Simon Kassianides Relishes His Villainy in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Not even the most terrifying villains can achieve their mad schemes alone.

This past week on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” fans received a proper introduction to Sunil Bakshi, Daniel Whitehall’s right hand man overseeing the Hydra division Agent Simmons has infiltrated. In the coming weeks, Bakshi will continue to plague our heroes, including in tonight’s all-new episode at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

With Bakshi coming more to the forefront, we spoke with actor Simon Kassianides about his villainous turn and just what the future holds for him! Just before this you were saying what a big Marvel fan you are–did you read the comics growing up, or did you come in through the movies or TV shows?

Simon Kassianides: I was a bit of a comic book collector when I was a kid [with] Daredevil. I remember growing up and I was rewarded [for] my good grades by getting comic books. I [was] that kid who would queue up to get comic books signed and go in search of the various [back issues]. I just never imagined that there would be these movies that would come to life. It’s nice to be where we’re at, [in a] technological age that we can actually make these amazing movies come to life. And now you get to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Simon Kassianides: Exactly. It’s bizarre, and a very blessed position to be in, I think. Were you a fan of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” last season, before you came on board?

Simon Kassianides: I was a fan, and as a comic book fan I actually liked the tone of the [first season]. It felt like comic book television to me off the bat, which I really enjoyed. It obviously evolved into darker territory, [much like how] there are very dark areas of comic books and there are lighter, more humorous comics as well. The is so vast that it was good to see the show reflect the whole spectrum of the comic book world. And now of course you’re involved in some of the darker moments as Bakshi. It seems like you’re running your own Hydra cell at this point. Is Bakshi just helping Whitehall, or does he have his own agenda and his own cell going on?

Simon Kassianides: I think it’s fair to say that [with] Whitehall, we’re at a moment where the trust and the relationship between the two has reached a point where Bakshi really feels he can act under the authority of Whitehall on his own, using his own judgment. He has the trust of Whitehall and is acting as he sees fit, the consequences of which will play out.  When we [meet] him, we’re getting to know him at that point of [his] evolution, and I think that’s what makes him so interesting.

You’re seeing a dynamic within an organization that we [don’t] know so much about, in terms of Hydra. To see the machinations of that organization and the hierarchy and relationships within that gives it a 3D quality that I like. At this point the audience knows, but Bakshi doesn’t, that Simmons is a mole for S.H.I.E.L.D., but there’s that moment at the end of the last episode where she seems to push Bakshi out of the way of Skye’s bullet. Would you say given his mistrust of Simmons throughout the first half of the episode, he now trusts her more?

Simon Kassianides: Oh, absolutely. I think that it’s such a well-crafted script, because it really isolates so many elements. I think it’s the first time [Skye] actually kills someone in that episode, when she kills Donnie Gill. [Then] up to some point, she doesn’t realize that it’s Simmons, and when she finally does realize it’s Simmons she helps her old colleague. Obviously, Bakshi is blind to this. Whether he mistrusts her for the first half, I think Bakshi is the kind of person that, given the world he lives in, he’s not prone to trust. That’s why there’s so much respect between him and Whitehall because, given the world that they operate in and how nefarious and secretive they are, there is this element of, “trust is hard earned.” I’ve spoken about this with a number of the other actors on the series, the fact that you don’t always know where your storyline is going. They all have different ways of keying into their character’s motivations even when they don’t necessarily know the end goal of those motivations. What was it for you in Bakshi that you keyed into as the way you play certain scenes and motivations?

Simon Kassianides: I love it. May I ask you, what do you think? As an actor, you get a role, and obviously I have an idea of what I’m playing and where I’m coming from, but is it coming across? How am I being perceived? I know that you’ve seen some of the episodes, I’d love to hear your take. Bakshi seems like a believer in Whitehall and whatever Whitehall is achieving. There’s a part of me that feels like what motivates him is moving whatever that agenda is forward, to find what they’re looking for.

Simon Kassianides: I think you’re right. So your question in terms of motivation, I think obviously that’s the framework. That’s what you need to start from. You have objectives. You need to know, I’m a villain. There’s a grand plan which we are executing, and within that, what makes me Whitehall’s right hand man? What makes me that effective? It’s because I’ll go that extra yard. I’ll go that extra step and commit myself to that. And when you’re that committed to any ideology, I think that it allows for elements of insanity, I guess. Your reality becomes warped when you’re that ideological about anything. I’m certainly married to playing extremes, and I also think he’s very, very sinister and creepy. I definitely got a reaction from many of the cast who know me and know what I’m like normally, but when I play Bakshi, they get shivers. He’s just very evil and creepy and nasty and enjoys his [villainy].

He’s certainly at a stage where however he’s come to be, given the backstory that we don’t know much about at this stage, he’s certainly warped or been warped. Whether that’s been trained in him or it’s inherent, it’s not clear, but he’s certainly at that point where hurting people, torturing people, and operating under this ideology is something he quite enjoys. There’s no doubt, in the next episode, you see him really, really, enjoy his work, which is just awful, actually. Anything else you’d like to add about Bakshi and the series before we wrap up?

Simon Kassianides: I’ve been very lucky, I’ve worked across many different universes and places, and everyone [on this show is] lovely. It’s really top-down, and I’ve been welcomed beyond words from the very first day. It’s generally a real pleasure, and an experience that I can not rave more about from behind the scenes. I want you to know that I’m not saying that as an actor who’s gushing. I’m genuinely saying that. I’ve worked on some jobs that haven’t been as fun or nice. That’s important, because I think the fans pick up on the fact that we all, from Clark [Gregg] to everyone, are good people, and I’m really enjoying and am grateful for what I’m doing.

Especially since I’m such a nasty bastard. It’d be nice for them to know that I’m actually nice. [laughs] I’m really concerned. I seem horrible. I’ve been joking, “can everyone just tweet that I’m actually really nice because everyone’s going to think that I’m just this horrible person.” But that comes with the territory, and I’m very glad I’m playing it, so there we are.

Catch new episodes of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC!