The ’40s fireball heads west in Agent Carter season two
Agent Carter’s hayley atwell.
Some days playing a clever, ravishing super spy can get to you, as actress Hayley Atwell can attest. On a crisp autumn evening on the Universal Studios backlot where the second season of Agent Carter is in its late days of production, Atwell has been engaging in derring-do all day and frankly, it’s made her punchy. Currently crammed into a gorgeous 1938 Packard Super 8 next to longtime friend James D’Arcy (who plays Howard Stark’s butler Jarvis), the pair fill time between takes teasing each other in cockney voices, pulling faces and pretend-leaning into perilous turns in the road with shouted warnings of “Big corner!” Diva behaviour is nowhere to be seen, but Atwell’s natural goofiness is on full display. And she promises SFX we’ll soon see more of that side of her in Peggy as well. “Season two is more fluid,” she says. “Carter can be goofier, funnier and so you see a different strength in her. It’s a natural evolution of someone who’s going into another period of their life.” Season two finds your character newly relocated to Los Angeles. What’s her mindset?
I think she’s evolved to a place where she knows what she’s capable of. She’s tested the water to see how far she can go. She’s pretty dynamic and a lot more confident in herself. We explored the psychological and emotional costs of losing Steve [Rogers], so in season two she’s ready to move on, whether that’s romantically or just emotionally, for herself. She’s in a better place. What do you think is Peggy’s appeal?
She’s a positive, warm heroine that has good relationships with other women and isn’t competitive, or talking about the guy all the time. Yet Peggy is a woman who works incredibly well with men so long as they see her value.
Yes, there is a tendency with a strong female character to pitch her against the men as if she hates men. That’s absolutely not what Peggy is. She’s a humanitarian and she’s got relationships with men, Howard Stark [Dominic Cooper] being one and Jarvis the other. Howard put Peggy through the wringer in season one. What has she learned from that wild ride?
She’s become more accepting of people’s fragility, and her own, and not to have such high expectations of people. There’s a lightness to her and she’s been able to let a lot go, but retain the ambition to get ahead in her work and continue with the same purpose that Steve Rogers was inspiring in her. It’s without the feeling that the world owes her anything or that people close to her weren’t going to make huge mistakes. She comes to terms with the intentions behind what they do, so in a way she’s a bit wiser. Jarvis and Peggy built the foundation of a friendship last season. How does he assist her this year?
The main thing is she comes out to LA and he’s already here. I think she learned from the first season that when he says the world wants to help you and let people help, that she is still coming to terms with Jarvis as someone she can rely on. It’s been very hard for her to digest because it’s been so ingrained in her that she is essentially on her own and people close to her are at risk of being harmed. Season two is slightly lighter in that respect. In the MCU and the TV series, Peggy is a very in-themoment character. Is some backstory coming?
We see a little bit of her background and how she experiences grief at a young age. It gives her a drive and then Steve Rogers gives her a drive. She doesn’t have particularly exceptional martial arts skills like Black Widow, and she’s not a genius like [new villain] Whitney Frost, but she has a strength of spirit. Because of that she has a very strong sense of self and identity. We see in the second season more of what shaped her and where did this bizarre woman come from. Does exposing that vulnerability make Peggy even more accessible to audiences?
Yes, because it’s actually out of tragedy that she rose like a phoenix, rather than she is just invincible. I think audiences find her more relatable because it comes out of tragedy. It’s a wonderful message: it’s actually sadness that shapes you and it’s your choice what you do with it. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react. What has the incredible reception to Peggy meant to you personally?
It’s been a very positive and warm response from people. It’s very heartwarming because you feel like you are doing something for some people that has some value.
Agent Carter begins on Fox in the UK on 24 January, and airs on ABC in the US.