‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: James Paxton Talks Taking Over the Role of John Garrett
James' dad, Bill Paxton, first played John Garrett in Season 1!
The last person you might expect to see cross paths with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. again is John Garrett, but that’s just one of the many surprises to come out of the final season. As the agents jump through time aboard the Zephyr One, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes us back to the 1980s. There, Nathaniel Malick happens to come across Garrett, who is fresh out of S.H.I.E.L.D training and more than willing to align himself with the growing power of Hydra.
Since we’re back in 1983, we’re seeing a new actor take on the role of Garret, but he’s got a major connection to the original Garret we met back in Season 1. James Paxton, Bill Paxton’s son, now plays the role originated by his late father, who passed away in 2017.
Ahead of the series finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., Marvel.com hopped on the phone with Paxton to talk about his involvement with the show, what his dad would think about him taking over the character, and what we can expect from the last two episodes!
Marvel.com: Your dad, Bill Paxton, was a huge part of the S.H.I.E.L.D family and originated this character all the way back in Season 1. Before you got involved with the show yourself, what was your exposure to it? Have you been watching it since the first season?
James Paxton: I watched the whole first season, obviously. I remember visiting him on set and getting to know everybody and it definitely made me want to take an active interest in watching the rest of the show.
When I read for the show, I got to rediscover it. It was like this really fun kind of familiar old place to revisit. I wanted to re-familiarize myself, so I watched as much as I could.
But it's such an in-depth world. There's so, so much. I'm not an expert. But I definitely certainly am a fan.
Marvel.com: How did you get involved with the show? Were you approached by the showrunners saying, “Hey, we're going to bring back a young John Garrett, we'd love for you to do it”? Or did you hear about it and say, “I want that role.”
James Paxton: I visited my dad on set a lot when he was filming in the first season. I came on set just to kind of meet everybody and he was having so much fun on the show that he said, “Everybody's the coolest, you've got to come and see these sets too, they're amazing.”
On that day I met Jed Whedon and he was really nice. So flash forward to last year, I was sent an audition through my agency for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That role ended up being Freddy [Malick].
I read for that, and then a couple of weeks or something later, I got another audition and that was for Nathaniel Malik. I went, “You know, I wonder if I could drop Jed a line, just saying hi and just telling him I read for the show a few times.” I actually found his email in my dad's old contact book and sent an email just saying, “Hey, I remember meeting you all those years ago. I just auditioned a few times. Congratulations on the ongoing success of the show!”
He responded back and said, “Hey, we've seen your auditions. We really like your work. We've actually got something special in mind, but I can't tell you about that just yet.” Later, he emailed me again and asked me what I would think of taking on the role of young John Garrett.
I think it was their kindness and their remembrance of my dad and wanting to honor him, because he was so fond of everybody involved in that show. I just remember how much fun he would talk about having while shooting.
Marvel.com: How do you think your dad would react knowing that you're playing his role?
James Paxton: He would really be over the moon about it. He would be hooping and hollering about this one, for sure. I honestly have thought about that many times, because it was quite emotional for me at first when Jed asked me [to play the role]. But then I immediately was flooded with thoughts of like, how this is meant to be. This is what he would have wanted. This is such a beautiful way to connect with him again. And I know he was just really excited about it.
Marvel.com: Your father was so beloved by everyone in the series. Do you know how the cast reacted when they learned you were going to be taking over the role?
James Paxton: They couldn't have been more welcoming or excited when I walked on set. I was really nervous, so it was so surreal for me. But they kind of put me right at ease because they basically just all gave me a huge hug as soon as they saw me. They immediately just started regaling stories of shooting with my dad and then talking about how full circle and amazing and happy they were that I was there.
I was just kind of dumbfounded and speechless at how welcoming and nice they were. Because they're a family. They've been the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D for so long. They're tight-knit, but they weren't hesitant to open their arms and be as welcoming as they possibly could be. They're just a fantastic group of people.
Marvel.com: The John Garrett you're playing is technically a new role since he is much younger. What did you want to keep from the original version, and now bring to your version of the character?
James Paxton: I wanted to keep basically everything that my father's John Garrett had. But I wanted to heighten every one of those things. Like, I wanted to kind of turn the dial-up and turn the volume up so to speak, on everything. I wanted to turn the excitement up tenfold. And I wanted to keep this danger to John Garrett, where he's kind of unpredictable but he's loving every minute of it. You know, he'll take you out, but he's smiling and laughing the whole time that he's doing it. It's just like, I wanted to keep that kind of sick kind of twisted enjoyment of all things, you know, bad, so to speak, villainous.
Marvel.com: Did you perform any of your own stunts?
James Paxton: Yeah, I did! I was really, really proud of the fight scene between John and Melinda May because that was the first time I ever did any real fight choreography on screen. The stunt team is amazing on that show, I mean, incredible. Actually, Ming-Na's stunt double is also named Ming, but Ming Qui. She was really fun to work with. I was really nervous about that part, because the part was so physical, and it comes down to timing on those-- on throwing those punches and throwing those blocks and the kicks. I really was new to it.
I worked with them for about a week straight. My stunt double was Alex Kingi. And he actually doubled me on a different show as well, and he was in there. But I noticed when I saw the episode that it looked like most of what you see on screen is me!
Marvel.com: Having Ming with you for your first big fight must have been great. Did she give you any pointers?
James Paxton: She totally did. For the fight scene, it was mostly Ming Qui giving me pointers. But Ming-Na actually gave me a lot of pointers in general about looking like a badass supervillain. Especially in the most recent episode, when I teleport in and take Cora. Ming-Na really worked with me on getting that landing right. Basically, when I teleport in, I'm already kind of like crouched down. She wanted to help me work on that landing. Because I was doing it, and I had no idea what I was doing.
She was like, “That's not a supervillain, come on. James, we can work on this.” She kind of literally showed me what she would do. And then I did it — she's way more flexible than I am — I just did it as best I could. But I was happy with how it looked. I really appreciated her advice.
Marvel.com: We're heading into the last two episodes of the series, ever. What can you tease about the finale?
James Paxton: The finale is kind of that moment where everything's been boiling on the kettle, and the lid just can't take it anymore, and it starts rattling, and everything turns into chaos. Lots of action on a very, very large scale. And John Garrett has a lot left to do.
Marvel.com: What do you just hope the legacy of S.H.I.E.L.D and John Garrett is? Next time someone watches the show on streaming, what do you hope these new viewers take away from the series?
James Paxton: Well I think they need to take away the feeling that like, John Garrett has always had a tumultuous relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D, clearly. But I just hope that he is looked upon and remembered as one of the most beloved and colorful characters, villainous or not, in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D world.
Season 7 of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. concludes Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
For more information on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” visit ABC.com, follow @AgentsofSHIELD on Twitter, and like “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on Facebook for all the latest news and updates.
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