S.H.I.E.L.D. had fallen after Hydra infiltrated the organization. Chaos and destruction were the only two things left in the aftermath. Now Agent Coulson and the rest of his team are trying to pick up the pieces. They still are dealing with the fact that their one time friend and colleague Agent Grant Ward, played by actor Brett Dalton was working for Hydra. Ward was captured at the end of Season 1 and we will get to see how the other agents will treat him after he betrayed their trust.
If you are like me you can’t wait to see what happens this season. I had the great pleasure of talking with Brett about Season 1, working with Bill Paxton, his latest film called “The Tourist,” and fatherhood.
Listening to Brett talk about fatherhood was exciting. His mindset on being a father fits right into our thinking here at Life of Dad. He has a fantastic view on fatherhood. As you will read below you can tell he enjoys his number one role in life, which is being a dad. From singing songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack to memories of dancing with his daughter when she was four month old, Brett gets fatherhood. He also has some great advice for new dads out there.
Art Eddy: First off I have to say you have done a fantastic job playing the role of Grant Ward on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I read in past interviews that you love playing the bad guy. What has been the best part of going from S.H.I.E.L.D. to Hydra?
Brett Dalton: I like playing the bad guy. Well what I think I really like is playing someone who is not that conventional. On the page, Ward was this specialist with a lack of people skills. That was how he was kind of written in the very beginning. The pilot had a lot of tongue and cheek stuff. He kind of had this Indiana Jones quality to him. I was like that is really cool. I really like that.
Then when it went to series that kind of disappeared. It sort of lost that tongue and cheek Joss Whedon quality. And so for a while I think people were trying to figure out what this show was all about. It is kind of this. It is kind of that. When “Winter Soldier” came out the big switch happened. That was just so fun. I felt like it was a bit unconventional. It was always tough for me to be the leading man.
I felt like l have seen so many bad movies where the leading man always wins. He always has the cool toys. I wanted to be someone who was weirder than that. I wanted one foot in leading man and the other foot in the character actor world. That’s what I always wanted to be. So when they game me this storyline I was like okay I got it. Let me just stop you there. Let me just take this role. It was really, really fun.
AE: Season 2 is tomorrow. I can’t wait. How much are we going to see Ward struggle with the choice he made by turning on his team?
BD: I have always said that he was much more loyal to Agent Garrett. It even feels like Bill Paxton, who plays Agent Garrett, I just call him Bill. (Both laugh.) We had all of our scenes together and I swear I never had more joy than the scenes I had with him. He just taught me to really just have fun with it. That is my shout out to Bill.
I think that Garrett, that was why I brought him up, wasn’t really loyal to Hydra. He didn’t do all of the saluting things and all of that stuff. They were just an organization that was kind of about not necessarily about self-promotion, but self-preservation. There is a beautiful line were he says, ‘The winds were shifting and I turned my sail.’ So it looks like he made his choice to be part of the favorite team.
He did have his own motives. It wasn’t like he got a Hydra tattoo across his chest like Hydra Life or something. (Both laugh.) Ward had a crazy childhood and they gave some hints of that in Season 1. His brother drowning in the well. His parents were being absolute monsters to him. He was always getting picked on. Even in juvie he has bruises on him. He wasn’t the runt of the litter, but he was always getting picked on.
This guy comes along and opens a door. He says, ‘You want to walk through this door? No one will ever mess with you again.’ So that is what kind of happens. When there is an opportunity for empowerment in life he decided to take it. So that was what Season 1 was all about. It was about Agent Ward’s past and his loyalty to Garrett.
He has always been the second man. He is always the loyal student. He will do anything for Garrett. Then Garrett dies. So we are like what does he do now that he doesn’t have someone giving him orders. He is great with orders. He will do what he has to do. Now when it is just him what does he do? What does he really stand for? That is what the project of Season 2 will be about. I think it is pretty cool. We are done with his past. Now we are all about Ward’s future.
I don’t really know what will happen. I pick up scripts and I feel like I pick up things about a week or two before the audience knows about it. It is not like I know everything. I am not keeping the cards close to my chest. I don’t have that many cards to keep close to my chest. (Both laugh.)
AE: You and Bill Paxton had some great chemistry and had some memorable scenes together. With Bill’s extensive body of work how cool was it to work with him?
BD: He has so many stories. He is so unapologetic about talking about these stories. He would be like, ‘Oh when I was with James.’ He calls James Cameron, James. (Both laugh.) ‘When I was with James, he would let me improvise.’ He has so many stories about this and that. It is just really amazing.
