Plenty of Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have appeared in both the movies and the TV shows over the years, perhaps more than people realize. Back in 2013, Marvel Television launched their first MCU TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and at the time, viewers were promised the movies and TV shows would remain interconnected. As a result, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 featured explicit tie-ins for Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while season 2 had a subplot that linked to Avengers: Age of Ultron. But it didn’t last forever.
Over the years, the connections between the movies and TV series have lessened. In large part because of behind-the-scenes drama on the studio level; back in 2015, the relationship between Kevin Feige and Marvel Entertainment’s leadership soured to the point that Feige is believed to have threatened to quit. Disney intervened and implemented a corporate restructure that pulled Marvel Studios out of Marvel Entertainment and placed it under Feige’s control.
Ever since then, the links between the films and ever-expanding slate of Marvel TV shows have been a lot looser. They’re still there, of course; the villains of Cloak & Dagger season 1 were a company called Roxxon, which has been referenced a few times on the big screen as well. But they’re subtle, and viewers only really spot the connections if they’re actively looking for them. So let’s examine less of the more overt references. Specifically, which characters have made the jump from the big screen to the small, from the movies to the TV series?
Phil Coulson (MCU Phase 1, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
The most obvious charcater in both Marvel movies and TV is Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson. An original character created by Marvel Studios for 2008’s Iron Man, Coulson became a major player in Marvel’s Phase 1 movies – right up until his tragic demise in 2012’s The Avengers. But death is a revolving door in Marvel Comics, and the same appears to be true in the MCU as well. A resurrected Coulson became the star of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ascending to the rank of director of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the end of season 1.
The series has fleshed him out remarkably, turning the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent into a compelling and dynamic leader – complete with a cyborg hand that projects a force-field shield. Coulson’s story finally came to an end in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5, when the Kree science that had resurrected him began to fail and he resigned himself to his fate. S.H.I.E.L.D. left him on the beach of Tahiti, where he settled down with Agent May to enjoy his last few months of life.
Coulson will return (after a fashion) in this year’s Captain Marvel, which is a back-door origin story for the celebrated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent; it remains to be seen whether or nor that causes any continuity problems for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Meanwhile, Clark Gregg will be back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6, and the identity of his not-Coulson character is as yet unknown.
Nick Fury (Multiple Movies, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury was introduced in the post-credits of 2008’s Iron Man, in which he welcomed Tony Stark to a wider universe of superheroes – and set the entire MCU on the road towards The Avengers. The S.H.I.E.L.D. director became a major secondary character through the first and second phases of the MCU, launching the Avengers Initiative when Loki stole the Tesseract from Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.. Fury is a shades-of-grey character with a dubious morality, which has frequently led to conflict with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. His story took a major twist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when he learned that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by Hydra and worked with Captain America to bring his own organization down. Since then, he and Maria Hill have been working as freelancers, appearing in both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War.
Fury appeared in several episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, where he was revealed to have orchestrated Coulson’s resurrection using Project T.A.H.I.T.I.. He helped Coulson’s team out in the aftermath of the Hydra uprising, rescuing Fitz and Simmons from drowning, and placed Coulson in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. as his replacement. It looks as though Nick Fury will be a major figure in Phase 4 of the MCU; he’s one of the major MCU cameos in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and there have been rumors Jackson is signed up to reprise the role in one of the Disney Plus TV shows as well.
Maria Hill (Multiple Movies, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Fury’s most trusted lieutenant, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, was deputy director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a key operative. She first appeared in 2012’s The Avengers, working on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, and as a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. operative naturally appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Hill played a major part in the pilot episode, recruiting Grant Ward into Coulson’s team.
Maria Hill stayed loyal to Nick Fury during the Hydra uprising in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., she took a job with Stark Industries; as she explained when she was sought out by Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark was able to protect her from the political fallout. Hill was initially unsure about Coulson’s team, even reporting them to General Talbot, but Coulson was able to talk her round. Season 2 showed that she was quietly acting as a liaison between Coulson and Stark, and in Avengers: Age of Ultron it was revealed that Hill became one of Stark’s top employees.
Ironically, he soon learned he was wrong to believe that she was working for him; in reality, she was still one of Fury’s assets. With her cover blown, she left Stark Industries and became a freelance operative, as seen in Avengers: Infinity War. It looks as though Hill could be quite important in Phase 4 of the MCU; she’s another major MCU cameo in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Maria Hill’s character arc weaves between the films and the TV shows quite effortlessly, and as a result she’s probably the most important link between the different sides of the MCU.
