How Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson Became A Central Character In The MCU

Did you know that Clark Gregg's appearance as SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson was never meant to be a recurring role, never mind a role that would be central to Marvel's first television series? Find out how Agent Coulson ended up in Thor, which cemented his prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As you probably recall, Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson first appeared in Jon Favreau's Iron Man, pestering Pepper Potts in an effort to try to get a meeting with Tony Stark before helping her uncover the true plans of Jeff Bridges's villainous Obadiah Stane. Gregg's role in the film was mainly to serve as comic relief and to set up Marvel's first end credits button featuring Samuel L. Jackson as SHIELD head Nick Fury. And apparently that was all that Marvel had planned for the character.

What propelled Agent Coulson into a more central role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Thor screenwriting team Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. During his recent appearance on Kevin Smith's "Fatman on Batman" podcast (via ScreenRant), Stentz explained how Coulson ended up in the film:

This was a page one re-write, based very loosely on story beats that they gave us... there were beats that they had, and beats that they didn't have, and we were kind of working them together. At one point it was like 'Okay we want S.H.I.E.L.D. to be in there' and they're like 'We can't have S.H.I.E.L.D. as the bad guys!' 'No, not the bad guys, just the people opposing Thor; they'll be the good guys by the end, trust us.' And then they're like 'Well, you can have S.H.I.E.L.D., but Sam Jackson's holding us up in negotiations so we don't know if we can have Nick Fury. And we're like 'Well, how about that Clark Gregg guy from the first Iron Man, he was great and he popped! Can we have Coulson?' And they're like 'Coulson, Coulson, Coulson... oh him! Yeah, you can have him.'... They ended up giving him a bigger role in Iron Man 2 because they liked how he was popping in Thor. Clark Gregg actually sent us t-shirts as a thank you.

So there you have it: Samuel L. Jackson's reluctance to sign a contract led to Agent Coulson's increased role in the MCU, leading of course to his own ABC television series The Agents Of SHIELD.