Ming-Na Wen has long demonstrated the ability to be simultaneously vulnerable and fierce, from her breakthrough role in The Joy Luck Club to her turn as the voice of Disney’s Mulan to her roles in ER, Street Fighter, and Stargate Universe. In many ways she’s the most natural fit of all the actors cast on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but like the spy organization itself (or what remains of it in the show’s second season), there are mysteries to Wen’s character, Agent Melinda May, that could be revealed in the significantly improved season 2. I chatted with Wen after a screening of the season’s first two episodes at the Walt Disney Studios, and she told me what fans can expect from her and her castmates this year…
Nerdist: What excites you the most about this season?
Ming-Na Wen: Well, just the fact that we have a second season is pretty incredible.
N: Was there ever any doubt?
MW: I always doubt. I’ve been around the block a few times. So until we got the true order, I still doubted. And then I got the “Oh, and we’re also keeping you.” [Laughs] So those are all really important insecure questions that an actor always asks. But what’s so fantastic is we’re not stuck on the Bus. I mean, I love the bus. And I love what it can be used for. It’s such a great gadget. But I think a lot of times it was a little bit confining for us as far as the scenes and what we can do. As you can see with the Playground, it’s massive and it just gives us more leg room… And all these incredible new characters that we have to play with, and the mysteries, solving what the 0-8-4 is, what Skye could be, and her father, and me being her SO, and me watching over Coulson. And hopefully, making a lot more discoveries about her character.
N: The producers have loved pairing different characters together who don’t seem like a natural fit. Have you noticed more of that this season?
MW: Absolutely, absolutely. The relationship that Mack, as the mechanic, has with Fitz, that’s a lovely surprise. You would never have imagined that. It’s almost like a [version] of Of Mice and Men, that dynamic, which I love. I think there’s a lot of play for everyone in building relationships. The fact that we have to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D…. Right now there is a certain level of trust because we have to have it, but underneath it lies the inability to fully trust. That is very different from the first season, where we just had blind faith that if you have the S.H.I.E.L.D. badge then you are of honor and you have great integrity. This time around, when we’re finding S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, we’re just never one-hundred percent sure. But when you’re desperate you don’t get too picky.
N: Since the agents have to make their own rules this season, have you found your character increasingly operating outside of her comfort zone?
MW: I think she’s just stepping up to the task. Because realizing now that Coulson is the director, that’s huge. But her loyalty to Coulson is so great that she absolutely feels that she has to step up and almost take over Coulson’s old job; and make sure that the missions are delegated. That things get done, that the ship is running smoothly while he’s gone recruiting. And also keeping an eye on him at the same time.
N: Will she get more of the kind of action that we saw her get with her motorcycle in the season’s second episode?
MW: Yeah, I hope so. I think so. [Laughs]
N: Your character is a favorite among fans. As such, they want to see her happy and perhaps in a relationship. Is there any romance on the horizon for May?
MW: We have a lot of really cute guys with really great bodies, so I don’t mind hooking up with anybody. [Laughs]
N: [Laughs] Thanks for your time.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.