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Hayley Atwell and the AGENT CARTER Cast on Season 1’s Secrets, Spies, and Feminism

In just three episodes, Agent Carter has proven itself as solid a show as most any comic book adaptation on TV today, and won a multitude of fans hungry for more of the enigmatic S.S.R. operative. To satisfy those appetites, the show’s producers and cast took part in a panel at the TCA Winter Press Tour, including star Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy (a/k/a Jarvis), Chad Michael Murray (Jack Thompson), Enver Gjokaj (Daniel Sousa), Lyndsy Fonseca (Angie Martinelli), and executive producers Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Chris Dingess, Louis D’Esposito, and Jeph Loeb. After previewing a brief scene from the show’s next episode (number 4, airing on January 27th), in which Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark reveals his humble origins to Peggy, the panel answered questions from the assembled reporters, explaining the show’s genesis and hinting at what lies ahead in season 1…

On Lyndsy’s character being so different from her role on Nikita…

Michele Fazekas: I think what we really took into account was, when she came in and auditioned, she was really just the best as far as embodying everything that we wanted for Angie and a friend. The nice thing about it is that she’s got an attitude. She’s not just the sweet friend. She has an attitude, and she can sort of meet Peggy toe to toe and sort of push against Peggy’s need to not get close to anybody. So we wanted somebody who was a sort of formidable, if not physically, at least personality-wise.

Lyndsy Fonseca: Angie gets into actions of sorts, but very different than my physicality on Nikita, which is why this show is so fun for me. Because I’ve played a super spy for four years, and I can finally watch Hayley kick butt and be her support and be the wisecracking friend. I feel like it’s such a great change and such a great opportunity to do something different and stretch and learn and keeping me on my toes.

On whether there will be any crossover between Agent Carter and Avengers: Age of Ultron…

Jeph Loeb: I think we should probably stay present with the show, today.

On whether there was an inkling of Peggy’s future when making Captain America: The First Avenger…

Hayley Atwell: I had no idea. I was over the moon to get the part in Captain America: The First Avenger. What’s excited me about being able to portray Peggy in this season is that we saw glimpses of what she could be in the first film, and this now is exploring… Yes, we know she’s strong and capable and has a hard time with the guys, but what about her vulnerability? What about her humor? What about her wit? What about different aspects of her intelligence? I just felt that there was so much more that we could explore, which was why, of course, I jumped at the chance to work on it again. And also because I loved working with the Marvel team that welcomed me and made the experience of “Captain America” so enjoyable. It changed my life in many ways. So I didn’t know at the time, and it was an absolutely welcome and pleasant surprise.

On the ease of working in America…

HA: Yeah, I think it helps, being half American, half English, so I have those influences. I spent my summers in Kansas City, Missouri; which is very different than the kind of state school of London that I went to school in. I think that gave me a sense of how big the world was and how the different genres can all give you something. And you can take something from them. So I grew up going to the theater every week. That was my first love, and that’s what introduced me to kind of the world of acting. I saw actors on stages as extraordinary human beings that were cultured and interesting and had gravitas and character. That was the one thing that led me to go to drama school. But then at the same time, I was a huge fan of things like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, and things that were fun and tongue-in-cheek and cultish. That’s kind of, I think, the true joy of being an actor — the variety of roles that I hope to pursue and the fact that it can take me to different countries, to different places, to have experiences that no other job would give me. That was one thing that makes the career of an actor so enticing.

On whether there will be any more crossovers with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.…

JL: I think the safest thing is — as we often like to say, is “hashtag: it’s all connected.”[Laughs]

On introducing Jarvis and bringing back Howard Stark…

Stephen McFeely: Jarvis was an easy confidant character because when we decided that the one-shot was going to be the inspiration for the show, the idea that she had to keep secrets from the people she was in the secret organization with, meant that, unless you gave her a confidant, this was going to be a quick and boring show because everything was going to be a thought bubble. So Jarvis was an excellent candidate, particularly when we decided that Howard Stark, if we could get Dominic, was going to be a major character. And that way, we can do a lot of fun stuff with Howard Stark’s tech and secrets, and he can be our man Friday.

