If asked who the most used character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you would expect the answer to be Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man or maybe Scarlet Johanssen’s Black Widow, but it may actually be Haley Atwell’s Agent Carter who has appeared now in three franchises, four (soon to be five) feature films, a DVD short film and the first season of her own series. Marvel’s most surprisingly successful character has grown from one of the best female leads in Marvel’s early going to one of the best female characters in the franchise, the prototype for Johanssen’s Black Widow and the character every creator seems to want to use.
With Season 2 of “Marvel’s Agent Carter” set to premiere in January of 2016 and a move for the series to the sunny confines of Los Angeles, stars Atwell and James D’Arcy (as the imperturbable Jarvis the butler) came to the San Diego Comic-Con, along with executive producers Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas and Chris Dingess, to let us in on their plans for Agent Carter’s continuing adventures.
Q: Is it surprising the way [Peggy] keeps showing up like this?
Haley Atwell: I love it. They’ve become my Marvel family and I’ve been working with them for five years and it’s a huge privilege. They’ve been doing something right and I would just keep going back again and again.
Q: Why move the show to LA from New York?
Tara Butters: We’d been talking about it early last season, because some of it is we’d been watching movies from the ’40s and a lot are film noir, ‘LA Confidential,’ films like that. And we’re in LA, we’re shooting here so it makes it in some ways easier trying not to turn LA into New York City. Telling a show set in the ’40s is quite difficult.
Michele Fazekas: Every single extra we have to dress, do their make-up, things I didn’t have to worry about on “SVU.”
Butters: And we have to be economic with our budget, especially with all the effects work. ILM does ours and do it great, along with some other people, and if you look at our first episode and our last and both look great, but we really got smart about it could look the same without costing as much or taking as much time.
Chris Dingess: Communicating earlier.
Butters: Looping them in earlier. Before we were struggling, doing things very late, and now we know we can go to them early and say ‘we want to have a guy jump out a window and explode’ and they’ll be like ‘got it.’
Butters: So there were very practical reasons for [the move]. But it was more … how can we make it feel new and different. There are a lot of fun things you can do in LA.
James D’Arcy: I don’t think [Jarvis] is going to like LA very much. I think he’s going to be very English about that. I don’t think he’ll change his wardrobe one iota to cater to the fact that he’s in a different temperature.
Q: Will we see Jarvis’ wife?
D’Arcy: We’re going to see her and I’m sure she gets her own spin-off show afterwards.
Q: And Peggy’s ‘husband.’ Did it frustrate you any that many fans latched on to the question of who she would eventually marry and that’s all they wanted to know?
Atwell: No, because the possibility of getting married doesn’t take away from her ambition in the workplace but it does give her companionship and that’s something I’d like her to have. And that’s quite a journey for her to have, how to balance home and work life, which is something that’s still going on today.
Q: That’s an interesting point because a lot of Peggy’s story in the first season was her push for respect in her capabilities, of being a woman in a man’s world. How do you keep developing that without telling the same story over and over?
Atwell: I think by, in every aspect, upping the game and the drama so that its not about that. In a way she’s become genderless because she’s overcome that. But some of it you have to be respectful of the time and that it’s still there and still relevant.
D’Arcy: But also no one would play that question about it if a guy was playing the lead role. You wouldn’t ask ‘what’s it like being a guy in a guys world, that must be really boring doing that over and over again,’ you wouldn’t ask that question. It doesn’t come up. So it is very interesting, because one of things the show does really well is to explore in a general sense of what we all watch. We watch a a lot of male-led dramas, we don’t watch a lot of female led ones.
Atwell: It’s a good question, one for the writers I think.
Q: With the new setting comes comes new antagonists. Any hints?
Butters: The antagonists … I will say … exist in Marvel comics. A version of it. There’s a group … I can say this … called the Secret Empire. And there’s something called the Darkforce from the comic book universe. Blackout who was in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was created by Darkforce, it comes out of the Doctor Strange universe as well so that’s going to show up.
Q: You talked a lot about the lessons you learned that underscored your reasons for the shift. Will there be any other similar changes coming from that experience?
Butters: We learned how much we loved seeing Jarvis and Peggy together. That informs our storytelling in how we want to use those two characters together.
Atwell: And Peggy’s had closure with her grief over losing Steve and is ready to start her new life in Hollywood and even romantically.
D’Arcy: And from Jarvis’ perspective its just starting. I think he’s opened a door to a kingdom he never thought he’d be a part of and I think he wants more of it.