By the end of the annual four-day Fan Expo Canada, people are usually tired, hot and ready to pack it in. However, as “Agent Carter” star Hayley Atwell closed out the show, she effortlessly kept the crowd entertained and laughing as she discussed “Agent Carter’s” second season, Chris Evans‘ abs, and her love of Dubsmashing.
Moderator Morgan Huffman kicked off the conversation by asking if Atwell ever fathomed that Agent Carter would play such an important role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“No,” she quickly responded. “I was known in England mainly as a theater actress. Then, I got the call saying, ‘Do you want to audition for [“Captain America: The First Avenger”]?’ I was like, ‘Nah, I’m okay.’ You never know. I tend to approach every part with the exact same kind of mindset, which is, you do the best you can in the room. If the job is meant to be for you, then it’s yours. You get paid for it and go home. There’s no expectation. I loved the audition, I loved the script and when I got [the part], it was such a turning point in my career. I had never been involved with anything that genre-based or in that commercial, superhero world. It was just refreshing to do something so different. I had no idea I’d be here fronting my own show — and such an empowering show for women.”
Atwell next addressed her obsession with Dubsmashing, a video messaging application allows users to record a video of themselves lip-syncing a line from a song. In recent weeks, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” cast has challenged their “Agent Carter” friends to a Dubsmash war for charity.
“The thing is I started Dubsmashing backstage at cons just to pass the time,” Atwell said. “A few months ago, Alanna Masterson from ‘The Walking Dead’ introduced me to it. I was like, ‘This is amazing.’ I just started doing it. Then, of course, I showed James D’Arcy, who plays Jarvis, and we were having fun at San Diego Comic-Con. Then, Chloe [Bennet] and Clark [Gregg] were like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We’re like, ‘We’re just being awesomely great.’ They were like, ‘Oh, yeah. We can do that.’ Then, it just got a little competitive and then it got really competitive. Now, it’s to the death. It’s for a good cause.”
They aren’t pulling any punches, either, as Atwell and D’Arcy’s recent Dubsmash effort involved recruiting the divine Miss Piggy.
“I was so intimidated,” Atwell recalled. “She’s such a diva. She hardly even looked at me. She was kind of like, ‘Hmm.’ James was like, ‘Oh, you are very pretty, Miss Piggy.’ She went, ‘Oh, are you surprised?’ We did it and she was game for it, which was great. She’s kind of a legend. It took about a month of phone calls and pleading with people. I was calling Louis D’Esposito, the co-president of Marvel, and going, ‘Umm, can you help us out? Who do you know who is famous that we can steal for this?’ He put in the calls.
“Wednesday will be when ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ post their Dubsmash in reply to ours,” adds Atwell. “Then, there’s a second round and then a finale. Please vote for ‘Agent Carter.’ In fact, vote for the best video. Some people have been voting for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and they haven’t even posted anything. They might be horrible — and probably will be compared to us.”
The topic later shifted from Dubsmashing to karaoke, with a fan asking for her go-to song when partaking in that activity.
“Well, I love ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show,'” Atwell said. “I’ve seen it so many times. I was singing ‘I’m just a sweet transvestite’ when I was 7. My mom’s friends would come over and I’d be singing ‘I’m just a sweet transvestite.’ I thought Tim Curry was incredible. I adored him. He was so brilliant in that role. He was so charismatic. So, anything from ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ Oh, ‘Cabaret.’ I just like men in drag. I love men in drag. Anything campy and spectacular and fabulous is my karaoke go-to. Let’s do the Time Warp.”
Hoffman noted that the Internet blew up when someone asked who Atwell would like to play on “Doctor Who.” The answer caught many people off guard.
“I like to play with the gender issue of casting in various films and TV,” Atwell said. “Someone said to me, ‘Would you like to play a Bond girl one day?’ I was like, ‘Hell no. I’d rather play Bond.’ So, when someone said, ‘Do you want to be the Doctor’s companion?’ I was like, ‘No, I want to be the Doctor.’ The Internet went mentally for it, which is sad because I would probably never even get an audition to play the Doctor. I’m going to be banned from that whole institution.”
“I didn’t anticipate there would be a second season,” Atwell said in response to a question of whether she expected the show to be returning next year. “I knew it was well received. I don’t think the ratings shot through the roof to the point where it was definitely going to be a done deal, that we’d immediately have a second season. It was really due to the online support of the fans and also the fact that the reviews have been so positive.
“I was excited to explore this in a second season because she’s in a different place,” Atwell continued. “Physically, she’s gone to Los Angeles. She’s in the Hollywood, glamorous world where they have this gangster, dark underbelly in the ’40s, which was kind of like ‘L.A. Confidential,’ film noir. It’s taken on that kind of tone. Also, she’s no longer grieving Steve, so she’s ready to open up her heart. She’s in a much lighter, happier place within herself. Then, of course, we have got Jarvis being crazy Jarvis.
