Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger was set in 1942 and introduced the character of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), an officer with the Strategic Scientific Reserve … and also the love interest of Steve Rogers/aka Captain America (Chris Evans).
The new ABC series, Marvel’s Agent Carter is set in 1946, and finds Peggy unhappy with her job at SSR, assigned to administrational duties as the men returning home from the war have taken over her job.
Desperately wanting to be back in the field, she is approached by her old acquaintance Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) who asks her to track down the people who have framed him for selling his weapons of mass destruction to the enemy. Along with Stark’s butler Jarvis (James D’Arcy), Carter must search for them without being caught and targeted as a traitor.
Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their new series.
What was it about doing a TV series that attracted both of you?
Hayley Atwell: I was over the moon to get the part in Captain America: The First Avenger. What has excited me about being able to portray Peggy in this [series] is that we saw glimpses of what she could be in the first film, and this now is exploring [it].
We know she’s strong and capable and has a hard time with the guys, but what about her vulnerability? What about her humor and wit? What about different aspects of her intelligence? So I just felt that there was so much more that we could explore, which was why I jumped at the chance to work on it again.
James D’Arcy: When I first read the script, I immediately was struck by how beautifully written it was. It’s an action-adventure, and it’s got some social commentary in it. It’s talking about sexism.
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, ‘I know that guy.’
And 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.
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. And I’m so grateful to be part of this team.
Hayley, can you talk about working with Lyndsy Fonseca on the show? The relationship between Peggy and Angie, the waitress and actress wannabe, seems very genuine.
Hayley: 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. They’re not competing. There isn’t that tension. And I don’t really know [many] television [series] that really shows that support between women.
So it’s not just that Agent Carter is going out and 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.
James, what’s coming up for Jarvis in the future?
James: I don’t know how much I’m allowed to give away, probably very little. But 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, I thought, ‘I did not see that coming.’
The show was about they’re going to find Howard’s bad babies. And we found them, so now what’s the show about? Now the show turns into something that is really the beginning of what the show is, and it’s going to take us and [the audience] in really exciting directions.
I’ve read that you both have a lot of fun on the set, is that true?
James: It is fun. It’s almost wrong that we get paid to come [to work].
Hayley: It really is a surprise that we get any work done at all. We sung the entire soundtrack of Les Miserables in a sewer in one evening. We’ve just gotten up to all sorts of shenanigans.
James: I know you’re supposed to say you have the greatest time going to work when you’re sitting on the stage in these situations, but we’ve had the greatest time going to work!