Chloe Bennet can't wait to take a break from saving the world to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family in Chicago.
Bennet has been solving crimes as ace computer hacker Skye in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." since filming began on the ABC series this summer. Over Thanksgiving, she just wants to play football with her six brothers.
"I still get picked last on the football teams. They never pick me. Like, 'Why wouldn't you guys pick me to be on your team?' They're like, 'You suck. You literally just stand there and when we throw the ball at you, you just run away,'" she said during a phone interview Friday. "So I'm like practicing. We play football on set."
"We" includes co-creators Joss Whedon and his brother, Jed, and crew members. The teams vary, but Bennet says she's usually the only woman in the mix.
"They don't know what they're in for this Thanksgiving," she said of her brothers, admitting that she still isn't too formidable on the football field. "The skill isn't there, but I have the courage and the intent. That's all that matters."
Bennet brings those qualities to her character, the only member of the crack crime-fighting team run by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who isn't a full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.
"Even though she may not have complete confidence in what she's doing, she'll go and try it anyway and if it fails she'll kind of make a joke about it," Bennet said of her character, "and that's very similar to me."
Born Chloe Wang, Bennet tried a lot of sports while growing up two miles from the United Center because her brothers—a mix of biologial and adopted siblings—played baseball, hockey and football. She realized sports weren't for her, and while in first grade at Near North Montessori she discovered theater.
"I think I was used to having the spotlight. Having six brothers I think I did anything I could to be like, 'I'm the girl!'" she said. "I basically dived into theater and into acting because I just sucked at all sports."
She starred in school plays and at 13 studied improv with Second City's youth ensemble, where she "fell in love with getting into character and getting to perform," she said. A music manager discovered Bennet, who's half Chinese, when she was a 15-year-old at St. Ignatius College Prep. She moved to China not long after, living with her paternal grandmother while working to become a pop star.
Although she scored a hit song with "Uh Oh," Bennet says her time in Shanghai never felt natural to her. "I felt like I was still putting on a character, like I was just acting like this pop star," she said.
After two years abroad she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career, eventually scorig a recurring role last season on ABC's "Nashville" before booking her role as Skye on "S.H.I.E.L.D."
"I love being able to play smarter than I really am. It's a lot of fun. I feel much cooler. It's a dream come true," she said, adding that even her brothers think she's kind of cool now. "They think I'm a little more cool than I was before. Still, they're not that impressed."
Bennet talked more about the show and growing up in Chicago. (Read what she had to say about the Nov, 19 episode, "The Well," here.) Read more about "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." at ABC's site.
Hi Chloe, how are you?
My fellow Chicagoan. Are you in Chicago right now because if so I'm very jealous.
Yes I am.
You are getting very special treatment because I've been on a lot of interviews this morning and you're getting the most time because you're a Chicagoan. I need to let you know that, how much I love Chicago.
Do you enjoy being the smart ass of the show?
Of course. Yeah, I love being able to play smarter than I really am. It's a lot of fun. I feel much cooler. It's really fun. You know, she's a wisecrack. She's very charismatic and she's really quick and is really able to think on her toes. And I like to think that I'm a bit of that, but not nearly as smart as she is. Again, I'm not a computer genius, a computer hacker ...
But yeah, it's so much fun getting too play Skye. It's a dream come true getting to go to work every day and getting to work with our cast. Everyone's pretty smart. We're all S.H.I.E.L.D agents for a reason.
She's always been sort of our entrée into this world because she's learning along with us. But you're kind of an old pro at this entertainment thing, aren't you?
Not really. Are you slyly referencing Asia?
I'm referencing Asia a little, but you've been doing this since even before Asia. Since you were in Chicago.
I grew up on the South Side. I grew up two miles away from the United Center. And it wasn't the best neighborhood and my brothers played baseball at Near West Little League and my dad coached. And [we did] AYSO (American Youth Soccer Association) along the Lakefront, I tried out for football and we went to hockey and everything. And I just was terrible at everything.
