aka The Cavalry
"If I need a gun, I'll take one."
Melinda Qiaolian May is a talented and dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. specialist. Trained by some of the best agents that S.H.I.E.L.D. has to offer. She quickly became a weapons expert and one of the most skilled pilots as well as a martial artist.
Full Name: Melinda Qiaolian May | Serial # A 078634 | Clearance Level 7, formally Level Red
Mother: Lian May | Father: William May
Spouse: Andrew Garner (Ex-Husband) | Phil Coulson (Boyfriend; Tahiti)
Date of Birth: Possibly Jan 1968 |
Date of Death: Feb 7, 2017 (revived), July 2019 (one dimensional, revived)
Dislikes coffee and high heels
Melinda May, also known as the Cavalry, a nickname she gained as a result of her action in Bahrain, is one of the top operatives S.H.I.E.L.D. A close friend and long-time colleague to Phillip J Coulson, May, and Coulson have worked alongside one another since S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, working their first mission in Sausalito, retrieving an object with no exit plan. Both Agents worked closely all the way up to being a welcome wagon in Bahrain. However, the mission did not go as it was intended and ended in misery for May. Due to this, May retired from fieldwork and transferred to administration.
Agent Melinda May was initially set to be Agent Althea Rice. But when Ming-Na was cast for the role, Showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen pointed out that it would not be appropriate to use the name Rice for an Asian-American Actress, and hence the character was renamed.
Ming-Na also found out quickly her role as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D made her a cool mom.
"Not only Is Melinda May beloved but Ming-Na’s children was so excited to see their mom as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. She found out quickly that being Agent May made her a “cool” mom. Cooper said right after the 2013 SDCC episode viewing, “Mom! I didn’t know you could fly a plane. That is so cool” and Michaela said “I laugh all the time and i'm always smiling. Mommy’s the one that does the cooking and mommy’s such a klutz.” With her children being so impressed with her character, Ming-Na has said that, “For me, my career could be over right then and there, and I’d be happy.”
When Coulson was given his own field team, May was recruited, despite her reluctance to return to the fieldwork. May joined the team as the pilot and Coulson’s second in command. During the first few episodes of Season 1, Melinda May was "just the pilot" but returned to combat duty, expressing her dislike for running the backend of ops for the first few missions.
May fiercely protect the team by any means necessary, even taking on the power and effects of the Berserker staff. Due to this, she began a relationship with fellow team member, Grant Ward. Later in the season, it was revealed that Agent May had been reporting to Nick Fury about Coulson due to the effects of the GH-325 serum, as someone who knew Phil before his life had been taken from him by the hands of the Asgardian God of Mischief, Loki. She had agreed to not only keep an eye on him but later shocked us all by having put the team together instead of him. During this revelation, S.H.I.E.L.D. fell by the hands of Hydra and John Garrett, but Phil Coulson was still devastated by her betrayal and had pushed her away. Melinda takes off to find out more information on T.A.H.I.T.I, in which she discovers Phil Coulson was behind the program.
After Phil Coulson became director of S.H.I.E.L.D., May was given a role in backing up another S.H.I.E.L.D. team who was tracking the sale of stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. information. At the new base of operations, the Playground, it is revealed that May has also been tasked with watching over Coulson who is suffering severe side effects from his resurrection. During the first half of Season 2, we see Melinda fulfill her new role as second in command.
A key point in Season 2 comes when May was on an undercover mission with Coulson to retrieve a painting link to project Tahiti. She was attacked and knocked out. Agent 33 (A former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) uses a specialist piece of tech to camouflage herself as Melinda May. Coulson managed to expose her real identity by asking her out for coffee.
A fight ensues between May and Agent 33, and the mask that Agent 33 was wearing is badly damaged. Due to this, Agent 33 was now stuck with May’s face.
Later in the season, there was a coup to Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. by another S.H.I.E.L.D. lead by Robert Gonzalez, in which May becomes in charge after Coulson must escape. She finds out that Coulson had been seeing her ex-husband, Andrew Garner at the time, reasons unknown. Melinda struggles with this new information, regardless of asking Coulson later herself, she decides to take a leave of absence from S.H.I.E.L.D.
One of the most challenging but fun episodes and story arc for Ming was playing Agent 33. According to IGN, she stated, “Yeah, I love when I am tied up in the chair and stuff and people were saying “50 shades of May.” I just love it.”
