Last year, James D’Arcy entertained audience of “Marvel’s Agent Carter” as the very proper 1940s-era gentleman’s gentleman Edwin Jarvis. D’Arcy charmed fans by portraying the character, as Sting famously phrased it, as an Englishman in New York. So just what will Darcy-as-Jarvis be up to now that, for Season 2, he’s an Englishman in (gasp!) L.A.
Still in full regalia in one of Jarvis’ smartly-tailored, woolen, Saville Row suits at the tail end of Los Angeles’ summer long heat wave, D’Arcy held court before a collection of reporters — including CBR News — on the set of “Agent Carter.” The actor dicsussed Jarvis’ impending Hollywood escapades, the big in-the-flesh reveal of Mrs. Jarvis, the hierarchy of Jarvises when it comes to Paul Bettany, and turning the painful embarrassment of Dubsmash duets into a philanthropical phenomenon.
Jarvis doesn’t like Los Angeles. Why? What’s wrong with L.A.?
James D’Arcy: What’s right with L.A.? [Laughs] I think, in Jarvis’s world, it’s too hot. Have you seen this suit? This suit’s okay now, but this suit, when we started shooting at the beginning of September, was misery. Misery! And I think the writers did it to me on purpose. In fact, I’m actually certain they spent half a day unable to write, they were so gleefully enjoying the fact that they were going to put me in a three-piece, woolen suit in the middle of summer — in the middle of a heat wave, as well!
What else doesn’t he like about it? [There is a] scene where I talk about what exactly I think about L.A. That was, by the way, just a number of pitches of what we could have said. Reasons not to like Los Angeles — by the way, I personally like L.A. very much — just to create that little separation.
We’re going to get to know Jarvis’ wife this season. What’s it like to actually explore that dynamic with a real-life scene partner in Lotte Verbeek?
I thought that they had no intention of ever revealing Ana — I thought she was going to be like Niles’ wife in “Frasier.” I thought you were never going to meet her. But I was absolutely thrilled that they decided there’s a good reason for us meeting her as well.
It was funny — whenever I’ve been at one of those things where people are talking about this, people have been really interested in who she would be. It’s sort of caught people’s imagination, so I was unpleased for the audience in that regard. But actually, she’s very good dramatically for the story that we’re telling in Season 2. More than that, I can’t tell you, or they’ll drop the bomb on me here and now. But she’s not just sort of introduced simply to satisfy the appetite for, what does she look like? What would she be like?
Lotte’s fantastic. She’s absolutely fantastic. I know, because I’ve done this before. Arriving into a show that’s already set up, a second season of a show is very intimidating because, firstly, everybody knows each other. But secondarily, you feel like, well, the show worked the first time without me, so if it doesn’t work now, then I’ll feel like I’ll probably bear a bit of the brunt of that.
And I have to say, Lotte, she was completely fearless from day one. She did something on day one, literally either day one or day two of shooting this season, and we had just met in makeup. She had just flown in. I hadn’t met her at any of the table reads. I met her in makeup. We had a chat. Then, suddenly, we were on the set. We were doing the scene in front of the crew, and she did something which wasn’t in the script which is she smacked me on the ass at the end of one of her lines. And as she did it, I thought, “That is great. That is brilliantly courageous.” Firstly, to do with an actor you don’t know that well, but secondarily, it fit so perfectly what they were hoping that Ana would be like. She’s not like Mr. Jarvis at all.
How does his relationship with Peggy deepen or evolve?
How does one answer this question without telling you anything? I don’t know how to answer that question without giving something away. There is added depth. They, obviously, are not starting from zero, and Peggy knows that Jarvis is someone she can trust, and a confidante, whilst not necessarily being the number one draft pick for going on missions. I think she quite likes him torturing him as well, so there’s a sort of a glee in her face as she makes me do things that I don’t want to do.
And, God bless Jarvis. He’s game and ineffective, for the most part. [Laughs] Although — again, I can’t say anything else. It’s a very difficult question to answer because it would give away plot points, and I can see Jeffrey sweating in the background, so I can’t.
When you do your Jarvis voice, it’s slightly different than your voice. Are you trying to sound like Paul Bettany at all?
No. I’m not trying to sound like Paul at all. I just wanted to sound period, like a period Englishman, 1940s Englishman which is a bit more clipped than I would sound. I talked about this last year. My feeling is, because I predate Paul, he should go back and re-voice everything he’s done in order to fit in with me, rather than the other way around.
Would your Jarvis think [Tony Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S.] was creepy, or would he be touched by it?
I’m not entirely sure how to answer that question. Your question may or may not get an answer in the season.
Do we see more of the dynamic between Jarvis and Howard Stark?
Well, I mean, you do see Howard and Jarvis — well, difficult to say because we haven’t finished the season. You do see more. Again, it’s just difficult to answer without, unfortunately, saying something that people get fired for saying.
When you were talking about the new season, how much has changed along the way?
