When you think back on everything that's happened during Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of the biggest shocks was Brett Dalton's Grant Ward character turning out to be part of HYDRA. Despite turning towards the dark side, Dalton is a fan-favorite on the show and he makes several appearances at Wizard World conventions, including his upcoming appearance at Wizard World Comic Con San Jose.
We got the chance to talk to Brett about the upcoming third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to find out what Ward has planned for HYDRA. We also talked about the just released Until Dawn video game for the PlayStation 4 and his upcoming movie projects. All that, plus cat t-shirts.
COMIC VINE: What’s it like attending the Wizard World Comic Con shows and meeting all the fans?
BRETT DALTON: It’s great, man. I do these things because of the fan interaction. I could definitely sit at home and…our work schedule keeps us busy enough but it’s important to me. I get to see how this is landing and what people care about and their raw emotions. Not everybody likes my charm as a bad guy, for instance.
I get a lot of concerned mothers who want me to go good again. It’s nice because we put in these long hours. We’re learning fight choreography. We’re learning lines and rewrites the night before. We’re doing this thing that we all love and are excited about but it is done kind of in a bubble. We’re doing this in the studio and it’s not live theater. We’re not seeing exactly how it’s landing, other than through Twitter. This is really cool to be face to face with fans who are invested and watch them each week. It’s because of them we have the show that we have, the following that we have, and because of them we have a third season. I think it’s a very rewarding to go and meet everyone that’s inviting us into their homes each week.
CV: Many still support the character of Ward. How’s it feel playing a character rooted in such grey areas?
BRETT: Awesome. I’m so thankful for these writers. They’re a thousand times smarter than I am. I couldn’t have even imagined the places they’ve taken this character. He started off as one thing. He started off as a guy who didn’t play well with others, but there was a lot that was hidden. I didn’t know there was the whole spy thing going on so I kind of thought that’s all there was to him. Really what you find out towards the end of Season One with the whole turn is really what you were seeing is just a mask. You were seeing a cover and there’s so much more hidden underneath. That’s what we got to explore ever since then. It’s been great!
The writes could have done the easy thing and said, “Yeah, he’s a spy but, man, he’s got a heart of gold. He’s getting back with the good team.” It would’ve been a very quick storyline. I think that was certainly one way for them to go, but I’m glad they didn’t take that choice. I don’t know why, but I think maybe they saw how much joy I was having playing this guy. There’s a delicious ambiguity to it. What he’s doing and why he’s doing it, it’s really a slow burn, and hopefully an interesting one, about him making all these really definitive moves. We don’t really know why. Then you find out later. All of Season Two was him making these crazy moves as if they were pieces one a chess board. He’s making all these moves and we find out later why he was doing it. Then it all suddenly makes sense. Very cool. I’m very happy to be playing this guy.
CV: How much we’ll see you in Season 3?
BRETT: You will see more of me in Season Three than you did in Season Two. I’m the main baddie now. I don’t think you’ll see me every week, but you’ll definitely see me more than you did in Season Two. I’m looking forward to that. We shot some. We’re about four episodes in. The stuff that they are writing for me, and for the show…the stuff they’re writing for the show is epic and I feel like any one of our first couple of episodes could be a season finale. It’s crazy. I don’t even know how we’re going to shoot all this stuff. What they’re writing for me, in particular, I think is some of the coolest stuff I’ve been able to do on the show. That reminds me, I have to send a thank you note to the writers.
CV: Can you tell us what Ward’s HYDRA might be like?
BRETT: I can say a little bit. I always say that we’re rebranding, and I go to town with this. It’s my favorite thing to do, to talk about how we’re rebranding. We’ve got balloons, streamers, and cookies now. We’re changing our logo to a happy face with squiggly arms. But that’s all just fun. That’s not actually what we’re doing.
This is not like your father’s HYDRA. In the past, they have been about world domination and all these things like that. It’s not so much pro-world domination as it is anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. This is the yin to Coulson’s yang. This is HYDRA in Ward’s vision. Ward isn’t for formality and all of that. Nobody’s twirling their mustache in this particular version of HYDRA. Nobody’s spitting back with their sniveling or cackling in an evil way. That’s not what this is about this season. It’s maybe a more stripped down version of it. But it’s going to be cool because this is somebody that we know is extremely capable and might have a grudge or two against Coulson. S.H.I.E.L.D. can be directly responsible, in his eyes, for two failed relationships that he’s tried to have which were very important to him—one with Skye and one with Agent 33. If it weren’t for S.H.I.E.L.D. meddling in all his affairs, he’d be a much happier man. So there’s an axe to grind.
CV: I know you and the rest of the cast and crew get along but did they ever look at you a little different after Ward’s character started to turn?