It was so much fun. Clark [Gregg] texted me, like, “They’re going nuts over here!” When I was told by the producers that there’s going to be a May on May fight I got all giddy because I’ve always wanted to play a twin. It was on my bucket list. And then once I got the script, I started sweating bullets. It was just like, oh goodness, that’s a lot of undertaking. Because it wasn’t even just a fight scene. It had to deal with Coulson and May being able to ballroom dance and going undercover and May becoming this other person in disguise. it was just the most fun, challenging episode and I’m so happy that the fans love it." (IGN)
While Melinda was away, she attempted to rekindle her relationship with Andrew, as well as take care of her father who had a hip surgery. Still not wanting to return to S.H.I.E.L.D. just yet, she agreed to help fellow agent Lance Hunter, get revenge on Hydra agent, Grant Ward. Unable to kill him, she returns at last to Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. as Phil Coulson travels to another planet to finally get the kill shot. When they are finally reunited, they celebrate their defeat of Hydra as May embraces Coulson. As Season three continues, we find out that Andrew has transformed into an Inhuman named Lash. Melinda attempts to stay with him as they work to find a cure. Unfortunately, Andrew turns into Lash one last time officially completing the transition, who ends up saving Daisy’s life by taking Hive’s control from her.
“In College I studied Shakespeare. I mean, we were all into the theater and plays. The only thing that we would do would be like stage combat and dance and the kind of physical aspect of acting. After I did Street Fighter, I had said to myself, “you know what? I’m never going to go and do action again. Because at that time I was young. I wanted to be a serious actor.”
Looper.com, August 11, 2020
Ming-Na has embodied many characters over the years, yet Melinda May is a whole other character. Mostly because Ming-Na is the opposite of who Melinda is. Melinda May is known as a badass, selfless super-agent. We have seen her deliver some of the best action performances on the small screen. However, we were close to not having Agent May at all, as Ming-Na had decided to give up any action roles early in her career.
With Coulson away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and a new director running things, May had to try and keep an eye on Daisy but still help keep S.H.I.E.L.D. afloat. During a chase for Ghost Rider, Melinda encounters a ghost and as a result becomes infected. Over time, her mental status takes a turn for the worse and Radcliffe must kill her to save her life. After the death experience, she must work alongside Radcliffe and Aida to save Coulson from another dimension. Once they are reunited and embraced, May was kidnapped by Aida and put into a virtual world called, The Framework. While in the framework, she was a Hydra agent helping the world eliminate Inhumans. It takes Phil Coulson and Daisy to change her mission and escape this hellscape. Once out of the framework, May and the rest of the team must team up to kill Aida who had used Fitz to become a real human with Inhuman powers.
Ming-Na was unsure when she had to dawn on the Hydra uniform for Season 4, as May was forced into the Framework and became an Agent of Hydra.
“When I first put on the costume with the HYDRA logo, I hated it! I really did,” Wen said, admitting that she was initially worried about fan backlash over her character’s dark turn. “I’m like, ugh, this doesn’t feel right, you know?” “I always played May where, she was guarded in her feelings, but she was always extremely compassionate and always wanted to protect her family, that’s why she was The Cavalry,” Wen explained. “Ultimately, it’s about doing good and protecting the innocent. With HYDRA May, it’s all about vengeance and callousness and coldness... The Inhumans have to go, and she’s going to do everything she can to get rid of them.”
Etonline.com April 25, 2017
After Coulson’s deal with Ghost Rider to take out Aida, May is once again kidnapped, however this time with her whole team (minus Fitz) and sent into a dystopian future run by aliens. Through intense trials, they overcome this future and return to their timeline, only to find out that the love of her life, Phil Coulson, is dying. She stops at nothing to try and save him. Even though she had found a cure, Coulson decided not to take it and save the world instead. Melinda decides to leave with Phil to spend the rest of his days in Tahiti where it's truly a magical place.
A year after Coulson’s death, May returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. and she takes on the role of recruiting and reviving shield academy. After a few missions that involved strange anomalies, she ran into a man with Coulson’s face with a new name of Sarge. After some time of chasing him, she is attacked and kidnapped by Sarge and his squad. Learning more about his agenda and who he is, she finally gets the upper hand while battling her inner love for the man she has lost, she takes him back to base.
