5:36pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Joss Whedon's 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' Near Series Order at ABC
Consider Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the air at ABC.
The Joss Whedon drama based on the Marvel Comics property is near a series order at the Disney-owned network, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, with an official green light expected to come Friday morning,
The ABC Studios project is based on Marvel Comics' secret intelligence organization that has appeared in countless titles, including Iron Man, Captain America and The Ultimates, since being introduced in the 1960s. The military law-enforcement agency's moniker stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistic Directorate, which also has evolved over time in the comics.
Whedon is on board to co-pen the pilot alongside his brother Jed Whedon and Jed's wife, Maurissa Tancharoen; the trio previously teamed on the three-part web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Whedon directed the pilot, which has had ABC social media accounts for months. S.H.I.E.L.D. is executive produced by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Marvel TV's Jeph Loeb.
ER's Ming-Na stars as Agent Melinda May, The Avengers' Clark Gregg reprises his role as Agent Phil Coulson, Killing Lincoln's Brett Dalton is set as gruff rising star Agent Grant Ward, Elizabeth Henstridge as science whiz Agent Gemma Simmons and Iain De Caestecker as tech guru Agent Leo Fitz, with Nashville's Chloe Bennet set as Skye, a superhero-obsessed woman.
Since the project was first announced in August, it has been a clear front-runner to land on ABC's 2013-14 schedule. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee told reporters in January that the project was being fast-tracked and he was "very hopeful" that the entry with a "great script" would go to series.
"Marvel has the ability to bring the whole family around it," Lee said at the time. "Joss has great relationships around it. There's a lot of real funny male-female relationships and flirtations, but it's also Joss and Marvel, so there's a lot of action to it."
"My boss Bob Iger buys Marvel, and how wonderful is it for ABC to be able to use the core talent from that and not use the Marvel brand but the Avengers franchise for a show that is not exactly about the Avengers but is attached to it?" Lee said, noting that Whedon was already working on scripts at the time.
ABC is expected to begin a major marketing push for the high-profile project with a sizable built-in fan base as soon as Sunday, May 12, during the season finale of Once Upon a Time. While ABC would yet not confirm S.H.I.E.L.D. had been ordered to series, a cryptic promo featuring Marvel's Hulk popped up on a network YouTube account Thursday, May 9, perhaps a telling sign of its imminent pickup. (The video has since been removed.)