Just like Marvel on the big screen with Doctor Strange this fall, Marvel on the small screen brings new magical horizons for the MCU at large. That journey began with the arrival of Robbie Reyes aka Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s season 4 premiere “The Ghost” last week.
In an interview with CBR at a premiere event last week, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon talked mixing the supernatural with sci-fi by introducing Ghost Rider, what character brings with him to the show, and why they specifically sought a Mexican-American actor like Luna to play Reyes, a Mexican-American character.
Tancharoen said she “definitely felt the testosterone level turned up to, I don’t know how many notches” with the addition of the Spirit of Vengeance and his souped-up, flaming muscle car. Whedon added that Luna was the rug from The Big Lebowski that really tied the room together, without the similar fate of getting peed on (I’m paraphrasing).
Whedon: We’ve been very much enjoying the new flavor. It has been a challenge in terms of how to introduce it and get it right — we don’t want it to feel not of our show, so there was a lot of discussions about how to get that right. I think Gabriel Luna was a key factor in making sure it landed.
Tancharoen: He’s doing an incredible job. He’s playing someone whose skin melts off and his skull sets on fire, but when he is Robbie, he’s very grounded. There’s an emotional weight there. He’s doing such a great job . . . He’s clearly driving the premiere of our season.
Whedon: He comes with a whole bag of tricks, and his own baggage. He’s not the only thing that comes with Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider has his own demons, so that will probably become a major part of our season.
Tancharoen: But we have much more beyond Ghost Rider for the rest of the season; hopefully things that will surprise you.
Whedon: Or maybe not, but they’ll be satisfying if they don’t. [Laughs]
Now, when they say “bag of tricks” I immediately think of Mephisto. You? Meanwhile, the showrunners affirmed that the Inhumans, heavily featured in the last two seasons, would continue to play an “important” role in the show in a post-Civil War MCU.
Tancharoen: We’re now seeing our characters in light of the Sokovia Accords, and S.H.I.E.L.D. being re-legitimized, so that definitely affects our cast of characters.
Whedon: The Inhumans present a great storytelling device in that they’re a metaphor for what it’s like to be different. We always try to lean into that aspect of it. It’s not just about, “What’s your power?” It’s, “How are people going to react to you? What does it feel like to change? What does it feel like to not be accepted?” We’ll never ditch that aspect of the storytelling.
The two also commented on why representation of people of color and different ethnicities matters to them. For example, they made sure to cast a Mexican-American actor as the Mexican-American superhero Reyes, for both authenticity and opportunity’s sake.
Tancharoen: Diversity’s very important to us. We are both born and raised here in Los Angeles. We grew up with diversity surrounding us. It’s everything that we know. We like the show to represent the world we live in. Thankfully, we work alongside people who are advocates for diversity, as well. It’s not just us. It’s everyone we work with.
Whedon: That was a big part in picking this version of the character. That’s the world we wanted to live in, and it does matter to us.
Tancharoen: It was important for us to have a Mexican-American actor play the role, as well.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.