While at the base, they discover more about Sarge and his team. His plan to take out a woman named Izel and get revenge for the family he once lost. As May is possessed by Izel, she shoots Sarge to uncover that he has powers. As he gets murdered multiple times by Daisy afterwards, his powers begin to get stronger and stronger. In a last attempt to get Coulson back and convince Sarge to help them, May passionately pleads with him. Unfortunately, Sarge and the alien deep inside him, Pachakutiq, takes over and stabs Melinda and shoves her into a one-dimensional portal. When May awakes, she has to fight her way back through, eventually stabbing and killing Izel. Sarge is then defeated and May’s death crashes back as she collapses in Daisy’s arms and passes away. Her last words are the hopes of seeing Phil Coulson one more time. While she is in Daisy’s arms, Simmons shows up from the apparent future to rescue her and the team. They save Melinda’s life as they put her into a healing pod as the rest of the team travels to New York City, 1931.
When Melinda wakes up, she not only has to battle herself, but she then finds out that Phil Coulson has been resurrected once again without her knowledge, but this time as a Life Model Decoy. The team continues to travel the decades as Melinda struggles with not feeling anything for anyone. She quickly realizes that when she touches a human being, she takes in their feelings and emotions. With Phil Coulson by her side, she can understand her powers and that she can tell who is a Chronicom. Fighting side by side once again with her best friend, Phil Coulson, as they attempt to change the course of history in order to save the world, yet again. With the final mission as a team looms over the team’s head, she teams up in hand to hand combat with Coulson as she truly embraces becoming the cavalry and saving the world single handedly by giving Chronicom’s human emotion. Flash forward a year after saving the world, Melinda is teaching at Coulson Academy in hopes of a future with Phil Coulson after he returns from his year long sabbatical.
Melinda May is known as the Cavalry but for years she would say “Don’t call me that.” In season 7, we saw the evolution of that name being an insult to owning your past and embracing it. Ming-Na asked the writers in the finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if she could say “The Cavalry” in which they accepted. We saw Melinda May announce herself for the first time as that moniker
What Ming-Na Wen has learned from being Melinda May: “She taught me that you don’t really have to worry about other people’s opinions of yourself if you hold true to your own convictions. She never worried about that. I think growing up Asian and being a woman, I was always constantly concerned about what other people thought of me. That was a nice lesson to learn, It’s like, “oh. Nah, not that important.”
Looper.com August 11, 2020.
The role of Melinda May would not have been possible without Ming-Na working alongside Ming Qiu, her stunt double, and the stunt team. Over the years, Ming 1 and Ming 2 had trained and work hard to create the badass women warrior we love and respect.
“For all 7 seasons of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ming Qiu been my mentor, trainer, protector and cheerleader. She has the biggest heart and the kindest soul. A loving mom and wife, who just happens to be a Wushu master. I am so lucky to have had Ming 2 for my stunt double all these years. She is always there to make sure I do my best work. Let me tell ya, she is NOT easy to please. Whenever I ask her how I did after a fight scene, she will say, ‘It’s ok,’ if I didn’t excel to her standards. So, I will do the fight scene until I get a smile and a thumbs up from her! This means she approves. I FEEL SO HAPPY when she gives me the thumbs up!!” - “Agent May looks EXTRA badass because this woman warrior helped me to shape her into ‘The Cavalry.’ I love my beautiful, amazing Ming Qui!! My sister and friend for life!"
- Ming-Na Wen, Instagram
For Ming-Na, being a part of the Marvel Universe has changed her life. Ming-Na has had to find the time to juggle the demands of being an actor and a mom. Being Agent May and being in the Marvel Universe is a lifelong dream come true.
“I started off in life as this geek who grew up in my family’s restaurant. Science fiction, comic books…all of this stuff was my escape, my enjoyment in life. To have S.H.I.E.L.D. in my life at this age when I’m required to be so physical and stay very, very healthy is an impetus. I feel like a kid again because I’m living out my childhood fantasy.”
Instead of being limited by her age, being cast as Melinda May has motivated her to work beyond her boundaries and set out of her comfort zone. Ming-Na trained and work hard, taking care of her body, making sure she is in the best condition to take on the Cavalry's role.
“When you’re positive and have a healthy outlook on life, your brain releases hormones like dopamine.” – “That’s ben the fountain of youth for me. Not allowing stress to cause a lot of hormone imbalances that lead to overeating, depression and other harmful behaviors is the first step to healthy living and staying young.”
Livehappy.com Feb 14, 2017