The ’40s fire­ball heads west in Agent Carter sea­son two

SFX - - Contents - Words by Tara Ben­nett /// Pho­tog­ra­phy by He­len McAr­dle

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.

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