When ABC rolled out Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a few years ago, we had our doubts. What’s a superhero show without superheroes? But you know what they say, always bet on Marvel. The hit series kicks off its fourth season Tuesday at 10/9c. One big reason for its success? Young Chloe Bennet, who boasts 1 million Instagram followers and stars as Daisy Johnson—an actual superhero formerly known as Skye.

And though she’s just 24, Bennet (formerly Wang) is loaded with experience, dating back to her work with the Second City Youth Ensemble in her native Chicago, a recording career in China—her biggest hit, “Uh Oh,” was released in both English and Mandarin—and a recurring role on Nashville prior to S.H.I.E.L.D.

As this season begins, Daisy is wracked with more guilt than Stallone at the beginning of Cliffhanger—alone and blaming herself for a fellow agent’s death. So we asked Bennet a bunch of juicy questions about her show and her life…

“Physically my character is strong, she’s a badass, so I feel right for her when I’m in great shape.”

What’s new on the show?
It really feels like we’ve closed all the loose ends from the first season to the third season, and hit the reset button. We have a new director [Jason O’ Mara], and he’s changing the tone of S.H.I.E.L.D., the way things are done. It will be interesting for the audience to be dropped into the new world and see how we’re all getting along. Daisy has gone rogue. She’s really in pain. Everyone she’s gotten close to has died. She feels that her way of protecting the team is to distance herself from them because that’s the only way to keep them safe. She’s serving penance for what she’s done.

What do you love most about her?
Her empathy. She has such a big heart. People have asked, ‘Why is she so cold this year? Why has she turned dark?’ She loves these people so much that she’s willing to sacrifice and distance herself to protect them. She’s incredibly powerful and I think she’s grown so much, skill-wise. But you’ll see the toll of being rogue, being on her own because S.H.I.E.L.D. regulates the heroes and their powers for a reason.

Is there a lot of action this season? How do you prepare?
In the first episode there’s some pretty awesome fighting. A month before shooting I trained for two hours every day—boxing, kickboxing, choreography—just so I can have a base and be ready for any fight scenes that come my way. It gets harder to maintain it during the season because the only time to train is after a 16-hour day at work or before a 14-hour day at work. That’s not very fun. When I’m really sore and tired I don’t like it. But it puts me in the mindset for Daisy. Physically she’s strong, she’s a badass, so I feel right for her when I’m in great shape

Are you a badass?
I think I can be in certain ways. I love that Daisy’s physically a badass and she can kick ass, but I feel like she’s redefined what that means. It doesn’t mean being more masculine. I think her most badass traits are her kindness, her empathy and her heart.

“Being a teen pop star in China is as crazy as it sounds. You have to grow up really fast.”

You grew up with six brothers. Were they overprotective?
Yeah, I could never bring a date home. But they’re my best friends.

As a teenager, you became a pop star in China. What was that like?
It was as crazy as it sounds—being plucked from obscurity in Chicago to experiencing the pressures that you have when you’re such a young girl in a completely foreign country. There are a lot of things that come with that psychologically. I learned that therapy is really important. You have to grow up really fast. I think it really prepared me for the weight that comes with being a big part of a network show. Twenty-two episodes is no joke. The stamina and endurance that you need to stay mentally and physically healthy during the season is a lot more than people think.

Do you want to do more with music?
I sing in the shower! I would love to do a movie that involves a character who sings.

Lead photo: Kurt Iswarienko/ABC

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