Failed Pilot: Looking Back at ‘MARVEL’S MOST WANTED’
After a stand-out performance in one of last year’s best films, the charismatic Delroy Lindo has found himself in the heat of awards season headlines. With his name back in the public eye, I remembered simpler times in Marvel Television history that many seem to have forgotten. I am referring to that lost period in 2015 when Agents of SHIELD was supposed to have a spin-off, with Lindo set as one of the leads. Yes, acclaimed actor and Tony Award-nominated thespian Delroy Lindo once signed the dotted line to become part of the Marvel Universe on ABC. The series was titled Marvel’s Most Wanted, but it never came to fruition. Public interest in the show died almost as soon as news of its demise came to light, but what we learned about the project in the months beforehand indicated it could have been one of the more unique projects in Marvel Television’s repertoire. So, why didn’t the series make it to air? Let’s take a look at the brief history of this unproduced Marvel unicorn.
It was long before The Avengers‘s success, Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb was trying to adapt lesser-known characters to the small screen. Marvel’s Mockingbird was announced at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. They teased it as an Alias rip-off for ABC Family, where Bobbi Morse was a college student who tried to balance her life working for the famous spy organization and going to college. It was eventually dropped in favor of the MCU tie-in SHIELD show, but to make up for it, an older version of Morse was introduced in that show’s second season, played by Adrianne Palicki. Unable to use classic love-interest Clint Barton organically, she had an ex-husband mercenary. It was the obscure comic character Lance Hunter who got reinvented with Nick Blood in the role. The pair become series regulars for two seasons until, still intent on giving Mockingbird her show, Loeb and showrunner Jeffrey Bell had them written off to become the protagonists of their very own spin-off.
Most Wanted would have been a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-inspired action thriller that saw the duo on the run from a long list of enemies looking to claim a bounty on their heads. At the heart of the story, there would have been the relationship of Morse, a rule-abiding badass, and Hunter, a renegade hotshot, as their semi-romantic dynamic would evolve over multiple seasons. The two would have found themselves in the employ of one Dominic Fortune, a suave rogue adventurer first introduced in Marvel comics in 1975. His wealth of resources would have kept them both alive in exchange for their expertise on assignments. In January of 2016, Marvel TV announced that Lindo will tackle the role of Fortune. A couple of months later, the rest of the cast filled out, with Fernanda Andrade coming on board to play Fortune’s mysterious niece Christina Santos. Oded Fehr joined as the show’s villain, who was teased as a well-known character from the comics. Sadly, his actual role has never been revealed. The pilot even featured a guest appearance from up-and-coming talent Mckenna Grace, who went on to join the MCU as a young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel.
So What Happened?
Although it never aired, Marvel Television did film a pilot. Produced in early 2016, it seemed certain that the project would get a series order, with showrunners Bell and Paul Zbyszewski openly confident in the prospect. However, in May of that year, ABC announced that Most Wanted would not be happening. The news came as a shock to SHIELD fans, who felt cheated out of more time with two fan-favorite characters now permanently expelled from the world of Marvel Television, for what felt like no real reason. Eventually, ABC President Channing Dungey explained the situation with a statement to Slashfilm.
Most Wanted, ultimately at the end of the day, did not feel as strong as some of the other pilots that we shot. We talked about it with Marvel and we all came to an agreement that we want to figure out what the next show is that we do together, is something that we all feel is as creatively strong as it can be.
Most Wanted was given a small chance of survival, as it got shopped around to other networks, but its strong ties to SHIELD prevented any sort of interest from ABC’s competitors. Ultimately, the project didn’t get picked up, and circumstance meant Palicki never got a chance to finish the story of Mockingbird, the character who ironically started it all. Blood did eventually reprise his role as Hunter for a single episode of SHIELD‘s fifth season. Sadly, Lindo and company never got to leave their mark on the MCU as promised, and the rest of us were left wondering if the proposed spin-off would have been as unique as its mother series’ final few seasons.