And then I went to Near North Montessori. I did theater there since I was in first grade because you do class plays every year. That was my favorite time of every year, getting to do those class plays. And then when I was 13 I did Second City and I just fell in love with getting into character and getting to perform. So from there it kind of took off I guess. It all started in Chicago.
Then somebody found you and off to Asia you went.
Off to China I went. I went to the homeland. Yeah, when I was 15 I moved to Shanghai and kind of started singing there. And it never really felt natural for me to be there as a singer. ... I kind of brought that into reality and I was like, "You know, what I want to be doing is acting." So then I got signed out in LA and I moved here. It'll be four years this January.
And now you're on team S.H.I.E.L.D. With six brothers you're sort of used to being in an ensemble, huh?
Yes I am. It's funny, it's nice that I have a little family here in LA now because it's difficult being in LA and being away from my [family]. I'm so close to my family. And now that I have a bit of a family out here with the show and our cast and it's nice. It's nice to have them here. Now my brothers kind of think I'm cool.
How is it having Ming-Na as a costar? Two Asian-Americans in this ensemble's pretty cool.
Yeah. It's funny, I'll see comments or something saying that the show isn't diverse but there has never been a show where two of the leads are Asian-Americans I don't think. And women especially, ever. That's hugely groundbreaking. And Maurissa Tancharoen, who is executive producer, creator, writer as well—Jed's wife—she is also Asian. So we have a good thing going here. It's fun.
It's so fun because Ming is nothing like her character. I mean she is always laughing, always cracking up, always making jokes. She's such a good time. And she's helping me brush up on my Mandarin so we'll speak Mandarin to each other on set and that's really fun. And, no, she's a lot of fun.
My favorite was at the "Thor" premiere when she could have easily gone up and introduced herself to Chris Hemsworth, but instead she just opted for taking fan-girl pictures behind him, like never introducing herself. Which is the best. Me and Elizabeth Henstridge were getting a kick out of it.
That's funny. A few more Chloe questions. Coulson's totally lying to Skye about what he's discovered about her background.
Everything that drives Skye in everything that she does is to find out more about her family. And in this last episode, she had the opportunity to open up these classified files and learn more about her family for herself and she chose to save Ward and Fitz—which is like a big moment. Everything she's working for [was there], but instead she chose to go with the family that she's kind of fallen into. It's such a nice kind of paradox, when you're looking for something and sometimes you don't realize that it's right in front of you.
That's kind of what's happening with Skye. She's looking for her family but I think she's slowly starting to realize how much she cares about these people. ... She's realizing how much she loves these people and how much they really are becoming her family. I think all the characters are doing that.
She and Coulson are really having this beautiful father-daughter relationship and he, by getting those files for her, it was a very dad-like thing to do.
And he also withheld information from her with the only intention being trying to protect her. That's something that a dad would do for his daughter. I think it's surprising him and it's surprising Skye as well how much they're kind of bonding, which is really sweet.
He's trying to find out what happened to him. Do you think that's partly why he's so protective of her, too? They are experiencing something similar in that respect?
I think he's getting a lot of a taste of his own medicine. Coulson's saying trust the system, trust the system and in the last episode he gets told trust the system and he's like, "Oh God, maybe now I know what it feels like to be on the other end of things." Like do I even want to trust the system? What is the system? Like why is the system withholding this information?
He didn't tell Skye because it was for her own good that the files have these bloody pictures of this woman. Because that could be her mom and who knows and he hid that from her. But, you know, S.H.I.E.L.D isn't telling him this stuff for a reason and we'll find out why coming up.
And we do find out why?
Yeah, definitely more information is happening. Episode 10 is a really big cliffhanger. I mean I could not wait to read Episode 11; it was like torturous waiting. So we are right there with the fans waiting to find out what happens. But, yeah, it was a big cliffhanger.
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