In the final season of the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves moving through different eras, as they work together to succeed at their latest mission. If they fail on that mission, at any point, not only could it affect their present, but it could also mean disaster for the past and future of the world.
While the main cast are saying goodbye to their characters, the return of Enver Gjokaj to the role of Daniel Sousa, who we haven’t gotten to see since the end of Agent Carter, has been an unexpectedly delightful addition to the final season of the show, and Collider got on the phone to chat 1-on-1 with the actor. During the interview, he talked about his surprise at getting to revisit this character, who Daniel Sousa is now, the fun of the dynamic between Sousa and Coulson, what Sousa thinks of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, the big risks that the show is taking in the final season, and the mementos that he’s kept for his character.
Collider: It’s so nice to get to see Daniel Sousa again, on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was it fun for you to get to revisit him?
ENVER GJOKAJ: Oh, yeah. It was a blast. When I finished with Agent Carter, I had pretty much said goodbye to the character, so this came out of nowhere and it really surprised me. I wasn’t involved in the internal Marvel discussions about this happening, so I was the last to find out and it was a real pleasant surprise. Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] had been talking about getting me on S.H.I.E.L.D. for a little while, but it hadn’t really materialized, so it did come as a surprise.
Was it hard to say goodbye to the character for a second time, after finishing your run on S.H.I.E.L.D.?
GJOKAJ: It wasn’t. For me, this was just a really pleasant way to get to replay a character that I’d spent so much time with. Usually, you develop a character, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it was, you’re never really gonna get a chance to do it again. Very rarely do you get to revisit a character that you really love to play. Usually, it happens in theater, but in this case, it was television.
It’s also unusual because you’re revisiting the character, but you’ve been thrown in with a set and cast that you hadn’t played him with before. What was it like to walk onto this set, with this cast, and did it help that you at least knew who the character was, even though some of the things around you were new?
GJOKAJ: Well, what helped was that, in the script, Daniel is in the dark, so that meant that I didn’t really have to know everything that has happened over seven seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I got to inhabit that perspective from the character and really just let him take the ride, unawares. Everything that’s happening around him is pretty much a mystery. That’s where he’s coming from me, so didn’t make it that hard for me.
What have you always enjoyed about playing this character, and did you get to discover anything new about him, this time around?
GJOKAJ: This time around, it was very different. This time, we decided that we would find Daniel further along in his progression of being a leader in S.H.I.E.L.D. That freed us from feeling like we had to somehow represent the exact same character that we left off with, in Agent Carter. He’s now in a new place in his life. He’s much more capable, and he’s inhabiting his authority within S.H.I.E.L.D. That was different and a lot more fun. And also, just playing the stuff with Coulson and the team, and all of the crazy stuff that’s happening. That’s so fun to play, as an actor, where you’re in the middle of all of this crazy stuff that’s happening and you have no idea what’s going on.
We do get to see a bit of the dynamic between Sousa and Coulson. What do you think they think of each other?
GJOKAJ: The fun stuff in the script that makes it so fun to watch and play is when one character knows information that another doesn’t. So, all of the stuff on the train, where I think this guy is some low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. operative and I have no idea who I’m talking to, and then he has all of this information that I clearly don’t know. That was a blast, and the scenes were super-well-written, in that way. The dynamic will change a little bit, in this next episode, as Sousa gets a bit more information.
As he starts to work with the team and find his place with them a little bit more, were there other fun character dynamics that you particularly enjoyed getting to explore?
GJOKAJ: Well, the interesting thing is that he doesn’t quite fit into the team. You’ll see, in this coming episode, that he’s very conflicted about having been taken on board with the team and being taken out of time. You’re gonna see that play out, in this next episode, where he’s not fitting in and not sure he wants to fit in with what’s happening.
Sousa has been thrown all of this information and he’s even seen a guy melt, which is not something that you experience every day. How does he feel about what’s going on with the Chronicoms and their plan?
GJOKAJ: One of the things that I chose to play, as an actor, was a guy who’s used to being in charge and knowing the answers, not knowing any answers. That’s what you’ll see with Daniel. This is a guy who’s used to being the boss, and he’s used to understanding what’s going on, and he’s put in the position of being totally mystified and becoming a newbie.
He’s also not used to all of this tech either. What does he think of all of that?
GJOKAJ: The way I played it is him trying to show that he has no idea what’s going on. A lot of what’s happening with Sousa in this next episode is that he’s trying to keep cool and he’s trying to get his bearings, but it’s pretty clear that he’s out of his element. The writers make good use of that. Believe me, they did not miss a whole lot of opportunities to play that. That’s what’s fun with it.
Is that something that you also find yourself identifying with?
GJOKAJ: I could only imagine what it would be like for me to get picked up and thrown into the future, how so many things are the same, and then a lot of things would seem like magic. I very much identify wit that. Everything becomes fair game, when somebody’s out of time. A cell phone and a touch screen are totally fair game. Everything is just totally loaded. It was like being a kid in a candy shop, being able to use all of that, as an actor.
We also got a little bit of a hint that Sousa and Peggy Carter haven’t really seen each other and that they didn’t have the happy ending that we wish they might have had. Were you surprised to learn about what might have happened between them?
GJOKAJ: First of all, I have to say that I don’t know. I didn’t talk to Jed and Maurissa about it, and I didn’t talk to Marvel about it. As an actor, I just have to figure out what I think it means, so that I can play it, in the moment. So, Marvel would be the people to ask about it. I think that [that moment] probably means what it seems to mean, which is that he didn’t expect to see her there, and that he’s vain and likes to check his hair. But I get it. I’m particular about my hair, so they were dead on with that character trait.
The show is taking some big risks this season, with the different time periods, the black and white episode, and exploring noir. Is it fun to get to explore all of those different elements, on an episode-to-episode basis?
GJOKAJ: I’ve been so lucky in that respect. I did Dollhouse years ago, and got to play like a dozen different characters in two seasons. I got to do Agent Carter, which was so fun and so out of the norm, for your normal network television fair. And then, there was this, which was even more fun and interesting, and noir and in black and white. So, I really have been lucky. If I complain, then somebody should shoot me.
Have you gotten to keep any mementos or props for your character, either from your time on Agent Carter or since reprising the role for S.H.I.E.L.D.?
GJOKAJ: Marvel, as you can imagine, is very strict. I kept a little SSR badge from Agent Carter. It was the little badge that we flashed with our SSR logo on it. I kept that, and that’s really fun and just a little token of my time on the show. Most of the other stuff I have is stuff from fans and stuff that fans made. There are little figures and Funko Pops. That’s most of the other stuff that I have. When you’re at a convention, people come from all over the place and they have something that they give you, and that means a lot. Sometimes, as an actor, you don’t feel like you’re making a big difference, but then the character that you play with a disability makes such a big difference to somebody’s life and you realize that representation on screen does make a difference. It’s cool. Those things mean a lot to me.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Wednesday nights on ABC.