Set immediately after the events of Marvel’s The Avengers, “Item 47” finds Sitwell assigned with tracking down a single Chitauri weapon that has gone missing after “The Battle of New York.” As it turns out, the device has fallen into the hands of a New York couple that have decided to make use of the alien technology to become cross-country bank robbers.
SuperHeroHype sat down to speak with Hernández and Bradford about the short and their characters’ roles in the future of the Marvel cinematic universe. Please be aware, their answers do contain some spoilers regarding the ending of the new short film.
SuperHeroHype: Where did “Item 47” begin for both of you?
Maximiliano Hernández: I’ll tell you my story. I was living under the stairs and an owl came and brought me a note. My uncle was a real asshole and he wouldn’t give me the letter. But more letters started coming and I finally read one. (laughs) No, I was in “Thor” and then we did a short called “The Consultant” which was on the “Thor” blu-ray. When we did that Louis D’Esposito and Brand Winterbaum said, “I think we’re gonna do some more of these. We kind of like the vibe that we’re getting from it. It’s a way for us to kind of fill in the blanks between movies, you know?” Then I get a phone call from Brad and from Louis and they’re like, “Hey, we’ve got another one.” Then they launched into total detail. Like a kid explaining the plot of a comic book he just read. They were really hyped up about this whole thing and were like, “So, do you want to do it?” I was like, “How am I going to say no? You just explained it like a kid on Christmas.” And that’s how “Item 47” came up.
Jesse Bradford: For me, I got a phone call from my agent and they offered me this role. I was really quite excited at the fact that Marvel was involved. It just made it a no-brainer.
SHH: Maximiliano, it’s crazy seeing you sitting here outside of the Sitwell character. I’m not sure I’d even recognize you, your personality seems so different.
Hernández: I usually walk around bearded and no one ever recognizes me, which is great. I get to just be a regular guy. No one ever recognizes me. It’s okay.
SHH: Jesse, were you surprised to learn that you weren’t a pre-established Marvel character?
Bradford: I had a moment. The briefest possible moment where I went, “If I do this, I’m setting myself in that world as definitely not Ant-Man or something like that within the Marvel world.” I had a brief moment of doubt and then went, “Well, yeah I’m gonna do it!” Because I want to be in the world. I want to be in the world. Then the odds of being Ant-Man or whoever are always slimmer than being actually offered a role. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll be on that side of things.” I’d love for it to turn into something and be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Just to be part of such a well-structured, detailed kind of amazing world that they’re making was the clear priority for me. A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush, right?
SHH: How familiar were both of you with Marvel Comics as fans?
Bradford: Very, but I never obsessed over it. My dad is a massive comic collector. I grew up around comics. Instead of bedtime stories, I’d get comic books read to me. Even when I was a little, little kid I’d be busting out comic books and reading comic books. But maybe because my dad introduced me to it, I never latched onto them like some people do.
Hernández: I’m a big, big comic book geek. I’ve been reading comic books for a very long time. I still have a standing subscription to “The Incredible Hulk.” The kids aren’t allowed to read it until I read it first. The Hulk has always been my favorite. I got to meet Stan Lee recently, who created Sitwell with Jack Kirby. He looked at me and I was like, “Hey, Mr. Lee. How are you doing. I’m Maximiliano Hernández. I’m playing Jasper Sitwell.” He went, “Jasper Sitwell!” I thought he was going to go, “Excelsior!” at the end of it, he was so excited. I mentioned that my son was a big fan and he looks at him and goes, “That’s Jasper Sitwell Jr.!” Can you imagine? I was like, “I used to read everything you made!” Then you meet him. I’m a geek. I have boxes and boxes of comics at home and figures and stuff like that. My kid does, too. It’s nice to be able to step into that world. I mean, really step into that world where you’re really a part of the Marvel Universe.
SHH: Does that make it hard, as a fan, to not want to brag when you’re working on things that are so secretive?
Hernández: Oh my god. You don’t know. It’s really tough. But I love the surprise of it. You can tell people, “I’m working on something for Marvel” and be really vague about the whole thing. But you see their reaction to it. Their mind is going to be blown. I like that. And then I like seeing them after the fact and going, “Eh? Eh?” I’m cool with it. With “Thor,” I wanted to tell everybody after I read the script and what the whole thing was about. Now I’m pretty cool about it. Now I read it and go, “Oh my god. When people read this, they’re going to freak out.” I’ve got to that level now where I’m good not talking about it. I like the surprise.
SHH: It’s cool to see steps being made to form almost a sub-Avengers of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Are you guys both in it for the long haul?
Bradford: We hope so.
Hernández: Here’s hoping, man. Even with us, they’re pretty secretive. They like to put things together and not talk about things too much until they’re ready to do it and let you in on it. We’re in the dark, too, a lot of the time. People are always asking, “What happens next?” We don’t know. We pop in and do our job. We’re happy to do our job. It’s a warm place for us to come in. They’re family.