Strangely since he is so good I was like I am just going to do my best. Yet he has seen everything. He has done everything. I am not going to actually impress this guy. I didn’t feel nervous. I felt like it was an opportunity to learn everything I possibly can. I want to see those lines written down. Then I want to see what he does with those lines and how he does it. It was great. I just got to sit and observe.
Towards the end he really took me under his wing. He had such nice things to say. He said that I have grown so much and that I have really come into my own. He told me that he was proud of me. It was kind of like art imitating life I guess. He did become a mentor in my life in a way. He is popping up in movies all the time now. It is like a Bill Paxton Renaissance going on right now. (Both laugh.) I saw him in “Million Dollar Arm” on the plane. I was like yes! He is so good in everything. So it was great. I love that guy.
AE: Keeping with the theme of bringing on some fantastic actors, Lucy Lawless and Kyle MacLachlan joins “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” What can you tell me about their contribution to the show?
BD: Ward has his own storyline right now. Season 1 ended when his larynx was bruised by Melinda May in an epic fight that took place in a warehouse. She had that one liner where I was like oh my God this is totally going to be turned into a hashtag. It was the most emasculating thing that I ever heard.
I was on top of her. There was the buzz saw going near her head. I said, ‘Oh it reminds me of the good old days.’ Then she says ‘You were never on top.’ And then the whoop ass begins. She not only gets the last word in there, but it was a zinger. It ends where he has a bruised esophagus and he is captured.
So I don’t have a lot of interaction with all these other storylines. Like you said they are introducing a ton of new characters. I see them randomly on set, but their storylines are completely different. They have their own thing going on and I have my own timeout. (Both laugh.) I am sitting in a corner with a dunce cap on. I have to write on a chalkboard over and over again. You see Coulson writing on a chalkboard? I am in there too. I am writing all work and no play makes Ward a very bad boy over and over again. (Both laugh.)
AE: You have been to a few Comic Cons now. What has been the major difference from the past ones to now since Agents has become a hit show on ABC? I bet there are some crazy fans now right?
BD: Yeah, but they were crazy before. Our first time we had Joss Whedon with us. Plus we used our whole time to play they entire pilot, which never happens. We didn’t do a Q and A thing. We were like we are going to show you everything. At that point we immediately blew up Twitter. So there was still a ton of excitement with that.
The cons were equally as crazy. I just felt we had more poise now since we know what are roles are. I think before there was so much hype about people that fans have never seen before. They didn’t really know us. It felt like going to a rock concert and having the Rolling Stones introduce you as an opening act. We were like hey you don’t really know us, but I am in front of 4,000 people so how are you doing? (Both laugh.)
People were asking just one question each. I was so nervous. This time around people were asking really specific questions about the show. It was really exciting because people got into the storyline. Last year it was the same three questions. What was it like working with Joss? Tell us about your character and were you a comic book fan beforehand? Honestly those were the only three questions and we had to get creative in our answers as the day progressed. I just answered in a different voice each time.
AE: I love how Marvel integrates different storylines into their films. I would love to see you and the rest of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” crew in one of the Marvel films. You think that will ever happen?
BD: Buddy, you are telling me. Every time that I have been interviewed I try to drop something like, ‘I don’t know Joss, what do you think?’ (Both laugh) Obviously we would all love to do that. It seems right now like a one way street in terms of characters. Coulson was in the movies and then popped up on our TV show. There were other people, smaller characters who were in the movies who pop up on our TV show. It doesn’t seem that people on the TV show have popped up in the films just yet.
We will see. That would obviously be lovely, but we have our own storylines going on too. It would be weird if the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents are there and they would have to write in a Hydra storyline. How would you do that in “Guardians of the Galaxy?” But it would be great.
AE: I see you finished working on a movie called “The Tourist.” Can you tell me a bit about the film?
BD: Yeah it is a cool one. That was actually the first offer I was given. So that was kind of a milestone in itself.
AE: Oh sweet. Congrats man!
BD: Thanks. It was really, really cool. It is about a guy who goes to Italy with his whole life ahead of him. He realizes that he has nothing. He finds himself over there. He finds this sport over there and he finds this girl. It is a lovely story that the writer and director created when he spent six months in Florence. So it is kind of like an idealized version of his time there.
It starts off where he is proposing to this girl and she says no. He is just stuck there in Italy just hanging at his cousin’s house. He has given up. He discovers this sport. It is really a brutal sport. No one really has heard about it stateside, but they play it every year in Florence. Some say it is a touristy kind of thing, but it goes back like hundreds of years. It is nuts. It has a ton of history.
