“Marvel’s Agent Carter” returned to television last week, along with a new, mysterious case that saw Peggy relocate from New York City to Los Angeles. After reuniting with Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), now chief of the Los Angeles branch of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, and Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), it didn’t take long before she began to uncover the mysterious agenda in play at Isodyne Energy. Even more importantly, with the help of Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), Peggy learned of Isodyne’s experiments with the dangerous and bizarre Zero Matter.
Following the Season 2 premiere, CBR News spoke with Hayley Atwell about where Agent Carter’s head is as she adapts to her new surroundings. We also discuss her introduction to and budding friendship with Ana Jarvis (Lotte Verbeek), how, exactly, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) is such a threat to both Peggy and the world, and why Peggy’s the perfect person to take Frost down.
CBR News: Peggy had to spend much of Season 1 proving herself to her peers. Having accomplished that, where is her head at the beginning of Season 2?
Hayley Atwell: It’s probably all to do with the grieving process she went through in Season 1 that she’s finally able to let go and move on. She’s in a brand new environment, with bright, blue skies and the sunshine of Los Angeles, and her heart’s open. Her heart’s starting to heal, and she’s starting to look forward, romantically.
The reason why she comes to Los Angeles, really — the thing that compels her to go is when Thompson says to her that Sousa asked for her. She goes there mainly because she thinks she’s probably going to be reunited with Sousa. Then, of course she gets there, and it comes shattering down on her ears when she discovers he’s not available. That’s where she starts, but that lightness means she’s a lot more humorous with Jarvis and more playful.
As you say, Sousa turned out to be involved with someone else, and Wilkes, with whom Peggy seemed to be kindling some sort of romantic relationship, encountered the very dangerous Zero Matter. Do those experiences make her want to forget the notion of romance?
Sure. She’s like, “Not again.” She said it in Season 1; “Every time that someone gets close to me, they either die or I put them in a lot of danger.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it happens with Wilkes. It must be very scary for her to wonder what is it about her that she’s doing wrong that puts all these people in danger.
But, she’s a fighter. She’s not someone who ever gives up. She’s tenacious, she’s stubborn, and she’s determined. Whatever happens romantically between her and Wilkes is aside from the fact that this will not deter her in discovering the nature of Zero Matter and doing everything in her power to stop it from destroying the planet, with the help of Wilkes. She’s probably compartmentalizing her work and her personal life, but at the same time, really fancying Wilkes.
I spoke with Tara and Michele before the premiere, and they explained how Jarvis sees what Peggy does as an adventure, and doesn’t necessarily understand all of the consequences. How will we see that affect that friendship?
My favorite part of the season actually is what happens between Jarvis and Peggy. There’s such affection and heart there. I can say Jarvis is truly her best friend in her life, as much as she knows what a best friend is. He’s someone she can trust, more so than Howard [Stark]. She can rely on him more than Howard. However, there becomes a real point of tension between them when she confronts him with exactly the thing that you said, which is, he sees this as an adventure, whereas Peggy has lived with very hard consequences of the life that she leads, and despite them she had to find the strength to carry on. To him, it’s just this great way of living this extraordinary life that’s outside of the mundaneness and domesticity of being a butler for someone else. It becomes a real contention between them.
What’s great about those particular scenes later on in the season is, it’s two people who know each other well enough to know absolutely the one thing that will destroy the other person emotionally. It creates great drama to watch. And for James and I, it was thrilling to do because it was so emotional. It reminds me a little bit of the Howard and Peggy confrontation we had in Season 1.
In the premiere, we — and Peggy — got to meet Ana Jarvis. What did Peggy think of her, and what’s it been like to work with Lotte?
You’ll see later on in the season just how important Ana is to Jarvis, which shows how strong their relationship is and how extraordinary their marriage is. She’s absolutely the joy in his life, the thing that gives him the security and happiness. For their relationship to be threatened is really very high stakes for Jarvis. I think it’s quite clear early on that Peggy admires their relationship, and probably envies it. She would love to be able to have that kind of true love with someone, and I do believe that between Ana and Jarvis, it truly is [true love]. They’re very sweet with each other and understand each other. There’s a tremendous amount of respect for each other there that it’s so rare to witness in relationships, especially for Peggy. I think it probably gives her hope to know that is possible.
Lotte is so wonderful. She’s so unique, the qualities she brings to Ana. She looks exactly as the Ana I had envisioned. She’s playful with James, and they were coming up with little idiosyncrasies between each other, like little gestures and stealing kisses in the scene — it was something they found together quite quickly, which was really lovely to watch. You can see more of that as it goes along and she becomes really important to the storyline.
We have a new villain in the works with Whitney Frost, a.k.a. Madame Masque. Peggy didn’t have much interaction with her in the premiere, but what will their dynamic be like going forward?
It happens slowly throughout the season, that Peggy is shocked by her and almost has a kind of respect for how much of a genius Whitney Frost is, and how scheming and calculating she is. She’s ultimately a villain hiding in broad daylight under the persona of a movie star. It’s a work of genius. You have the whole world focusing on how beautiful and talented she is as this movie star, so they can’t see who she really is, which is an insane, evil, narcissistic villain. It takes someone who’s not interested in the trappings and the seduction of the glitz and the glamour of the Hollywood fame scene to even see there’s something else going on behind the scenes with this woman. Peggy is in awe of her in some respect, because Whitney pulls it off as much as she can. But good ol’ Peggy can see through it.
Given everything we’ve seen so far, with Whitney, Zero Matter and the secret club, what do you see as Peggy’s biggest hurdle to overcome this season?
The biggest challenge she faces is [discovering], who is the mastermind behind this? When you’re dealing with groups of incredibly powerful people, and you have these secret unions and councils and clubs that are really pulling the strings, it’s very hard to weed them out. They don’t look like bad guys anymore. They don’t look monstrous. They’re very respectable people in huge positions of power and prestige within society, so it’s very hard to scratch at the surface to find out who these people are and what it is that they’re really up to. Then, of course, they’re protected by all this power around them, so it’s much harder to identify them. That’s going to be her biggest challenge — who can she trust, and how she steers her moral compass through that. We’re seeing that power totally corrupts, which is a great, universal theme.