Bradford: It’s a great company from a working standpoint. They make it really easy to come to work and to be involved. What’s funny is that they’re as excited as we are.
Hernández: They’re all fans. And they really are like family. They’re really, really close.
SHH: Can you tell me a little bit about working with Lizzy Caplan?
Bradford: She’s crazy. She’s really funny and really quick on her feet and quick-witted. I think we had a really great time making this. She’s cool.
Hernández: She’s one of the sharpest tools in the shed. She’s really smart, really funny and really fast. What’s great, too, is that she jokes like a dude. There’s no prim and proper thing. She gets in the mud with you.
Bradford: I don’t want to blow her spot, but I think she’ll be okay with me telling this story. Just yesterday, somebody interviewed us together. At the end, the interviewer goes to her, “Where did you get that dress? I really like that.” She goes, [deadpanning] “From your mom.” (laughs)
Hernández: She didn’t miss a beat! She just turned and gave them that look.
Bradford: But it comes off as so charming. It’s not insulting at all. She can pull it off.
SHH: It was mentioned at the Comic-Con screening that, in the writing process, there was a huge backstory to these new characters that we don’t get to fully see in the short. Is that something that, as an actor, you’re very aware of in the performance.
Bradford: Yeah, Louis did a lot of that. He was my conduit to it. He was very gung-ho about, “Here’s all the pages we wrote about where these guys were up to this point that we find them.” Kind of why they ended up like this and what their backgrounds are. It just goes to show the diligence with which they approach the intricate tapestry of this world. Even with these characters that — while I’m hoping — there’s no guarantee that we’ll ever see Benny and Claire again. But they had it all mapped out, really. That’s pretty cool. I mean, as an actor, I’m not the type of actor that needs that, but it always better informs what you’re doing.
CS: How tricky is it to play a character that the audience is going to like even though he’s a criminal?
Bradford: I think that their criminal involvement is so ill-advised and just random that we’re not really dealing with people who have done hard time and are scheming about how they’re going to bust out and discover alien weapons and use them. They just kind of hit the wall and went, “We have a weird opportunity here.” In terms of the characters, too, Lizzy’s character, Claire, is really the one who is the wild card who goes, “I don’t give a –! Let’s do this!” I’m the one who just gets sucked into it because I’m in love. We’re not hardcore criminals so it was easy to keep them likable.
Hernández: On top of that, there’s Eric Pearson who wrote it and really nailed the tone. You felt the desperation and how they just wanted a better life.
Bradford: Then they totally mea culpa the whole thing at the end. They’re likable. They’re goofs.
SHH: You guys also get to work with Titus Welliver in this.
Hernández: Titus is a great guy.
Bradford: And quite possibly the biggest comic book nerd ever.
Hernández: The man in black and that guy from “Sons of Anarchy.” He can be like, “That was the issue with Psylocke.” He knows everything. This man knows everything across the board from comics from the ’70s straight up. He’s good. He sat there, too, like, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?!” He was so into it. It makes for a great experience because we all believe it and we all love it. Working with him was fantastic. For him, it was a complete dream come true. Like complete. He put that energy out there.
SHH: It’s an interesting back and forth that you have with him because it becomes straight-man/straight-man but with two very different kinds of straight-men.
Hernández: Yeah, my dynamic is that I pretty much learned how to be the straight man from Agent Coulson. When we talked about my character, it was probably that I was a little more wild. Kind of like Claire is. Or was. Coulson is the one who taught me to keep it composed. Whatever he thinks you’re doing, he doesn’t know that you’ve already taken seven extra steps that he doesn’t know that you’ve done. While he’s pulling up all this footage, I already know where they are. I know they’re in Key West. I think there’s that one-upmanship that he and I share that we’ll continue if we do more. He’s also used to dealing with Coulson. He’s not used to dealing with me.
SHH: What’s coming up for both of you outside the Marvel Universe?
Bradford: I’m doing a show for NBC called “Guys with Kids,” Wednesday nights at 8:30 starting in September.
Hernández: I just got back from New York. I did a pilot for FX called “The Americans.” Gavin O’Connor, who I worked with on “Warrior” and “Pride and Glory” directed it. It’s with Keri Russell and takes place in 1981. It’s a really, really good script written by this guy, Joe Weisberg, who is a former CIA agent. It’s about embedded Russian spies living in America in 1981. Reagan just got elected and it’s ramping up the Cold War. I play an FBI agent. Myself and Noah Emmerich are partners who are trying to find them. I don’t believe the whole conspiracy that it’s really happening and he falls into the opposite camp.
“Item 47” comes to DVD and Blu-ray on September 25th as a bonus feature on Marvel’s The Avengers.