“There will be lots of different angles,” she added. “There will certainly be more love interests and love triangles. The great thing is we know because of ‘Winter Soldier,’ Peggy lives into her mid-nineties. There’s so much scope. She found S.H.I.E.L.D. and therefore she has this incredibly full life. We know at one point she gets married with children. I could hopefully be doing this in three or four decades from now.”
Since Peggy Carter originally teamed up with Steve Rogers [Chris Evans] in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and then made a brief appearance in the sequel, “The Winter Soldier,” one audience member was curious about Atwell’s opinion on the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War.”
“I’m not really into the comic book superhero films,” Atwell admitted. “I love being part of it, and I completely get it, but I’m actually clueless to what’s coming out apart from ‘Civil War,’ because I went and gatecrashed the set about three times in Atlanta. What I’m most looking forward to is seeing [Chris Evans’] smashed stomach, which I will pat down gently to make sure is still there.
“I’m most looking forward to seeing the development of Chris’ characterization,” Atwell continued, shifting into a more serious note. “I think he’s just gotten better with every Cap role he’s played in the films. They get darker. They get more psychologically interesting. He wouldn’t even tell me the story of what happens, so I wasn’t even allowed that. Peggy is in there, somewhere.”
Peggy doesn’t count many folks as her friends, but she did connect with roomie Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca) on the show. Another attendee inquired about their relationship and whether there were any romantic possibilities between them.
“The thing that stands out for me about Peggy and Angie, is it’s seldom that you see on television a friendship between two women that isn’t founded on the interest of a man,” Atwell explained. “There’s a genuine affection that they have for each other; whether or not you want to project the idea that it’s romantic or sexual is entirely up to you and how you want to view it. I think there’s a mutual respect that’s quite rare that I want to see more of in film and stories.”
The next fan asked how Atwell compared reading the pilot script to the one for the season finale?
“The great thing was they were kind of writing it as they went along, so I didn’t have all the scripts at once,” Atwell responded. “I was getting the next episode a couple of days before filming it, so it was very fresh. What I loved was the arc of Steve and how that manifests in getting a vial of his blood and making sure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Personally, it’s a story about her grief and how she overcomes that and how she manages to move on.
“At the same time, there’s how she also manages to protect the memory of Steve by destroying his blood, destroying any evidence so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands,” she continued. “I just thought it was very beautiful and very sensitive. So many people who saw ‘Captain America’ loved Steggy — Peggy and Steve. They loved that relationship, so I think if we got straight into the first season with a love interest, it would have undermined what they had together in the first season. It was very important that they establish what the loss of him did to her and the fact that she still tries to carry on his work throughout the season.
“Then, it was beautifully wrapped up,” Atwell said. “I think people can move on. It’s part of the human nature to, once you have processed something very painful like loss, that there is hope to not replace that person, but to certainly make way for a new opportunity in life that gives you greater contentment and companionship. That’s what we’re exploring for the second season.”
“Ming-Na [Wen] and I talked about this,” Atwell said, responding to a question of whether Peggy could take down Agent May. “We have such different styles that we’d be like, ‘Damn, that was a great move, girl.’ I think we’d be so impressed with each other. We’d be like, ‘What are we fighting for?’ Then we’d go to the bar.”
As for Peggy’s arch-nemesis, Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), Atwell had a few choice words for her Season 1 foe, promising her return in Season 2.
“Oh, she’s a slippery bitch,” Atwell said with a chuckle. “We haven’t seen the last of her. Peggy has male baddies that she fights, but to have someone who is physically her equal — she’s a Black Widow, incredibly capable and very smart — I think that shows some balance for Peggy, like a flip side of the same coin. You’ll see more of her in Season 2.”
Atwell capped the panel off by touching on Carter’s sexist co-workers and whether she would have to prove herself again after relocating to Los Angeles.
“I’ve only read two of the scripts so far,” says Atwell. “We’re filming them at the moment. She’s got Sousa [Enver Gjokaj] and Jarvis out there. They know who she is, which is good, so she’s got that support. But, there are many, many obstacles she’ll have to face. There will be a new nemesis. There will be new challenges for her. There will be diving into her past a little bit and it will explain certain torments that she has.
“Peggy, by the very nature of the world in which the show is set, will constantly be up against obstacles in which she has to break down barriers and break down doors, which is the very nature of her character and what makes her so relatable,” Atwell continued. “I don’t think that, even in today’s day and age, women are free from obstacles when it comes to having to prove themselves, particularly in the work place. Because of that, I think it’s all relevant that we put that in there.”