Operation Undercover – Brett Dalton for AugustMan Malaysia September 2014
Words by Julie Yim. Photographs by Bryan Kong.
It was time to turn to a television spin-off series to keep Marvel’s fans satisfied, and this brought the birth of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series directed by Joss Whedon, the same man responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers. Whedon’s vision was to give us a chance to really get to know the characters when he initiated the series. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D. featuring Agent Phil Coulson who assembles an elite covert team to handle the threats they face after the battle of New York.
One of the characters we really got to know was Agent Grant Ward played by Brett Dalton. Dalton is the epitome of every secret agent – sexy, suave with a hint of mystery and danger. Throw in a sense of humour essential to every Marvel on-screen production and he’s the right man for the job. But there’s more to this agent behind that no nonsense face. A Yale graduate with a Masters in Fine Arts, Dalton first caught the acting bug after auditioning for a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in high school. “I can still recite most of my six lines,” he divulges. Dalton’s other television credits include an array of acting roles in Blue Bloods, Killing Lincoln, Army Wives, Nurses and Beside Still Waters. He emphasises that he’s not an actor who plays the same role over and over again. “I just want to do something different from my last role. There are a ton of things I’d like to play so at this stage in the game I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s success propelled Dalton to fame, as it made the highest rated drama premiere in over four years and drew in 11.7 million viewers. Dalton’s character Ward is a Level 7 clearance agent working for S.H.I.E.L.D. who is a combat and espionage expert. Luckily for Dalton he tells us that there was no training for the combat. “It’s been one long, at times frightening, experiment learning to do all the stunts and physical stuff. Luckily, the stunt team is amazing. My goal is to just assume I can do a stunt unless they won’t let me or I find out the hard way!” says Dalton. Dealing with people isn’t Ward’s strongest suit and playing his character has its fair share of challenges. For Dalton, it was all the tactical gear he had to put on during his character’s role. “I’m definitely more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy so I don’t know what to do with all those pockets and zippers. I mean, who needs that many?”
Ward’s cool and serious demeanour may have prompted some of the fans to write him off as a no-nonsense unsociable man who is great at his job, but fails miserably when it come to interpersonal relationships. However, Dalton begs to differ that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to his character. “I like to think that there’s two Grant Wards. There’s the ‘specialist with a lack of people skills’ role he was playing for the team and then there’s the ‘real guy’. The troubled soul. Dangerous yet vulnerable. Conflicted and focused. Aggressive and yet guarded,” he clarifies. For Dalton however, he relates to the ‘real guy’ the most. “He’s a bundle of contradictions but he’s true to his own code. He’s like the hero in his own Western,” he says.
His character has also garnered mixed responses from fans, especially after the last few episodes of season one. The words “Hail Hydra” whispered between Senator Stern and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Sitwell in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year dropped the bomb on fans that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by Hydra. This scene was a tie-in to the television series, particularly in the episode “Turn, Turn, Turn” where Ward revealed himself as a secret member of Hydra. The shocking twist left many fans hurt and confused, as Dalton reveals there’s been a lot of hate since the betrayal. “There are definitely some fans who drank the ‘Haterade’ after I turned Hydra. But there have also been a ton of fans who still believe in Ward’s goodness and a possible redemption in the future, hence the hashtags #standwithward and #ibelieveinward. Whatever the case, I think people are excited about what will happen to Ward in season two, regardless of his good or bad status,” says Dalton. An avid Twitter user himself, Dalton decided to take things up a notch and instead of live-tweeting puns, he performed a little stunt using his Twitter account @IMBrettDalton and changed his entire layout to reflect Hydra at the end of the shocking episode. This resulted in a couple of fans who took the betrayal a little too personally. “After the whole Hydra reveal, some people were like ‘I’d like to punch Brett in the face! How could he?!’ I was like, guys please! I’m not really Hydra, I just play one on television!”
With confirmed plans for season two underway, we can only wait to see if fans and Ward’s team will accept him back into the fold. As for now, Dalton is kept in the dark about the upcoming season. “I hope I’ve regained the ability to speak after May bruised my larynx in the finale or this is going to be a very strange season for me. They haven’t told me much about the next season so there aren’t any beans to spill here. But my guess is I’ll probably develop Hulk-like superpowers. Or steal Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. I’m fine with either of those scenarios,” Dalton jokes. Working with Joss Whedon on set has also been an honour for Dalton, especially since most of his work has claimed cult status. “Any time you get to work with one of your heroes is such an honour. You can be alternating between learning, working, and just plain geeking out. Joss is such a creative and collaborative force and hopefully through osmosis a little bit of that rubs off on me.” Dalton also mentioned that some of his favourite comic characters include Deadpool, Punisher and Lobo but when it comes down to choosing sides, he has no qualms about being the villain. “They have so much fun! And they always have something to prove. They’re not trying to save the world or protect the people. That’s boring. Villains are people who want the world to feel the pain and anguish they experience. I don’t know why but I get that. I have sympathy for someone who is so hurt that he doesn’t know what to do with it so it comes out in dangerous ways,” says Dalton.
Most Hollywood actors usually stumble into the industry but Dalton’s repertoire in theatre may have given him an advantage on screen. “It gives me confidence that I somewhat know what I’m doing. When you graduate it’s like you have a Ferrari that you know how to drive fast and you’ve been tuning this thing for three years now. So when you’re just starting out and auditioning for a two-line walk-on for Law & Order you know you can do it. That’s just the lap around the track. You’ve been training for the Indy 500,” says Dalton. With classmates like Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’O at Yale, Dalton’s proud of recent accolades his school mates have achieved. Proving himself to be quite a multi-skilled actor, writer and singer, Dalton reveals that he would love to be part of a second instalment of Dr Horrible but that will be in the ‘wishful thinking’ column for now. He also lets us in on a new film he’s currently shooting in Florence, Italy with writer and director Eric Oppenheimer, where he co-stars opposite Stana Katic. “It’s about a tourist who finds himself abroad and discovers ‘Calcio Storico’ or ‘Historical Soccer’. If you haven’t heard of the sport, YouTube it. It’s insane!”
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