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ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee expressed confidence in Joss Whedon‘s Marvel adaptation S.H.I.E.L.D. on Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, telling reporters he’s optimistic the superhero pilot will land a series order.
“We fast-tracked that, and we’ll see it a lot earlier than the others,” Lee said of the Marvel TV effort starring Ming-Na. “We’re very hopeful that’s going to go to series. … It’s a great script.”
While Shawn Ryan‘s Last Resort didn’t work on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as the network made an unsuccessful bid for male viewers, Lee said he hoped S.H.I.E.L.D. would not only appeal to the network’s coveted demo but also women and families.
“Marvel has the ability to bring the whole family around it,” Lee said. “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.”
ABC ordered S.H.I.E.L.D. straight to pilot in August, with filming likely to begin in March. The project from ABC Studios 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 during 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.
“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 following his morning session. Lee also noted that Whedon already is working on scripts for the potential series, making sure to hedge that comment with an “if” S.H.I.E.L.D. goes to series.
Lee expressed excitement to have the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator at the network and said the pilot for S.H.I.E.L.D. will be filmed in Los Angeles in part to ensure Whedon is free to work across both his feature and television life. While ABC has found success with the fairy-tale franchise Once Upon a Time on Sundays, he noted S.H.I.E.L.D could be a companion piece — or air at 9 or 10 p.m. anywhere on the schedule. “There’s no question S.H.I.E.L.D. could go at 8, it absolutely could go on Sunday, but it could go at 9 and 10 as well,” he said.
The tone of the pilot, Lee said, is “very Joss.” “You know how Joss is so high, low? He’s able to be intense and epic and suddenly funny and silly. He’s got that ability to be super-entertaining and yet super-educated,” Lee said, noting he went to the same England boarding school as Whedon.
While Marvel still has The Incredible Hulk in development, Lee said ABC is looking to do additional properties from the comic book company’s roster of franchises. “We’re developing a lot of Marvel shows, and we think Marvel is huge for us — there’s an opportunity in it for us,” he said. “You’re seeing us as a network — we did it with Once, and we’re doing it with S.H.I.E.L.D. — doing shows that can really help widen The Walt Disney Co. The ABC brand is not the Disney brand, it’s not the Pixar brand, and it’s not the Marvel brand. But it’s really fun in this job to be part of a company that owns so many strong brands and be able to help build and reinvigorate some of those brands.”
Whedon is on board to co-pen the pilot alongside his brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife, Maurissa Tancharoen; the trio teamed on the three-part web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Whedon will direct the pilot. The pilot — and series, should it move forward — is executive produced by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb.
“I know we’re going to have fun at Comic-Con,” Lee said, adding that the network “has to be smart” about how it launches the drama (if it goes to series). “We’d love to see S.H.I.E.L.D. go not just from pilot but to series and not just from series but to last a long time. We’re a long way from that, but we’d love to do that.”
ER‘s Na stars as Agent Melinda May, The Avengers’ Clark Gregg reprises his role as The Avengers‘ Agent Phil Coulson, Killing Lincoln‘s Brett Dalton plays gruff rising star Agent Grant Ward, Elizabeth Henstridge is science whiz Agent Gemma Simmons, Ian De Caestecker is tech guru Agent Leo Fitz, and Nashville‘s Chloe Bennett is Skye, a superhero-obsessed woman.
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