Titus Welliver talks Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., reuniting with Bill Paxton

Titus Welliver talks Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., reuniting with Bill Paxton

The April 1 episode of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., “End Of The Beginning,” will be a crowded one: Saffron Burrows and Bill Paxton return as agents Victoria Hand and John Garrett, respectively, but also Titus Welliver—whose Amazon pilot, Bosch, is going to series—as Agent Felix Blake, making his first appearance on the series since last November’s “F.Z.Z.T.” 

“End Of The Beginning” is a reunion on a couple levels: Welliver and Clark Gregg, a.k.a. Agent Coulson, are former roommates who attended NYU together, and it’s the first time Welliver and Paxton have worked together since Welliver’s first film credit, 1990’s Navy SEALs. Welliver talked to us about it ahead of the “End Of The Beginning” premiere.

The A.V. Club: It appears that your film debut was in a little motion picture called…Navy SEALs.

Titus Welliver: [Laughs.] Yes, it was! And it was pretty cool, I have to say. Prior to that, my experience of working on film was doing students films. That was the lovely thing about attending NYU: They had an equally strong film department with the acting department. And a lot of friends were in the film department and would say, “Look, we need someone for this little 8mm short…” So I really did not have a lot of experience in front of the camera. Almost all of my experience had been on stage, so it was a huge learning curve. And the story kind of comes full circle, because if you recall, Bill Paxton is in that film. I came on that set, and I was very, very nervous, and Bill Paxton and Charlie Sheen—I mean, they were all sweet, but specifically Bill and Charlie—just kind of took me under their wing. And I just remember Billy saying to me, “Hey, man, it’s the same thing you do on stage, only a little bit smaller. Don’t worry about it. We gotcha.” And Bill and I have seen each other off and on over the years, and, of course, I just worked with Bill again, and I’ll never forget him for that, because it was such an act of grace that he saw the green kid really kind of trying to figure it out, and he just came in and allayed my doubts and bolstered my confidence. I mean, this is a guy who I had enormous respect for, whose work I had enjoyed over the years, and here I was actually acting in a scene that he was in. And he fulfilled all expectations that I had.

I always tell that story when I see him, and Bill always laughs, and he goes, “Aw, shut up…” [Laughs.] But, you know, I still draw from that. He kind of set the bar from me. It made me realize that it’s incumbent upon actors with experience, when you’re working with someone who does not have the experience, to extend yourself to them. And Bill did that. And I’m forever in his debt for that. It was a very, very beautiful thing.

But, yeah, Navy SEALs, man. “Redneck In Bar.” [Laughs.] That is my first role on camera, and, man, when I look at it, can I tell it’s my first role on camera! ’Cause I do not have a clue what I’m doing. I really don’t. And maybe I still don’t, you know? But that was a lot of fun. And I actually got to hang out with some real SEALs. And one thing that I can say 100 percent is, don’t go out drinking with SEALs. Unless you’re a seasoned professional. Because you run the risk of, uh, long-term injury.

AVC: So how was it to get to work with Paxton again on S.H.I.E.L.D.?

TW: It was a lot of fun just to be back with Billy, ’cause I’ve not worked with him since then. It was fun to kind of come full circle. But something that was really kind of hysterical—and so emblematic of Bill—was that Clark Gregg was talking to me about Bosch, and, you know, it was, like, “Oh, yeah, this is so exciting,” so Bill says, “What is it?” And I said, “Oh, you know, it’s Hieronymus Bosch.” And Billy took it literally, that I was doing a television series playing the painter Hieronymus Bosch.

AVC: Hey, if they can do Da Vinci’s Demons

TW: Exactly! It just forever endears Bill in that way. I love that he’s, like, “A series on Hieronymus Bosch? Okay, that makes perfect sense!” But who the hell is gonna watch a series about the painter? I mean, I would. [Laughs.] But I think it would be a small audience. But, anyway, yeah, we worked together again, and…you’ll dig it. There’s some really, really cool stuff coming up on S.H.I.E.L.D. But, you know, every time I step on that set, I just go, “Oh, man! I’m on the S.H.I.E.L.D. airship! I’m on ‘The Bus’!” I love it. You know, I wanted to take pictures, and they’re, like, “Uh, no. No pictures. And no tweeting about that you guys are doing the show!” So of course we were sworn to secrecy, but I was, like, “What is it all of a sudden where everything I’m in and everything I do is all top-secret and I can’t discuss any aspect of it?” [Laughs.] But you will not be disappointed with what’s going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s really, really cool. I mean, it’s so cool.

Given that Welliver dressed as Nick Fury for three consecutive Halloweens as a kid, he probably knows what he’s talking about.

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