“Agent Carter” Showrunners Explain Peggy’s Friendship with Jarvis, Madame Masque’s Role

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“Agent Carter” Showrunners Explain Peggy’s Friendship with Jarvis, Madame Masque’s Role

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) knows her value, and though they might not admit it, her peers are also well aware of her worth. Having spent most of the first season of educating her co-workers at the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) on her skillset, the titular “Agent Carter” heads into Season 2 on ABC with an all-new challenge in front of her, having moved to the West Coast to help investigate a homicide with circumstances beyond the scope of the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Agent Carter” Takes California by Storm in New TV Spot

The change in locale rings with it some familiar faces, along with more than a few new ones as well. Ahead of the Marvel Television series’ return on Jan. 19, CBR News spoke with “Agent Carter’s” showrunners and executive producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters about Peggy’s allies and enemies, the new problems she’ll encounter while investigating around Hollywood, and how the series will continue to flesh out the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even delving into territories “Doctor Strange” is preparing to explore..

CBR News: At the end of Season 1, Arnim Zola appeared briefly, and we know Dottie’s still out in the world. Are those plot points wrapped up, or will we revisit them?

Tara Butters: You’ll definitely see Dottie. Zola was a fun tie-in, basically saying, “Oh, this technology that Fennhoff developed was used in the Winter Soldier program.” We mention the whole Leviathan thing, but we wrapped up that story.

Peggy has been assigned to a case in Los Angeles, and the mystery she’s investigating involves Isodyne Energy. Last year, you mentioned that Darkforce, an other-dimensional energy, would be part of the Season 2 story as well. Are Isodyne and the Darkforce connected to each other?

Michele Fazekas: Yes. Basically, Isodyne is a company that we invented based in part on real life companies like Radiodyne or General Atomic or the beginnings of the Jet Propulsion Lab — all of which were in L.A. in the ’40s, and were developing the space program and were developing nukes. That’s what Isodyne is, and what you’ll learn is they were involved in the nuclear testing out in the desert when they were testing the, at the time they were calling it the atom bomb — and one of these tests didn’t go as expected. You’ll learn more about that in Season 2, but they stumble upon what people in the Marvel Universe will know as Darkforce, but because they’ve never seen it before they just name it Zero Matter. That’s our tie-in to the Doctor Strange universe, and also to “S.H.I.E.L.D.” because you’ve seen it in “S.H.I.E.L.D.” as well.

The cool thing about what we learned as we researched Darkforce over the course of Marvel comic book history is, it affects people in different ways. It’s created a bunch of superheroes, it’s created a bunch of villains, and it has all these different properties. It could be a liquid, it could be a gas, it could be a solid, it could give you powers, it could kill you. It has a lot of different applications, which was cool for us. We were able to select what we liked and sort of make our own rules as to what it does, how it operates, and who it affects in our world.

Los Angeles did have both the scientific and the glam Hollywood film communities growing in the ’40s. With Madame Masque coming into the picture, is she the show’s bridge between the two worlds?

Fazekas: Madame Masque, or Whitney Frost, is another one who we’re creating our own version of. We’ve been inspired the actress Hedy Lamarr, who was an Austrian actress in the ’40s; she was very glamorous, but also an inventor. She actually held a patent on frequency hopping, which was a way to control torpedoes so radio signals couldn’t be blocked. She was this secret genius. A lot of people didn’t know about it, but she held this patent that, to this day, the technology is used in Bluetooth, WiFi and cell phones. We loved that, so we applied it to Whitney Frost. She’s this beautiful actress and secret scientific genius. Her husband is this wealthy industrialist and owns Isodyne, but she’s the brains behind it. We thought that was a fun way to show how women operate in this world.

Even though we’re not really telling the, “Oh, my God! Everybody’s so sexist!” story, we still deal with that story in that the only way Whitney Frost felt she could exert power in the world was through her husband, because she had been told her whole life, “Nobody cares how smart you are, they care about how pretty you are.” You see the makings of a villain, but she doesn’t start off evil. She starts off manipulative and not the nicest person you’ve ever met, but she’s not a bad guy when you first meet her. We have the time to understand, how do these two women who are — she and Peggy are both smart and beautiful, and they ended up in very different places in their lives, and [we’ll explore], how did it happen?

