TV URBAN LEGEND: Graviton on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was promised to another actor originally.
Shows like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. inhabit a strange place in the world of comic book adaptations. Obviously, with some extremely rare exceptions, TV and movie adaptations of comic books tend to make a number of changes from the source material, even the shows and films that people would normally categorize as a “faithful” adaptation. Take Avengers: Infinity War, for example. That was a pretty darn faithful adaptation of Infinity Gauntlet, except without some of the most important characters of the series! As a sequel to his Warlock work and as a continuation of his then-current Silver Surfer run, Infinity Gauntlet writer Jim Starlin gave a starring role to Warlock and a major role to Silver Surfer, neither of whom have even made their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut yet!
However, network shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have any even trickier time, because they’re dealing with a much smaller budget than any superhero film, so there’s a certain amount of adaptations that the show just literally could NOT do because of budget limitations.
Not only that, but a problem specific to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was the fact that the show initially felt beholden to the MCU despite the MCU effectively ignoring Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D throughout its run. So to put it simply, there were a lot of limitations that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was dealing with when it came to adapting the comic books, and as a result, the producers sometimes made some major changes. One of the most notable examples of this was with the shows depiction of Graviton
WHO DID GRAVITON TURN OUT TO BE ON MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.?
The powerful element/super-metal, Gravitonium, was introduced early in the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the plot line with the metal seemed to just sort of peter out and seemingly was done for good, but then suddenly, it was brought back in a big way in Season 5, when S.H.I.E.L.D. acquired the metal from Hydra and Carl Creel, the Absorbing Man (one of the few notable Marvel comic book supervillains that the series actually was able to do a version of, albeit a bit subdued of a version) absorbed the metal, and it was starting to drive him insane.
He sought out Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, a recurring antagonist of S.H.I.E.L.D. (perhaps “frenemy” would better describe him), as he had worked as a bodyguard for Talbot after Creel had been cured of some Hydra brainwashing. Talbot removed the Gravitonium from Creel and took it into himself, which gave him very strong superpowers but also drove him mad with power.
Taking the name Graviton, Talbot’s hero complex to try to protect the Earth inadvertently put the whole planet into danger and in the end, S.H.I.E.L.D. had to kill him (or at least the TV show version of kill him, which is to say who knows what happened to him?).
However, while Talbot ended up being Graviton on the show, he was not always going to be the one who became Graviton. The story behind that was a fascinating piece of bait and switch.
WHO WAS ORIGINALLY PROMISED THAT HE WOULD BECOME GRAVITON?
Ian Hart was originally cast as Franklin Hall, the scientist who in the comics became Graviton. So naturally, when he fell into the Gravitonium in his episode in Season 1, it seemed natural that he would eventually return as Graviton…only it didn’t work out that way.
Hart, for his part, signed on specifically TO play Graviton. He described to Den of Geek his problems with how it all went down, “They’re a bunch of lying gets! The lying gets told me [in a West-coast American drawl] ‘Oh, we’d love you to do it, it’s going to be the greatest thing ever. What’s going to happen is, he’s going to disappear, then reappear, and it’s going to be fucking great. You’re going to be this and this. And then that was it! They went ‘yeah, we’re going to go a different way. We have a different idea for the character right now, and for different villains in the Marvel universe, right now we’re not going for that character’, so I went ‘Alright mate, see you later!’.
However, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunners Jeff Bell, Maurice Tancharoen and Jed Whedon explained to CBR that it had just gotten away from them, with Whedon noting, “You know, we don’t like to leave things dangling. Honestly, the only time we do it, really, is when there’s a scheduling conflict or something that’s keeping us from tying it up. This was one we knew we had out there and, if we ever got to a place where we thought it could be over, we were going to bring it back. So, going into our fifth season not sure if there’s a sixth, it felt like the right time to do it. In terms of who became Graviton, we wanted someone who’d been on the show the whole time. Talbot’s one of the only characters who has been in every season.”
Tancharoen added, “We find antagonists are more impactful if we’ve had a relationship with them. Also, Talbot in all his iterations — like, he was an antagonist when we first met him, and then he became a partner of ours, but sort of an uneasy alliance, and then of course he was shot in the head and he went through some brain damage and we see him trying to sort through all that.”
So it doesn’t sound as if they meant to do Hart wrong, but that ended up being the case after he had been off the show for so long.
The legend is…
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.