'Agents of SHIELD': A cellist and a villain take center stage in latest art -- EXCLUSIVE

“The cellist” — it was meant to be a throwaway line, a small piece of insight into Agent Phil Coulson as he took more of a center-stage role in Marvel’s The Avengers. Instead, viewers latched onto the idea that their fan favorite might have a bit of a mysterious love life…and ever since, speculation has swirled over if we would ever hear more.

With the idea becoming a reality in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 19th episode “The Only Light In The Darkness” (airing April 22 at 8pm ET), it’s no surprise that the third piece of art in Marvel’s groundbreaking initiative, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Level Seven,” focuses on S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s protagonist and his famed lady love. This week’s gorgeous rendering was designed by Pascal Campion, an accomplished artist and animator. In addition to teasing the introduction of Audrey (Amy Acker), it also subtly hints at the villain in next week’s outing — none other than Marcus Daniels, aka “Blackout.”

See what executive producer Jeff Bell has to say about this week’s art and its tie in to next week’s episode in EW’s weekly conversation below. As a reminder, this art — as well as all future art in the series — will be available for purchase as a limited edition high quality print exclusively through MarvelStore.com starting at 1am PST tomorrow.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I think that personally, this is my favorite piece of art so far — but I want to know specifically what you love about it, and what it makes you feel.
JEFF BELL: For me, it’s funny, because I was going through old movie posters that I’ve collected with some people here recently. And looking at them, I realized I was very attracted to figure ground work — you know, black, white, finding shapes within shapes and that stuff. And then I look at this one, and it’s exactly what I love. It uses negative space, it uses the black and the white, it uses the color…and for me, it’s very emotional with what the episode is about, with Coulson, his past, the cellist, with who our villain is in this episode and how he’s represented. It’s clean, it’s simple and graphic, and I think it’ll look great. You know how sometimes things look good close, but they don’t really look good far away? And to me, this is a really classic poster. I like the little red Marvel box at the bottom, but I love that this is something that I think will look really great across the room. There’s lots of details in it as well that you can really dig into, with Blackout in there.

I love how it shows Coulson looking at his badge, and the light on his face is seemingly coming from that point — a reflection of the fact that even with everything that’s happened, S.H.I.E.L.D. is his one guiding light.
And I like the way that color also reflects the color in the cellist, so she kind of feels part of that, too.

Can I just say how excited I am that we’re finally seeing the cellist?
It’s so funny how one line in a movie…it tells you the power of  Clark, and the power of the character, that there’s that one line and suddenly it’s who is this person? And what is this person? And when are we going to see this person? And we talked about it a number of times over the season, and we had different versions and different ideas how to get there. But when the Fridge was emptied, suddenly we had a real legitimate reason to go there and bring him back. At a time when he’s at his most vulnerable, it seemed to be a good choice for us.

Given what’s depicted in the art here, can you tease a little bit about how Blackout fits into the episode?
He’s the antagonist, in the same way we’ve used other Marvel characters as antagonists in the episodes. At the same time, we’re dealing with the fall-out of what happened with S.H.I.E.L.D., and the viewers finding out about Ward and what’s going on over there, so there’s a lot going on.

Was there any particular reason for introducing him now, as opposed to an earlier point in the season?
Emotionally, he’s perfect. Here’s a character who absorbs light, and one of the things he says to Audrey — which is the title of the episode — he refers to her as “the only light in the darkness.” And his obsession with the cellist is a beautiful metaphor, I think, for who Coulson is to her, who she is to Coulson, who S.H.I.E.L.D. is to the world…and the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. falling apart, and Hydra coming out and darkness speaking, the idea of having Blackout as an antagonist seemed perfect.

That idea fits the theme of not only the series, but these tentpole Marvel films — pretty much every character has that one “light” in the darkness that they’re drawn to, that person that they can count on for support.
And Patrick Brennan, who plays him, has such a nice presence and just really took to the role when we first were discussing it with him. We described it many ways…it’s not a big verbal part, it’s a part where so much of the reaction comes from the reaction and the presence. And he really got into that, and he just really enjoyed bringing that quality. He’s a tall man and he’s got these great eyes and he really got excited about that. You know, a lot of actors count words, and a lot of our parts are physical. A lot of what J. August Richards has done as Mike Peterson as Deathlok is a physicality and a look. And as we explore Dreathlok moving forward, I think you’ll really see that. Just the pain and the anguish and the strength on J.’s face playing Mike Peterson is my favorite thing, and Patrick does that for Blackout as well.

I love how everything in the show seems to be shifting emotionally, and how that’s reflected in these art pieces. Because I feel like while the show started very action-heavy, it’s now really fixated on grabbing an emotional response from viewers.
I think that’s true. And part of it is earning the emotions, and it takes time for people to get to know our characters. But I do think that a lot of the emotional aspects are coming to the front, especially with pain and betrayal and love — all these big massive primal feelings, we get to play those out, which is terrific. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Samantha Thomas, a producer on the show, and Arune Singh, Executive Director of Television Communications, Marvel Entertainment, are really the masterminds behind this. Really, it originated from them.

Is there anything else you can tease about the episode, or anything fans should look for in this particular piece?
I think it’s pretty well reflected there — let’s let the art speak for itself.

“The Only Light In The Darkness,” airs Tuesday, April 22 at 8pm ET on ABC.

More coverage from EW on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Level Seven:
‘Agents of SHIELD’ first-look art teases Clairvoyant reveal — EXCLUSIVE
‘Agents of SHIELD': New initiative art teases team divide — EXCLUSIVE

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