Christopher Markus: One of the things we wanted about this show, just a general operating principle was, as it was going to be in ‘46, we wanted to know  we wanted to see the effects of the war across the show on each person. And we, in a way, populated the SSR office based on that. So you have a guy who was wounded. You have a hero. You have a guy whose life may or may not have been kind of screwed up while he was away. And that kind of set out the templates of the kinds of characters we were looking for.

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On playing Jarvis…

James D’Arcy: When I first read the script, I immediately was struck by how beautifully written it was. It’s an action-adventure. It’s got some social commentary in it. It’s talking about sexism, not just in the workplace. And the repast to that sexism is to write this show in which we have a wonderful strong woman front and center and we have these fantastic women who are our showrunners. And I really did want to be a part of that, but I was very afraid of how I could portray this character of Jarvis and do something new. I didn’t want to play a character that you saw and in the first three seconds went, “Got that guy. I know that guy. Right.” Also I saw that it was written funny. I’ve never done anything funny before, and I wasn’t at all convinced that that was something that I would be the right man for that job. I have predominantly played psychopaths, quite often. [Laughs] I fully understood what this job was, and yet I had insane hesitation about my participation in it because I just thought I may not be able to be fully of service. Then, thank God, I slept on it, and I had the embryo of an idea as to how I might be able to approach and help out. I’m so, so grateful to be part of this team. This is the best writing I’ve ever come across.

On how the dynamic between Jarvis and Agent Carter evolves over the next couple of episodes…

JD: I don’t know how much we’re allowed to give away, probably very, very little, in truth. But maybe I can phrase it like this. We have the greatest group of writers that I have ever encountered, and I absolutely promise you that each script that we were given and I read, and I’m going to speak for everybody here, you read it and thought, “I did not see that coming.” They’re so brilliant in the way that they keep the characters alive. There’s no stagnation at any point. You know, we’ve already killed the show because the show was theoretically about going to find Howard’s “bad babies.” So you can look like you’re going to find one a week, and we found them all last night. So now what’s the show? Because we have five episodes to go. So the show turns into something that now is really the beginning of what the show is, and it’s going to take us and you, hopefully, in really exciting directions.

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On the relationship between Peggy and Angie…

HA: Lyndsy and I have talked about this… It’s so refreshing to see two women on screen supporting each other and who genuinely are friends, and they’re not competing. There isn’t that tension. I don’t really know much television that really shows that support between women. So it’s not just that Agent Carter is going out and kind of fighting against the men. She’s supporting the women around her. She doesn’t dislike women. She doesn’t dislike men. She’s a true feminist. I think the Marvel team are enlightened in that way.

JD: The whole show is underpinned with that, this amazing sort of moral code. I have no problem with any of these shows that have antiheroes at the center of them. But now it’s become almost impossible to write a show where you actually have somebody genuinely good front and center. It apparently does not provide drama, and hopefully, we’re part of a conversation now in which we conversely excite people, have them feeling and simultaneously leave with something of a smile on their face, because they’re seeing women actually being friends with each other, because they’re seeing a very positive female role model, because people are having fun banter and being polite with each other. I’m in favor of it. I think it’s good.

On whether seemingly good characters like Angie and Sousa could — as they have on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — be revealed as Hydra agents…

JL: I wouldn’t trust anybody up here.

CM: You never know. That’s all we’re saying.

JL: Just stick around.

On the possibility of more Marvel Easter eggs…

Chad Michael Murray: I’ll say one thing that they have, over the course of the season… There are so many fantastic Easter eggs that if you’re a fan of anything in the Marvel world, you’re going to want to stay tuned. I’m not going to give anything away, but you don’t want to miss it. You definitely don’t want to miss it.

Agent Carter airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.

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  1. boB says:

    “Season 1”?  I was under the impression that Agent Carter was meant to be a one-and-done miniseries.  Are they planning on renewing it now?

  2. grim says:

    Fantastic actors, intriguing story without the superheroes, and lots of nods to other works from the MCU. All of that’s well and good, but what I like most is the women’s dress style of the era. Sexy yet classy and elegant. Not once did I see a girl in sweatpants with the word “JUICY” stamped on her ass.