Last night the first promotional photo of the cast from the new Joss Whedon series "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premiered. And here it is in all its *anonymous* 'glory'...
Left to Right in the Photo:
Chloe Bennett as Skye
Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Simmons
Ian de Caestecker as Agent Fitz
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson
Ming-Na Wen as Agent May
and Brett Dalton as Agent Ward
and the first tease...
not pictured in the photo: J August Richardson (Gunn from Angel and, curiously, the only Whedonverse alum featured), is also in this... though his role and the size of it is still a mystery. My guess is he's the superpowered character at the very beginning of that teaser (leaping from the building). I imagine without his presence in the cast photo and with the notable absence of Samuel L Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury, people will start worrying about a non-diverse cast but its worth noting that this is way more women than Marvel usually allows to share a frame (thanks Joss!) and Ming-na & Chloe are both of Asian descent.
* Anonymous but for the familiar face of as Agent Coulson who, you'll remember died at the hands of Loki in Marvel's The Avengers just last summer. But, you know, the Marvel Universe so there ain't no such thing as death. That's one of the main reasons I stopped reading comic books in truth: without any consequences or stakes or results in the narrative that aren't reversed the very next year (if not sooner), all stories lose their meaning. Will Joss & Team find a way to make Coulson's resurrection seem artistically driven rather than a motivating by crass synergistic branding purposes? It's not like Buffy didn't have its share of life and death reversals but they magically seemed to deepen the stakes (no pun intended) rather than eradicate them.
I have no idea why but I've always been fascinated by the protocol of promotional cast photos. It seems like the most militaristic and joy-drained aspect of anything in showbiz: all strictly regimented, deadly homogenous and utterly without surprise. On purpose! Examples from the Whedonverse after the jump.
Rule #1: The leading player is always centered
Rule #2: The characters should be grouped by their relationship to the main character.
Rule #3: The effect should be one of a lineup curtain call.
Rule #4: All actors should drain their face of any emotion. They are props.
Rule #5: The costuming must be unobtrusive (unless costuming is a character as in Mad Men)
Rule #6: The background must be a nondescript wall of flat color and/or the workplace setting of the show in question.
Let's look back at Whedon's TV history.
I chose this image from Buffy's promotional history as a bit of a slight variation on the theme -- Crouching Spike, Buffy on Pedestal, nobody ready to hold hands and bow for the adoring fans -- but most of the rules are still intact and you can find many images from Buffy which fit neatly into the standing lineup, no emotion playbook.
Do you care about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or are you desperate for Marvel to release Whedon back to his own original show creativity? Do you like those anonymous cast lineups that nearly all TV shows do prior to each season's debut?