The Best Birthday Ever: My Visit to the Set of ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

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I’m the tall one in back. – Photo: ABC/Adam Taylor

I’ve had some pretty good birthdays in the past – more of them than I care to remember, in fact – but my 2015 birthday, which came last month while I was in L.A. on my Marvel/Disney/ABC press trip, has taken its place at the top. That’s because I spent several hours of my birthday on the set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., talking to the show’s cast and crew, and watching a scene being filmed. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been being able to share it with my family, but my fellow bloggers who were on the trip are pretty great people, too.

It was very apparent to all of us during the set visit how much advances in technology can change your instincts. We’re all so used to, whenever we see something interesting, or cool, or just weird, to be able to take out our phones, snap a picture of it, and then post it to social media at the earliest opportunity. Imagine how tough it is to walk around the set of one of your favorite TV shows – with your phone in your pocket – seeing literally hundreds of things you desperately want to take pictures of, and be forbidden to take pictures of anything or post to social media at all. The photos accompanying this article, and a few more that I’ll publish next week, are the only visual evidence of the awesomeness that was my set visit.

There is nothing that is more likely to render a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. speechless as being ushered through a nondescript door and being greeted by the sight of Lola on her ramp. And that was only the beginning. After sitting down for a while next to the ramp (which actually raises and lowers) to talk with most of the show’s cast, we were allowed into Coulson’s office in small groups. I thought it was cool to notice that the wall of the office that’s used for displays actually has a display on it – it’s not all done with CGI in post-production – and as a computer geek I thought it was funny to notice that the text scrolling by at the bottom of the screen, which is practically illegible on-screen, appeared to mostly be Linux error messages. (I so very much wish I could show you a picture of it!)

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On the Quinjet, of course. That’s me in front, on the left. – Photo: ABC/Adam Taylor

After a tour of the Quinjet – where I was able to strap myself into a seat – we went into the lab, which was just as awesome as it looks on-screen. It took some serious willpower to stop myself from picking up or playing with everything I passed. We were shown the lab table, which is in most of the scenes in that room, and we were told that they often put different items on the table as Easter eggs – including one, they said, related to Doctor Who. (One of these days, I need to go through the episodes so far and try to pick them out.) The sets were just amazing – if there hadn’t been a mess of microphones and wires and such where the ceiling should have been, it would have been possible to actually think it was real.

We were taken on a tour of the Costume and Wardrobe Department, where the awesome Ann Foley, who runs it, showed us all kinds of interesting things, from Agent Morse/Mockingbird’s jumpsuit to the amazing sequined dress Agent May wore in episode four of the current season (“Face My Enemy“). I had never given much thought to how important the costumers’ jobs are to a show like Agents of SHIELD, but after seeing the many racks of outfits and hearing about how they’re able to produce clothing that looks like it could have come from a famous designer in a matter of weeks, I will certainly be more aware in the future.

We got to see “the pit” – the isolation room with not much more than a bed and a toilet. It was interesting to note that the set for the room is almost as tight a space as it looks on-screen – getting the right camera angles in there must take serious expertise. We were taken in groups to the prop area, where Chloe Bennet (“Skye”) and Luke Mitchell (“Lincoln”) were sitting, getting ready to film a scene from the season finale. We got a chance to chat with them for a few minutes, and then we were taken to an area with monitors showing the action as it was filmed, and given headphones so we could hear what was going on. We watched them film a very important and interesting scene from next week’s season finale – but that’s all I can say about it.

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The old SSR logo on the base. I hope it’s obvious which one is me. – Photo: ABC/Adam Taylor

Then, alas, we had to leave. The folks who were giving us the tour were incredibly nice people, and because they had heard it was my birthday, they gave me a limited-edition deck plan poster of the Bus. It was the perfect cap to one of the coolest experiences of my life, and I know I’ll never forget this birthday.

Be sure to tune in to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tonight at 9:00 ET/PT on ABC. Tonight’s episode is titled “Scars,” and is described in the official press release:

Skye is torn between her loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. and her connection to the Inhumans as tensions rise between the groups — and Coulson reveals a secret he’s been hiding from even those closest to him.

Based on the scene from the season finale that I observed, tonight’s episode is bound to be pretty earth-shattering (and considering Skye’s powers, that might not be entirely figurative).

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