The name “Clark Gregg” may not mean much to you. But you’ve definitely seen him on your 78-inch plasma. He’s been in movies like (500) Days of Summer, TV shows like The New Adventures of Old Christine, and thanks to Iron Man and Iron Man 2, his biggest imprint on your internal IMDB may be as S.H.I.E.LD. agent Phil Coulson. Gregg reprises that role in Thor (opening this weekend, trailer at bottom), so we sat down with him inside the S.H.I.E.L.D. car (aka, the black Acura ZDX) to talk about what it takes to make a career of playing bosses, ex-husbands and secret government agents. Also, he totally gives away the ending to Thor.
MADE MAN: So what’s it like to play the same character in multiple movies?
CLARK GREGG: Number one, it’s surprising, because it was really just a couple of scenes in Iron Man that Jon Favreau asked me to do. And I thought, “Ah, sure, what the hell.” And then they just kept adding scenes, and then they said, “Hey, listen, we’re doing another one of these in a couple of months. Do you want to be in that one?” And I start The Avengers, the fourth one, next week. Every time it’s a different director, different writers. It’s a blast to get the script because I go, “Oh, look what they’ve got this guy doing now.”
MM: You’re also a screenwriter and director. But do you consider yourself a “character actor”? Do you like that term?
CG: Yes. I do. I embrace that term. Generally what it means is, like, sort of attractive, but not like a leading man. So it feels right down the pipe for me. But I think it also means versatile. You get to do a lot of stuff.
MM: If someone wanted your career, what should they do?
CG: They can effin’ have it. No, I’m just kidding. Um, what should they do? You know, just keep swinging away. I started working as a screenwriter because the acting jobs were harder to come by. And it was funny … whenever you stop paying attention to something, it seems to love you. I don’t know why that works. It’s certainly true of dogs. Try to continue to learn and expand what you’re able to do. Sooner or later I feel like everybody gets a shot. And it comes in the most unlikely place. For example, Agent Coulson.
MM: What’s the best part about your job?
CG: When you think of the alternatives and the various ditch-digging jobs I had earlier, to kind of show up and drive a really cool car and get to say funny stuff and, in this case, show up in a different whole movie, a different chapter of the story. The Avengers will be with Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, and every time it’s a different crew of actors that I’m thrilled to get a chance to mix it up with.
MM: Is there any downside that most people don’t consider?
CG: It’s hard to bitch because the time when you’re not in your trailer is so nice, but there’s definitely a lot more time sitting around in a tiny little trailer waiting for your chance to go out there and do it, and to try to make sure that, even if it’s three in the morning and 10 degrees, you’re ready to go out and look like you’ve been fresh and at it all day.
MM: Best advice for the next Clark Gregg?
CG: Don’t do it, man. Go to law school. You’ll know where your next paycheck is coming from. Um, no, the bottom line is, try to find a way to know what you’re doing well enough that you’re having fun. And if you can have fun, then, A, you picked the job where you get to have fun, which feels like the lottery. And if you’re having fun, the audience will be as well.
MM: Finally, how does Thor end?
CG: You want to know the ending? I’ll tell you the ending. Because I want to make sure that this is the last Marvel movie I ever do. Um, you know, at the ending there’s world peace… No, I got nothing for you. I got nothing for you. Turns out Thor’s a woman. Did you see The Crying Game? Weirdly similar. Only in reverse.
PROFILE PHOTO: Dave Allocca