Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Framework’s First Victim Speaks
Warning: The following contain major spoilers from the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven’t watched yet, you might consider bookmarking this page and returning once you have. Proceed with caution.
The Framework has claimed its first victim.
In tonight’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Patriot himself, Jeffrey Mace went out in a blaze of glory. While attempting to rescue a room full of abducted children from their Hydra brainwashing alongside Coulson (Clark Gregg), Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), Ward (Brett Dalton) and—shocker of all shockers—a Framework resurrected Tripp (B.J. Britt, making his first appearance since being killed off in 2014), May (Ming-Na Wen) ordered an air strike on the building, collapsing the entire thing down on the strongman and his comrades. He managed to hold the building up long enough for everyone to escape, waking May from her Hydra devotion in the process, before getting crushed.
And as they say, if you die in the Framework, you die in real life. Cut to Aida (Mallory Jansen) opting to disengage a flatlining Mace. Was that a tinge of sadness on her face we noticed?
To process the loss of Mace, E! News got the man who brought him to life, Jason O’Mara, on the phone. What follows is our unedited Q&A.
E! News: The Framework had claimed its first victim! How’d you take the news that Mace was going to fall?
O’Mara: Not good. I was at craft service drinking a cup of coffee and I did a spit-take. It was not good. No, Jeff Bell and Jed Whedon came to my trailer and they sat me down and they said, “We’ve got some good news and some bad news.” I said, “OK, what’s the bad news?” They said, “You’re going to die in the next episode.” I was like, “OK. And what’s the good news?” And they said, “It’s a really good episode.” [Laughs] “It’s a really good episode and there’s lots for you to do.” And at least Jeffrey Mace goes out a hero, was always their intention, and really clever as well, the way he ended up the hero he always wanted to be. Perhaps not in real life, but certainly in the alt-world of the Framework. I was both thrilled that he got the ending he was supposed to get, but also obviously extremely disappointed because you know I feel like the S.H.I.E.L.D. cast and crew became my family and I didn’t want to go. But when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
Like you said, he does get to die a hero, not only saving the child, but turning the tide in May’s devotion to Hydra, possibly helping turn the tide to get everyone else out of there. What did it mean to you for him to get that meaningful death?
I mean, because I think it means a lot to Jeffrey Mace, whether he’s aware of it or not, it means a lot to me. When the character was first pitched by Jeph Loeb at Marvel and then subsequently by Jeff Bell and Jed Whedon, the idea was always that he would be a hero throughout. He might be doing the wrong things at times, but his intentions were always good, and that track. You can track that throughout his meandering roller coaster season four story. Even though he might’ve come off as a bit of an idiot at times or came off manipulative and a little bit sneaky, I think ultimately it was because he wanted to be that hero. So the fact that he becomes that is hugely gratifying I think both for Jeffrey Mace and for me because nobody wants to go on to a Marvel show and be anything but a hero or a villain. That probably goes for the movies, too. You want to be one or the other, and to be somewhere in between, that grey world where Jeffrey Mace lived for two episodes in season four, is a little strange. So the fact that he went out the way he did, as the Patriot saving many lives, and also at the hands of Agent May—which is ironic because one of the first memorable scenes I think from Jeffrey Mace’s first episode, which I think was episode two of season four, when he lifted her up by the neck and said “I’m Inhuman” and knocks her out against the wall. So perhaps it was some sort of her Framework subconscious revenge for that moment. I don’t know. [Laughs] But he goes down at the hands of May, she’s the one that called in that air attack. And she’s also the last one to leave him before he dies. It was a pretty cool moment.
You mentioned those episodes where he was a little slippery and keeping secrets. He did go through so many reveals when the audience and those in SHIELD who knew nothing about him. First we didn’t know anything about him, then he was an Inhuman, and then he was a pretend Inhuman. What did you enjoy about getting to be the center of so many twists? Was it hard to keep those secrets?