Page 2 of 2: Every Other MCU Character In Both Movies & TV Shows
Peggy Carter (Captain America, Agent Carter)
Introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter was a British agent who wound up working with the SSR against Hydra during the Second World War. She became Steve Rogers’ primary love interest and was heartbroken when Captain America sacrificed himself to prevent Hydra bombs dropping on New York. Marvel released a one-shot to test levels of interest in the character, and it was well-received enough for Marvel TV to launch an Agent Carter series in which Hayley Atwell reprised her role as Carter.
Two seasons were released, showing Agent Carter proving herself to the SSR time and again. Unfortunately, the show was canceled by ABC before it got to the point where Peggy Carter became S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first director. Atwell returned to the big-screen MCU in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where the returned Steve Rogers visited Peggy Carter in her twilight days. She passed away in Captain America: Civil War, and her niece Sharon spoke at her funeral.
Howard Stark (Captain America, Agent Carter)
Tony Stark’s father is another key character to make the jump from the films to the TV shows – but his story is a little more complex. John Slattery played the elder Stark in flashbacks and video reels in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Ant-Man, and Captain America: Civil War. However, Captain America: The First Avenger revealed that Howard worked with the SSR during World War II, and Marvel hired Dominic Cooper to play the younger version of Stark in that film. Cooper returned for both the Agent Carter one-shot and the Agent Carter TV series, where he was a major secondary character. Interestingly, though, there are reports that Slattery is due to reprise his role as Howard Stark, not Cooper, in this year’s Avengers: Endgame.
Sif (Thor, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Jaime Alexander’s Sif is one of Thor’s closest allies, an Asgardian warrior woman who works alongside the God of Thunder in both Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Curiously enough, she’s also the only MCU superhero to transition from the big screen to the small. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, she traveled to Earth in order to hunt down Lorelei, an enchantress who it was hinted had once put Thor himself under her spell.
In season 2, Sif returned on a mission to identify a Kree agent who had arrived on Earth in pursuit of the Inhumans. She’s actually the one mainstream Marvel superhero who knows Phil Coulson survived the events of The Avengers. Although Alexander was unavailable for Thor: Ragnarok, that may have turned out for the best, given her character was spared a brutal death at the hands of Hela. There are unconfirmed reports Marvel is working on a Sif TV series for Disney Plus.
Agent Sitwell (Multiple Movies, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Maximiliano Hernández played Agent Sitwell, a background S.H.I.E.L.D. character in Phase 1 who was on site in New Mexico in Thor and was part of the Helicarrier staff in The Avengers. Sitwell also appeared in two of the Marvel one-shots, The Consultant and Item 47. But his story was drastically rewritten in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where it was revealed that Sitwell had been a Hydra agent all along. Sitwell played a major role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, where he was one of the top-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Coulson called in to help pursue the Clairvoyant. Season 5 had a flashback scene revealing that a young Sitwell had been brought up at the Hydra Academy, part of a family of Hydra loyalists.
President Ellis (Iron Man 3, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Iron Man 3 introduced William Sadler as President Matthew Ellis, who was kidnapped by Killian as part of his nefarious schemes. Ever since then, the character has appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a number of times, forming the Advanced Threat Containment Unit to deal with the Inhuman outbreak in season 3. Ellis attempted to coordinate a global response to the crisis, and he eventually saw the need to work with Phil Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. team. He named General Talbot as new head of the ATCU, commanding him to liaise with Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to take down Hydra. It proved to be something of a diplomatic nightmare for Ellis, when two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents – Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter – were captured by the Russian Government.
Gideon Malick (The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Played by Powers Boothe, Gideon Malick is possibly the most interesting link between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the movies. It’s easy to miss in The Avengers, but he was a member of the World Security Council, and was one of the key figures advising Nick Fury during the Battle of New York. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned him into a major character, revealing that Malick was one of Hydra’s highest-ranking agents. In season 3, Malick was successful in his attempt to bring Hive back to Earth, but the monstrous Inhuman pushed Malick too far when he killed Gideon’s daughter. Malick betrayed Hydra, and gave S.H.I.E.L.D. the intelligence they needed to shut Hydra down.