As far as Peggy’s allies are concerned, one of the additions is Ana Jarvis. Can you talk about the decision to bring her in and what her dynamic with Peggy will be like?

Fazekas: We’d always intended on meeting Ana, but it didn’t really fit into the story we were telling in the first season. We wanted to be really specific about who the woman is that Jarvis is just madly in love with — which is why I think Jarvis and Peggy can have the relationship they have, where there’s no weirdness or sexual tension, because you never question if he loves his wife. They can have this very close relationship and love each other, but there’s no, “will they or won’t they?” So when we were thinking about, “Well, who would he marry?” we really wanted her to be unexpected.

It makes sense in that, Jarvis likes Peggy Carter, so of course the woman he’s in love with would not be a quiet, prim and proper lady. She would be someone different, someone who challenges him, someone who excites him. We also wanted to be very clear that Peggy and Ana really like each other, and that there’s no jealousy from Ana. Ana and Jarvis are so comfortable in their relationship, they’re not going to be jealous of other people coming in and out of their lives.

And since Angie’s not there, it’s great for Peggy to have another female friendship.

Fazekas: Exactly. We also bumped up Rose, who’s played by Lesley Boone. She’s the one in the pilot who said, “Love the hat,” to Peggy. She worked the phones. We had an opportunity to bring her out to L.A., too. She’s come out with Sousa and is another person for Peggy to talk to, who knows her secrets and knows a lot about what’s going on. Rose has a fun ride. I really love what we’ve done with her for the second season.

The initial previews indicate that Jarvis seems bored and not terribly in love with Los Angeles.

Fazekas: Jarvis has a nice arc over the course of the season. He really got a taste for adventure with Peggy in the first season, so, when she comes back into his life, he’s so happy because he’s so bored with being Howard Stark’s butler and setting up Howard’s Beverly Hills estate. He’s begging her, “Please let me come out and help you.”

It’s interesting — to sort of back away from it for a second — we really believe that the Peggy/Jarvis relationship is the center relationship of the show, and it’s a challenge as a writer because, he’s not in the SSR, he’s a butler. How do you tell stories with those two in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re jamming them together because you want them in scenes together? The great thing about moving the story to L.A. is, it’s a really organic way to include Stark and include Jarvis. We said, “Howard has moved to L.A. because there’s a scientific community. Howard’s going to move his operations, do some contract work for the government, and also open up a movie studio in his spare time. Jarvis is out here for that setting up stage.” And then, if he’s the one who’s saying, “I want to come out and help you,” then OK, great, now we’re on.

But what that starts is a really interesting story for him, which is, how much did he really understand about what Peggy does? For him, it’s like a fun diversion, even though he’s in danger and even though his life is threatened. For Peggy, it’s her job, and it’s exacted a real cost. She lost her roommate in the pilot, she lost Steve in the movie. She sees it as a really different thing, and we will see in Jarvis’ story how he grows to understand that and where he comes out in the end. It will have a cost for him, and it will have an impact on his relationship with Peggy because at a certain point, she has the right to say, “This is not a frivolous thing. This is my job, and there’s a real consequence to it.” It provided a lot of great drama and conflict. There’s a place for Jarvis to go. He actually, I would argue, has probably more of an arc in this season than he did last season.

We saw Peggy struggling with the challenge of proving herself in the first season. Now that she’s done that, what are the biggest hurdles she’ll face in Season 2?

Butters: Peggy is really interesting. She put a lot of things emotionally to bed in the first season; she let go of Captain America, she found her place in the world at the SSR. In the second season, we meet a different Peggy, in a lot of ways. She’s more open to looking at her life and figuring out, does she want a relationship? She feels comfortable in her work environment, except for what she’s starting to realize is her own idealism, in some ways, hindering her from being able to see that there is corruption within the SSR. That’s one of the things on the professional side that she has to learn to deal with — she can’t look at everything through the same lens that she used to.

Through the experiences she has in the second season, she starts to, I don’t want to say be a more cynical Peggy, but I think she starts to have to recognize that not everybody has her ideals. In order to get to the core of what’s going on, she has to recognize there are people out there who are out for themselves and don’t care what’s right or wrong. She has to go outside her own comfort zone.

“Agent Carter” returns with a two-hour premiere on Tuesday, January 19, at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.