I wasn’t really told about the season. So nothing changed. [Laughs] I knew what everyone knew at Comic-Con [International]. And I knew what everyone knew at Comic-Con 30 seconds before everyone at Comic-Con knew. And then, the extensive conversations between myself and the writers’ room went along the lines of two texts that were, “How do you feel about working with a flamingo?” Well, one text. And then a followup: “Bwah ha ha ha!” Them laughing. And that’s pretty much all I knew about Season 2.
I’m sure if I asked, they’d tell me, but actually, I quite like reading it like the audience. They’ve just sent us Episode Nine today, so I don’t know how the show ends. I’ve got a kind of vague idea what happens, but I don’t know.
I understand you’re filming two episodes at a time. Did you do that last season?
We didn’t do it last season on this, but in Britain, they do it all the time. So I’m very accustomed to shooting two episodes, block shooting it. It makes perfect sense. If you’re at, let’s say this location, shoot two episodes at once. Then you don’t have to move around quite so much. My feeling is it happens not very often in the States, and so it’s been a bit of a head scratcher for some people. But I mean, it’s only two hours worth of material, or an hour and a half if you take out all the commercials. It’s like a movie, isn’t it?
There’s a certain alchemy you have with Hayley that shows up on screen and off. What’s it been like to find that special groove with another performer?
It’s pretty amazing. It’s really amazing. I mean, I’ve been an actor for long enough to know that, firstly, I don’t think chemistry onscreen necessarily has much to do with chemistry off screen. I don’t know that that’s an equation. You don’t have to be great friends and get on really well off screen in order for it to look exciting and interesting. In fact, sometimes, when you don’t get along very well, there’s a sort of tension there that somehow osmosically — if that’s a word — comes across.
As it happens, Hayley and I get along fantastically well, and it is a completely joy to go to work with that woman. I mean, she’s amazing. She’s carrying the show. She has all this action to do. She has endless dialogue. She’s in more or less every scene, and she’s always got a smile on her face. She’s always kind to the crew. We laugh our heads off.
We have tried to share some of that, particularly through the Dubsmash thing that we did. It’s not manufactured in any way. We just have a really good time, and it really helps that, in my personal view, they write such beautifully elegant, fun dialogue for us. It’s really enjoyable to learn the lines and come to work and try and do it as you feel they’ve written it.
Okay, that’s not true: I do improvise quite often at the end of the scene. But for the majority of the scene, there’s no improvisation, you know, for the actual stuff they’re quite likely to use. And then you audition something at the end in the hope that they might see something funny. Although I did invent a word which I think might have made it into the show, by and large, what they write is so brilliant, that there’s nothing to improvise. And right from day one, they just somehow knew how to write for us, together. It’s, without any question, the highlight of the show for me.
Let’s hear about your encounter with the flamingo.
Ah, well, okay — trade secret: in the pink box, there was actually no flamingo. Flamingos are very unsteady on their feet. I think they were worried with the braking and accelerating that the flamingo would not last very long. But there were four flamingos, as they told me, ranging in aggressive natures from quite mild to psychotic. And the nicest one was called Simon, and then the one that was a menace to society was called Cannibal.
And Cannibal, we had to do this scene where I had to chase the flamingo around, and maybe be chased by the flamingo. And it all looked very funny on paper, but then I sort of arrived and said, “Just checking: It’s not dangerous? It’s a flamingo, right? It’s not dangerous?” And they went, “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, Cowboy — that thing will peck your eyes out.” And I was like, “Okay…” And by the way, the handlers kept calling me “Cowboy,” which did not inspire confidence. And so the girl put her arm out, and Cannibal just went to town, just, like, pecking away like a maniac. And so I thought, “This is worrying.”
And then, it turned out that Cannibal really liked me! Cannibal sort of refused to peck me or chase me or be chased by me. Cannibal just wanted a hug. But then, as soon as the handlers came back in, Cannibal went nuts again. So we had to have them sort of stand off-camera, so that they would either run away from them or towards them. Poor Cannibal. I think he was pretty happy when his day was over.
Did you have a favorite of the Dubsmashes you two did, or a song that didn’t —
Oh, man, ones that we didn’t want to do? I think we did every song humanly imaginable. Honestly, for me, I thought the one with Chris [Evans] was the end. I thought it was the final word in Dubsmashing, full stop. And they should just take the app away at that point. But Clark and Chloe found a really sneaky way to keep it going, which turned out to be incredible.
We raised something like $155,000? I thought we might raise $3. When they first said, this is what we’re suggesting, I almost died of embarrassment because I thought we would make nothing whatsoever, and we’ve raised so much money for charity. And it all was completely organic, initially. We never set out and thought about it. It just happened over Comic-Con and then turned into this thing that now has done a lot of people a lot of good. I’ve never really been involved in anything like that, so I have to say, it’s one of the things that I’m proudest of in my life, that we were able to do that.