It is 24 players on either side. It is kind of like the grandfather to rugby and soccer. They play with a soccer ball, but no one ever kicks it. You have 22 people in the middle lined up just like football and they are punching each other. Honestly that is it. There is one rule. It is that you have to get the ball into the net on the other side. That is it. There are no other rules. Well I guess you can only have one on one punching. You watch it and you think this is one step away from being a gang fight. (Both laugh.) There are no pads or anything like that. It is just 22 people standing in line punching each other. There are no substitutes. So when someone gets injured they are whisked off the field. You look to weaken the other team enough to try and win. It is the most exciting thing you have ever seen like in soccer when someone scores.
So he discovers this sport. He is an ex-football player so he uses American football player logic. He starts making plays and the local guys think he is cool and accept him. He realizes that you don’t need to plan everything in life. He can live in the moment and stop and smell the roses. Stana Katic is in it. There are a lot of other lovely actors in it. It was great. It was absolutely such a cool experience to have six weeks in Florence. I am in most of this film except for like two or three scenes. I hope I am good in it. I feel like I am carrying this film.
AE: When does that film come out?
BD: Next year. It is slated for next year. I would love to go back. It would be great if they show it at the Florence Film Festival.
BD: We try to have respect for where she is at as a human being at this particular point. We have never done the baby voice. We have never said no without an explanation. We try and explain things to her. We try to have patience and sympathy for where she is at in her process of this crazy world that we brought her into. So we just try and talk to her like a human being.
Obviously every parent thinks that they have the smartest and most beautiful child in the world. We have got some crazy compliments from a lot of people. She definitely seems to have an old soul. I think the funniest comment I ever got was ‘I was going to have a baby, but why? I give up. There will never be a baby better than this.’ (Both laugh.) So we are like okay we will take that.
We really try and explain things to her. We are very patient with her. We also have been very lucky as well. She didn’t have colic or anything like that. It kind of felt like she was meant to be in this world. She didn’t even cry when she was born. She had this look on her face like oh this is what I imagined the world to be like. This is cool. (Both laugh.)
AE: Has there been a moment so far into your journey of fatherhood that has completely thrown you for a loop?
BD: I have had countless moments. The one I first remember was dancing with my daughter. She was about four months old. She could smile at that point. I think she was laughing a little bit too. I just remember thinking I will be doing this at her wedding. There is something so special about father daughter time.
We have all these cool adventure that we go on now, but I remember at that point that this was one of the best moments in the world. We were in our own little world. I was thinking what has happened to me. I am dancing and crying with a small child in my living room. I just have no explanation for it. I remember thinking that no matter what happens I hope that we can always come back and dance together.
AE: What advice would you give to new dads out there?
BD: You have to let them be who they are. You have a child that you brought into this world. Another living being that wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. There is a lot of responsibility there. You are filled with love for this little being. There is a tendency to want to be a helicopter parent. You want to solve everything for them. You want to see them happy. You would do anything in the world to make your children happy. For instance tying their shoelace. Let them figure it out. I feel that if you are always helping them it creates a dependency.
Let them be who they are and you don’t have to hold onto moments with a clutched fist. It is with an open hand. You have to let them be who they are and let them discover things as they go. You can be there for their protection of course. If they are having issues with tying their shoe what are the consequences? Let them figure it out. Then they will have a sense of accomplishment. That goes along way. Obviously if they are playing with knives, step in. (Both laugh.)
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie?
BD: Family movie? I am thinking animated. I feel that in every household there is “Frozen” playing in the background. Be honest, “Frozen” is playing in the background at least three or four times a week. Right?
AE: Do you and your family have a favorite song that you guys like to dance and sing to?
BD: The “Frozen” soundtrack is right up there, but she is good with making up songs herself. She loves to sing and dance. She is an incredible dancer. If we are in a mall she would stop hear the song and start dancing. She would do a really coordinated dance. It is fantastic.
AE: What will you do that will always make your daughter laugh?
BD: We have had this thing forever actually. I will pretend to chase her and scrunch up my shoulders and do a standing crab type of walk. It is really ridiculous, but I go around chasing her. I would say, ‘I’m gonna get cha. I’m gonna get cha.’ She will always laugh at that.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
BD: We did have a pretty perfect one this summer. I was working pretty long hours, but I was happy. We would have the weekends together there in Florence. They would visit me on set. My daughter loved it because it was the land of pizza and ice cream. It probably blew her mind that there is a place that is all about pizza and ice cream. (Both laugh.) We came back tan, happy, and a little fatter, but that is okay.
AE: Well that might happen when you are in the land of pizza and ice cream.
BD: (Both laugh.) I know. How could you not, right?
AE: Going back to the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” who is the prankster on the set?
BD: We have tried to get something together. We all think that we are better pranksters than we actually are. There really isn’t anyone who is great at it. Iain (De Caestecker) is really funny and messes around with us while we are filming. He has so many improvised moments that don’t make it. Maybe this season we will get better at it.