Aside from Clark Gregg, S.H.I.E.L.D. has an unusual dearth of veteran Whedon actors for a Joss-Whedon-created show, but according to TVLine’s sources, J. August Richards is signed on to the production. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who graduated to become fans of Angel will remember him as Charles Gunn, member of Scooby Gang 2.0.
Exactly who Richards will be portraying on the show remains a mystery. TVLine has been told that it’s a “a super top-secret role.” Whether that’s a particularly representative paraphrase, or whether “sources” simply declined to say is up to the reader, I suppose. Whedon has stated that he wants the show to focus on the people at the peripheral edges of the superhero community, and though the show will have characters with superpowers, they won’t necessarily be in traditional “superhero” roles.
MTV Splash Page, for example, posits that Richards might wind up playing Luke Cage, one of the first black superheroes to star in his title, and a character who has always remained fiercely on the fringes of the Marvel universe, fighting for the downtrodden average citizen of New York City (who hopefully can pay his rent in return). With a simple suite of powers; just super strength and invulnerable skin, he didn’t need Thanos or Loki to show up in order for his book to have a solid conflict in it. He’s a perfectly logical pick for a cameo in the new S.H.I.E.L.D.
…Provided the first season of the show involves any canonical, superpowered Marvel characters at all, which I wouldn’t say that I’m confident of. Show runners are going to want to introduce us to their complete cast of original characters and get us invested in them before they start tackling their integration in to the larger established Marvel universe, to say nothing of coordinating established character appearances with the larger Cinematic Universe to avoid continuity jags. Maybe we’ll get an update soon on Richards’ role, and maybe we’ll just have to wait until this fall!