BRETT: Yeah, yeah. I know there’s been a lot in Season One. I feel like there was a bit of art imitating life in there, for sure. I don’t think anybody saw that coming because that’s far from who I am. Ward is far away from who I am in real life. They hadn’t seen any of those colors in my acting either. I think they were simultaneously seeing this on screen and if they have scenes with me, they’re seeing that in person. They’re seeing all these sort of new sides that the writing is allowing me to do. There was this whole thing. We weren’t on set at the same time a lot. So whenever I was there, you could sort of feel the energy in the room change a little bit. I think we’ve gotten over that. That happened at the end of Season One. I think we have kind of gotten over that. It’s still a pretty charged situation, I’d say…on screen, when we’re all in the same room together because there’s so much history. Personally, we all love each other. Professionally, when we’re working, there’s a whole bunch of interesting conflict in there.
CV: What was it like doing a character in the Until Dawn video game? I’m about to get my copy.
BRETT: Oh dude. That was awesome. That was one of the first jobs I got outside of grad school. That had gone through so many different variations. You’re going to get to play it before me so let me know how it goes. I’ve seen a couple of things. I’ve seen the trailers and the gameplay that’s on YouTube. I’ve checked out a few of those. It looks cool. I haven’t had a chance to actually play it.
The story with that is they held legit auditions. It wasn’t just a voice over thing. You were actually using the space, all of that stuff. They were throwing things at you during the audition. I wanna say just throwing ideas but I feel like, and maybe I’m just mis-remembering this, but I think they did actually throw things. Maybe it was just ideas. Like, “Oh, there’s a deer head now, coming at ya. They held auditions. They wanted real actors in this, not just voice over actors. It was originally for the PlayStation 3. It was a completely different style of game. It’s a decision-based game. There was some of that but you were also using the controller as a flashlight and all of that stuff.
PlayStation liked it so much, they said, “Why don’t you remake this now, for the PS4?” They did a whole big recasting thing. I think they wanted some bigger named actors, at the time. I happened to be a bigger known actor because of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was the perfect time for that. They kept me on. I got to work with Rami Malek from Mr. Robot. I got to work with Hayden Panettiere. If you see the graphics in there, they’re insane. I think they’ve done a really good job of making something with one foot in the campiness of teen horror, but then the other foot into genuine creepiness. I think that’s hard to do in a video game. I feel like they kind of nailed this thing. I feel like the reviews out there are kind of supporting that. It’s not just me talking about how good this video game is I’m in. It’s cool, the kind of feedback we’re getting from legit critics. Tell me how that is, man!
CV: I recently watched Beside Still Waters. While it was a different role from Ward, do you find you put a little of your own personality into the different characters you play?
BRETT: Sure. I think every actor does. Beside Still Waters, I would say I guess that characters is less of a departure than Grant Ward is. I say that only because Grant Ward…I never thought of myself anywhere remotely in the action-based comic book world. That’s just not how I was cast up until now. For them to see that and take a chance and assume I could do all the fighting and everything, I must have done a relatively convincing job at pretending I could do all of that. The sort of likable jerk in Besides Still Waters is probably closer to my wheelhouse.
It was a lot of fun. What I liked about that was it was the experience I wanted or dreamed about going into acting in general. It was one of those things where we got to live together for four weeks in this cabin where we were shooting. All of the interactions and all of the relationships between all of us was something we were kind of finding in real life and were translating on screen. Regardless of how the film turned out, we walked out with being best friends for life and also this experience is removed from the finished project that was very special. It’s a particular time in our lives we’ll never forget.
CV: Any word on The Tourist being released?
BRETT: You’ve done your homework, Tony. Thank you. The Tourist was supposed to be released this year. It will probably happen overseas at a film festival premiere before it has one here in the states. That’s my understanding of it. I think they’re hard at work on that.
This past summer I did shoot something in Chicago called The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. That one is definitely on pace. It’s like a train moving at this point. WWE Studios is behind that one. I’m excited whenever my parents can go to a local theater and see a movie I’m in. For me, that’s a successful venture. That’s what I’ve always wanted. I hope that will become a reality with this one and The Tourist, sometime very soon.
CV: How many HYDRA t-shirts do you own?
BRETT: At least two. Yeah. I have two. If you ask me how many [laughs] cat shirts I have, that is growing into the dozens at this point. I get them from fans. They just get more and more ridiculous. One that I recently got is a kitten and there’s a thing on it that says, “Swerve.” Another one I got that is quite funny and truly absurd is a kitten riding a tyrannosaurs rex. Why? I just don’t know. They’re almost so bad that they’re good. That’s the line that I like to ride. I like to wear stuff that’s almost so ridiculous and goofy that it kind of becomes cool.
CV: Maybe you could work it into Ward wearing one on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
BRETT: Now that would be good. That would be good. If I could somehow work my sense of humor and my puns into the show and also my love of cat t-shirts…I’m made. I’d never want to leave the show. That should be it. We’ll wait for the spin-off. Okay, Tony? We’ll wait for the Ward spin-off and it’ll be him after hours eating ice cream late at night watching Orange is the New Black and wearing cat t-shirts.
CV: I would definitely watch that.
BRETT: Thank you, thank you. And any other ideas you have, just send them my way. Needlepoint? I bet he’s really good at that. Crocheting. Ballon animals, maybe? You gotta think outside the box. [laughs]
Brett will be appearing at the Wizard World Comic Con San Jose on September 4-6. Until Dawn is now available for the PS4. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three premieres on ABC on Tuesday, September 29.