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J. August Richards Previews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Explains When He Knew He Was Deathlok (SPOILERS)
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.28.2014

J. August Richards spoke with IGN about Deathlok/Mike Peterson's return on Tuesday's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and more. Check out the highlights:

On what it felt like when he realized Deathlok was working for HYDRA: "I always knew that at a certain point I was working for the Clairvoyant, but you're right: I did not know that the Clairvoyant had anything to do with HYDRA. So yes, that was a huge shock, and it was a huge shock to find out that HYDRA had infiltrated SHIELD like some roaches. I mean, they're all over the place! That was a huge shock for me."

On when he found out: "Right, and I don't get the scripts to the episodes I'm not in. That's top secret. So when I went to the table read for the episode that you're about to see on Tuesday night, after we read the script, I just raised my hand and said, "Okay... So now what is going on!? Wait, wait, wait -- Ward is evil!? HYDRA's in charge? What do I mean by this and that?" So yeah, it was a huge shock. I feel like I really do find out with the audience half the time."

On when he found out that Mike was going to be Deathlok: "Just a few days before we shot the episode, where it was revealed that I played Deathlok. I found out maybe two or three days before that. I found out right after a costume fitting for some Deathlok gear. It was a real big surprise to me. I didn't know that it was going in that direction. You know, just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for Mike, it's like, "Wow, now this is literally his worst nightmare." Yeah, it was exciting, but it was also sad for me to watch Mike go down this path."

On whether he was excited when he found out he was Deathlok: "Yeah, you know, it's one thing to play a superhero, but it's another thing to play "the world's most offbeat superhero," and that's what it says on the cover of his first appearance in Astonishing Tales. He's not just any old superhero. This character is super complex; he's got so much going on. His powers are pretty offbeat and all over the place. It's such a rich character, so I feel honored to be able to play this character. And he's 40 years old; I'm 40 years old. It seems like it's all meant to be."

On whether he looked back into the comics at the different Deathloks for inspiration: "You know, I did, because I really wanted to know as much as I could about who he was in the comic books. So I went through my old comic book collection, and I read about him in a very general sense there. Then Marvel provided me access to the Michael Collins version -- the four-episode miniseries -- and I stopped about halfway through there. I went to about the third issue, and then I realized, "Okay, I should probably stop reading about this now, because I really need to stay true to Mike Peterson and Mike Peterson's circumstances." But it was cool to research the other Deathloks and realize the theme that runs through all of them; it's the same. So I feel like I really needed to know that in order to bring the character to life."

On Deathlok's changes since the last episode he was in: "There's always so much that's occurred for Mike, every time we see him. The last time we saw him, it really felt like he was trying to come to grips with this Deathlok person that he had become. You know, he's really conflicted, really trying to convince himself, if you will, that he is Deathlok and that Mike Peterson is dead. This time when we see him he's a little more resigned to being Deathlok and a little hopeless in terms of there being a way out of all of this. So this is, again, a totally different character than the last time we've seen him. He's just more advanced in the Deathlok technology and the Deathlok persona. Even just hearing myself talk about it, I get excited, because it's like, man, this character has come such a long way, from just being a down-on-his-luck single father to Deathlok. That's an epic journey. So yes, that's what we'll see on Tuesday."

On how the reveal changes his attack on Garrett in the previous episode: "Oh my God, it's so funny because, after I found out Garrett was the Clairvoyant, I turned to Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and I was like, "So that was a ruse!?" They were like, "Yeah, it was a total ruse." I went, "Ah, that Garrett is smart!" But yeah, we have a totally different dynamic now. But Mike obviously feels that Garrett is the Devil. But I have to do everything that the Devil tells me to do, so their relationship is not an easy one."

On Coulson's standpoint regarding Deathlok: "One thing that I find really fascinating about the writing of this show is that Coulson has never called me anything other than "Mr. Peterson." Skye always calls me "Mike," even while the other characters will refer to me as "Deathlok." Coulson will always call me "Mr. Peterson," which to me is such a sign of respect and the fact that he hasn't given up on Mike. So that always sticks out in my head when I'm watching the show or reading the scripts. I hope that Coulson hasn't given up on Mike, because Mike is struggling with giving up on himself -- although I really do believe he always has this small part of him that still believes he can be a hero, like he said in the pilot."

On whether he'd like to see Deathlok fight alongside S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Well, most importantly, I'd just like to see Mike find redemption for himself and for his son. If he can find that, then maybe he could go on to do other things. But for me playing him I just want so desperately for him to find redemption."

On not knowing things until just before they are filmed: "I feel like the writers on this show are definitely HYDRA, because they don't share anything! [Laughs] Sometimes I'm like, "Now, don't I kind of need to know that Ward is evil now?" But I kind of love it, because it doesn't allow me to project anything into my performance. All I know is what I have in front of me. I don't know what's coming next, so I just have to play what I have, honestly. So it works out well for me."


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