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Brett Dalton returns to ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on March 8, but he won’t be playing agent-gone-bad Grant Ward.

“The Grant Ward that we know and love is no longer, unfortunately,” Dalton told me at the January tour of TV Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s kind of heartbreaking actually, after 2 1/2 seasons.”

In December’s winter finale, Ward seemingly was killed by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) on the planet Maveth. But by the end of the episode, Ward was back on Earth and stopping HYDRA’s Gideon Malick (Powers Booth) as he was fleeing from S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

Except it wasn’t Ward. Dalton gives hints about the new Ward and what’s to come in upcoming episodes in the Q&A below.

Brett Dalton and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns 9/8c March 8 on ABC. Watch the winter finale.

 

Brett Dalton

Will Ward (Brett Dalton) face off against Coulson again in “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” (Greg Gayne/ABC)

 

Will you be playing a totally new character with no traits of the old? Well, he looks like you.

The outside definitely is the same. [Laughs.] He’s going to look and sound like Ward. And he’s also going to have the thoughts and memories. As we saw with Will, he still has access to his host’s mind.

 

Is that kind of weird for you?

Yeah, you have great affection for this guy that you’re playing. I don’t play the most straightforwardly likable character in the Marvel Universe, so I feel like I’m kind of constantly defending him and his actions. I’m like, “Oh no, no. He’s just misunderstood. He’s not a villain. He’s the anti-hero.” I love the guy. He does some really kind of bad things but he does them for the right reasons. There’s a lot of that. … We’re going to see—. It’s hard to describe and it’s hard to not give away anything.

 

Will this creature take orders from others or take over HYDRA?

I can’t really say anything, but HYDRA as an organization has existed exclusively to go through this portal, get this creature and bring it back. They also do some crazy stuff on Earth and et cetera, et cetera. That’s the part of HYDRA that we’ve seen.

Now that it’s here on Earth and mission accomplished for Malick  and HYDRA, what does that mean? … We’ve been trying to do this forever. Now that we’ve done it, now what? Where does Malick fit in in this picture? Is this thing what it’s cracked up to be? Is Ward somewhere in there? Does that thing have superpowers? These are all questions that Malick has and we get to see it sooner rather than later, all of these. It’s an exploration for the audience and for me as an actor because I’m figuring this out, too.

 

Do you now have to stick to what Ward was? Or are you free to play a different role?

I see it as an opportunity to play another character. Grant Ward still is in there somewhere but it’s Grant Ward plus something else. And as I said I’m taking this as an open door that I’m walking into and the possibilities are endless really. I’m not bound by anything anymore. This is somebody who I can play however I want.

 

Ward has sort of changed each season, hasn’t he?

I know; it’s neat. He got probably one of the biggest character arcs in the show. I’ve been very thankful for that. So you get to kind of play A and Z and everything in between. I’m very thankful for that. Good writing.

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Brett Dalton

Ward (Brett Dalton) won’t be the same when “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns March 8 on ABC. (John Fleenor/ABC)

Brett Dalton bio at ABC Go