Recently, the inclusion of Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has brought a supernatural feel to this season. Before that, the show was grounded in scientific explanation and logic, and this character addition, as well as the mysterious plot line concerning magic and ghosts, serving as a possible connection to the upcoming Doctor Strange film. Though Ghost Rider adds this to the show, there is also the decision to use a Mexican-American version of the Rider, rather than the one everyone is used to.
Many fans were upset by the choice to use the Robbie Reyes character instead of Johnny Blaze, but the choice was made for a reason, showrunners Joss Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen say. With the “testosterone levels turned up”, according to Tancharoen, it was important to keep their version of the ‘Spirit of Vengeance’ grounded, albeit the skin melting off and being replaced by flames factor.
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]
It seems that they’re telling us something important, but without specifying what it truly is, we can’t be sure. Continuing with Robbie Reyes, Tancharoen and Whedon went on to comment on the importance of casting a Mexican-American actor to play the role, and how diversity in the show is important for both of them.
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.
It’s great that they are being true to the character, and true to what life is like in L.A. The casting seems perfect, and the actor is doing a great job, as we’ve seen in last week’s premiere, and yesterday’s episode. It’s also nice for other Latina people out there who don’t see representation on the small screen (as well as the big screen). Too often we see a white-washed show because it might be easier to cast, or because that’s just the way it was written originally. It seems that real thought came into bringing in Gabriel Luna, who plays the possessed vigilante.
On the other side of the show, while Inhumans were a huge driving force of the last season, they seem to be taking a step back from that particular topic, but the showrunners assure that they won’t be leaving them altogether.
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.
What do you think about their decision to continue with inhumans in the show? Would you rather they just turned exclusively to the supernatural, or are you excited about the turn this show is taking, (a mixture of both the inhumans and the supernatural)? Also, do you appreciate the showrunner’s concern with diversity? Are you enjoying Gabriel Luna’s performance so far? Let us know in the comments below, Twitter or Instagram!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.