The drama series, debuting 8 tonight on ABC, has the nearly prerequisite comic-book heritage and the added benefit of hitmaker Joss Whedon ("The Avengers," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") as co-creator and executive producer.
Which is why Brett Dalton considers himself a very fortunate actor to be playing Grant Ward, a combat and espionage expert serving with -- take a deep breath -- the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division.
"Nobody's more lucky than me to get this part, and I know that I won the Lotto on this," said Dalton, whose credits include "Army Wives" and the part of President Lincoln's son Robert in the TV movie "Killing Lincoln."
"Marvel's Agents" is a TV follow of sorts to "The Avengers," which already has a sequel in the works.
In the TV show, S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives lack superpowers but bravely search out threats worldwide.
Dalton considers himself well-steeped in the world of comic book-based films. He's partial to the tongue-in-cheek asides of Marvel properties such as Iron Man, compared to the darker tone exemplified by Batman of DC Comics.
A sense of humor is part of "Marvel's Agents" as well. "It goes with the reality of the moment but it's not afraid to give a wink now and then and not take itself seriously," Dalton said.
Dalton said he's shrugging off talk of pressure on "Marvel's Agents" to score big.
"I'm sort of blissfully unaware of that," he said. "I see the billboards everywhere -- how could you not? -- and the ads, but my feet are still firmly on the ground."
His career path was set as a high school senior, when he overcame qualms about the drama club scene ("Theater people could be a little off-putting, a little weird") to try out for a production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
"I knew in the first five minutes of auditioning that this was what I was meant to be doing for the rest of my life," Dalton said.
He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, followed by a master's degree from the Yale School of Drama. In between there were two years in New York, then two more after Yale as he attempted to put his stage training to use.
"The theater didn't decide to take a chance on me," he said, candidly. "So I'm going to go with where the 'yesses' are, and that's from TV and film."
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premieres at 8 tonite on ABC.
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