Clark Gregg and Jason O'Mara in MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4 - "The Good Samaritan" | ©2016 ABC/Eric McCandless

Clark Gregg and Jason O’Mara in MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 4 – “The Good Samaritan” | ©2016 ABC/Eric McCandless

Jason O’Mara plays new S.H.I.E.L.D. director Jeffrey Mace in MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD, now in its fourth season Tuesdays on ABC. Previous S.H.I.E.L.D. director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is now back to being Agent Coulson, alternately helping and clashing with Mace as the organization deals with threats from within and without. These include Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna), who believes he’s made a deal with the Devil, and international laws regarding individuals with extraordinary powers. Coulson knows, although the world does not, that Director Mace is one of these individuals.

O’Mara, a native of Dublin, Ireland, most recently starred in USA Network’s COMPLICATIONS. Before that, he starred or costarred in a number of series, including VEGAS, TERRA NOVA and the U.S. version of  LIFE ON MARS. At a party thrown in the Beverly Hilton Hotel penthouse by Marvel Television for the Television Critics Association press tour, people are wishing O’Mara a happy birthday. People are also simultaneously congratulating Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb on his daughter’s birthday. It is indeed O’Mara’s birthday, but, he notes with a laugh, he is not in fact Jeph Loeb’s daughter.

JASON O’MARA: But we share a birthday, obviously. I haven’t spoken to him about that, but that’s kind of cool.

ASSIGNMENT X: You’re joining AGENTS OF SHIELD in its fourth season. Is it kind of a relief coming onto a show that’s been around for awhile, instead of launching it and wondering if it’s going to continue?

O’MARA: Yeah, it is. I mean, I was on THE GOOD WIFE a couple of years ago, but that was only really for a few episodes. [The role] was supposed to go longer, but I got a pilot, COMPLICATIONS, that I wanted to go off and do. So I’ve never really jumped on to a moving train like this, signing on, saying, “I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know where it’s going to lead me.” I don’t think anybody knows. So we’re just going to see what happens. It’s pretty exciting. It’s a really well-oiled machine. I’ve been on a lot of film and TV sets, and this production is very smooth. And they’re a very tight-knit group. There are no divas, there’s no trouble. It’s fun and creative and hard-working.

AX: You’re Irish. John Hannah, who is Scottish, joined the SHIELD cast last season. Did you know each other from before?

O’MARA: I’d never met him before. I was always a fan. I think that’s probably why they wouldn’t let me keep my accent, because there’s John, there’s Ian [de Caestecker, also Scottish, who plays Leo Fitz], there’s Elizabeth [Henstridge, the English actress who plays Jemma Simmons]. The Celts are represented – I’ll say “Celts” in a loose term, Scots/Irish – and the Brits, so as much as I’d like an Irishman there, I think it’s probably fitting that this [Mace] guy is American.

AX: As SHIELD’s new director, is there a dynamic in acting as if you’re riding herd over these people who’ve all been working together for such a long time, or is that in fact the dynamic, that they’re all going, “Who the hell is this guy?”

O’MARA: Yeah, absolutely, that’s part of the dynamic, “Who the hell is this guy?” He is the new director of SHIELD, so he doesn’t really have pre-existing relationships with anybody. So the audience will see in real time how he’s developing relationships and dynamics with the team, obviously in particular with Coulson.

AX: Is your character Jeffrey Mace a character from the comics?

O’MARA: In the press release that Marvel put out, they said he’s from the Forties. So it must be part of that pre-existing universe, yes.

AX: Were you familiar with the AGENTS OF SHIELD comics, or any of the individual characters from the series via the comic books?

O’MARA: I wasn’t familiar with SHIELD’s comics, no. My introduction to SHIELD was through CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and THE AVENGERS. In the Seventies, for me, it was more IRON MAN, FANTASTIC FOUR, HULK. The HULK TV show was big as well at the time, SPIDER-MAN – I was always a fan of CAPTAIN AMERICA. I never really got to the SHIELD world somehow.

AX: Were you a Marvel guy versus a DC guy growing up?

O’MARA: Both, because when you’re a kid, you don’t see the difference. So I was also a BATMAN, SUPERMAN fan for sure. So yeah, when you’re a kid, you don’t realize there’s a franchise thing of superheroes. But to me, they can co-exist. I did the voice of Batman for the DC animated movies, the NEW 52 movies. So there were a few people on Twitter who were having fun with the fact that Batman is now the Director of SHIELD. But I figure with voice work, it’s not like it’s my face out there. It’s not like Ben Affleck’s becoming Director of SHIELD, so I don’t think it’s going to spoil people’s point of view.

AX: I can’t ask you plot questions, because you can’t answer them …

O’MARA: I literally can’t.

AX: Is that kind of weird, where you’re getting a script a week before, and nobody will tell you what your character does or doesn’t know about certain things?

O’MARA: It’s a little weird. I’m not used to it. But I think it comes with the territory. You sign on for a franchise universe, and I think it’s to be expected. With STAR WARS and DC and Marvel, these worlds, they’re trying to tell stories. Everybody wants access to the stories, and they’re still trying to surprise people. So I think it’s important. I’m up for it. Even though it’s kind of frustrating sometimes. They’ll clarify something if it needs clarifying. But they’re also pretty good at this by now, so they can tell if there’s a scene that’s actually going to affect the dynamic between characters. They’ll be able to tell you enough to be able to play that scene, for sure, but they don’t ever tell you more than you need to know. So all you can do is play what you do know. That’s kind of a challenge in itself as an actor. So it’s okay. If they’re the rules, I’m up for it.

AX: Do you like working not just for Hollywood, but literally in Hollywood? Was COMPLICATIONS shot in Los Angeles?

O’MARA: It was shot in Atlanta. This is the first time I haven’t had to get on a plane to go to work. I can’t remember last time. Maybe LIFE ON MARS. But even then, I was living in Connecticut and driving to New York. It’s not the first time I’ve worked actually in Hollywood – I’ve done loads of shows in L.A., but I was always living on the East Coast. So I had to get on a plane to work. I did THE AGENCY, I did INJUSTICE, I did THE CLOSER, GREY’S ANATOMY, CSI: MIAMI, TRUST ME. All these shows were here, in Hollywood – I was regulars on INJUSTICE and THE AGENCY. This is the first time I’ve lived on the same coast, lived in the same city as I’m filming here.

AX: Do you like working here?

O’MARA: I do. I love working here. This is Hollywood. This is where it’s at, this is where the stuff gets made.

AX: Do you have any other projects we should know about?

O’MARA: I did a movie for Netflix [now available] with Jamie Dornan called THE SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE. It’s an Irish war story, set in 1961 in the Congo. It’s one of these stories that needs to be told, based on true events. I’m very excited about that. Fact-based, based on true events. And another movie called WAKEFIELD with Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner, a really nice independent project.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about your work on AGENTS OF SHIELD?

O’MARA: Just that I’m having a blast on set and everyone’s being really nice to me, and I’m really enjoying getting my teeth into this character.

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ArticleMARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD: Jason O’Mara on being head of SHIELD and Season 4 talk

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