Well, I was nervous at first because there were so many characters and embargoes and things that we could and couldn’t say. Obviously, Marvel prides themselves on their storytelling, but also that they want the audience to discover the story as they watch, which I think is fair. And certainly as actors, we don’t want potential fans or audience members to have knowledge of certain plot points because it takes the fun out of it. So, I totally understand that. But at the same time, it can be quite complicated sometimes keeping track of the story that you’re shooting on set and the story that the audience is aware of and figuring out which episodes they seen and haven’t seen. So obviously you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself, but, I mean, look, all I ever ask for as an actor is “Give me something to play. Give me a story, give me a character arc, give me an emotional journey, and I’ll be able to do my work. And they really did that. And while they sort of play out like these twists in the story, actually, for Mace, it was a really interesting journey and I think he went from someone who was given a lot of power really quickly, both figuratively and literally, that he wasn’t ready for in any way, shape or form. We saw this human who basically wants two things. He always wanted the quality between humans and Inhumans, and to protect them, and also wanted to do the right thing, ultimately. Talbot put him in a very difficult position and he did the best he could, but honestly, he was in way too deep, which is why I think he tried to redeem himself when he takes the last of the serum and tries to take on the Russians. And that was the last time we saw him conscious as Jeffrey Mace, which was when Coulson and Mack take him out of the prison cell after he’d been beaten and tortured. That’s the last time we see him as Jeffrey Mace, conscious. Every beat after that, he’s an LMD. And then when we see him asleep, obviously his mind is in the Framework, so it was a really, really interesting arc. There were up and downs, reveals and surprises, but Jeffrey
Mace’s character stayed real throughout and that’s a real credit to the writers.
That final moment when Aida shut him off in the real world, was it strange to have to film that moment and just stand there?
The wrap party was last night because season four wrapped last night, so there was a cast and crew wrap party at the stages where we film. And there were some of those vertical beds that were in at the party, and they showed a gag reel—and I don’t know if they’re going to include it on the DVD. I hope they do at some point, it’s really funny. And one of the outtakes was Aida shutting Jeffrey Mace off, and the reason it was an outtake was because I have to hold my breath while she walks in the room and walks down the long line and walks up to my panel and slowly switches it off and then the camera lingers, the camera lingers…I badly needed to take a deep breath and so the outtake was me going [mimics frantic gasping for air]. So I don’t know if that’s going to make the DVD. [Laughs] The main concern was just not falling unconscious from lack of oxygen. When you’ve got your eyes closed like that, it’s not really acting. You’re
just trying not to lose consciousness.
Is this truly the last we’ve seen of you? I mean, look at Brett Dalton.
Who knows, who knows. I mean, look, no one’s ever really dead in the Marvel Universe, but at the same time, who knows what’s going to happen. I’d like to think that he could come back in someway, but he is crushed under a large building of rubble and we saw him, in the real world, his heart stopped. So, I don’t know.
Well, should this be the end, what are you going to miss the most about the show and the character?
I think what I’ll miss most about the show—and I know other actors have talked about this and I’ve probably talked about this ad naseum—is there’s a real sense of family established. I think it was Clark Gregg really who set the precendent from day one that this was going to be a place where people can have fun, yes, but also we’re there to do a job. Everyone comes in prepared and brings their A game every day and tries to make this fantastic world feel real. And everyone
is there to do that exact same thing, and they’re all there to achieve the same goal. The cast, the crew, the writers, everybody—they do an incredible job doing that. But somewhere along the line, they found the way to establish this familial, safe, friendly and loving atmosphere, this environment where people can thrive. And I’ve been on other TV shows around Hollywood and all around the world, and that’s not always the case. Personalities take over. Sometimes there are tensions, and that’s just not what happens on the S.H.I.E.L.D. set. It’s something very, very special in the heart of Hollywood. That’s what I miss most of all.
But obviously, it’s pretty cool being a Marvel hero and putting on a superhero costume. When you’re on set and they’ve set up this stunt where they’ve put some guy on a wire so that then you punch him, he flies 50 feet up in the air in camera, you know, live. You can see it on the monitor. That’s pretty cool. All they do for the special effect is remove the wires. But it’s actually happening in camera, and it gives you this feeling of omniscient power in the moment. And that’s
a lot of fun.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.