Though their stories unfold in different time periods, Agents Melinda May and Peggy Carter — Ming-Na Wen and Hayley Atwell, respectively — play key parts in the development and mission of Marvel Studios‘ S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. The actresses were showcased on the “Kick-ass Women of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, where they discussed their favorite scenes, the potential of a Season 2 of “Agent Carter” and much more.
For all their obvious differences, Carter and May also have quite a few things in common — so much so that they’d be drinking buddies, Atwell said. “I don’t think she [Peggy] needs to give Agent May any advice. I think they just need to find a bar and get really drunk together.”
“Maybe [I’d ask her about her] fashion sense,” Wen said,” because May pretty much dresses in black upon black. Agent Carter kind of started all of S.H.I.E.L.D. though, so if they ever met up in some sort of time warp situation, Agent May would bow to Agent Carter — and then they would kick ass.” They both agreed they’d like Carter and May to team up against Loki.
While both agents have had their fair share of fight scenes, there have been quieter, more poignant moments, too. In response to an audience question about which of those type of scenes stand out for them. “I just recently did an episode where I did the backstory for Agent May,” Wen responded. “It took a long time to find out why she’s called ‘The Cavalry,’ and I was dying to know, so for me, that definitely [was special] — especially scenes with Coulson and [learning] the reasons why they bonded and how it changed it her.” Atwell said her favorite scene along that line was when Jarvis gave Peggy the vial of Captain America’s blood, and she then let Captain America go. Her comment elicited a collective, “Awwwww,” from the audience.
The moment with Captain America’s blood came about at the end of Season 1, of “Agent Carter,” just when we learned Angie and Peggy became roommates. And while there isn’t yet any word on a Season 2, Atwell said, “All I can say is, we find out — myself included — in about three weeks from now. You will know when I know.” Whatever the on-screen fate of the characters, she is optimistic about Angie and Peggy’s friendship. “What I think is wonderful about their relationship is it’s two females on screen not competing each other and not talking about guys all the time. They love each other, they respect each other. Hopefully, now Peggy will feel safe enough to confide in her.”
Atwell and Wen both spoke about the sexism their characters experience, and that they’ve experienced in real life. When an audience member asked whether either of them have dealt with sexism in the workplace, Wen replied, “I think that’s a rhetorical question.” Atwell said in the period of “Agent Carter,” the sexism is more blatant and easy to call out. Now, it’s more subtle and sophisticated, but should still be called out.
In the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Carter helped S.H.I.E.L.D. make progress in that regard. Wen said, “I think the mere fact that Agent Carter, being one of the leaders and founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. in that time period — I think that in itself says a woman can be in charge and break the glass ceiling. And that character did pave the way for S.H.I.E.L.D. to offer equality.”
Peggy did break down some walls, but from what has been shown in “Agent Carter,” she’s not a complete badass all the time. She has a vulnerable side, and Atwell emphasized the strength of Peggy’s vulnerability. It was on display in the way she mourned Captain America, and though she didn’t draw on any personal experiences to make Peggy’s pain seem so real, Atwell said she thought a lot about lessons learned from her grandmother. “I loved her elegance and her dignity and her integrity. I made sure in the emotional times of Peggy’s life, she was able to maintain that dignity that my grandmother had instilled in me from quite a young age.”
A couple of audience members asked Wen about the upcoming live-action Mulan. Wen said she’s “very excited Disney wants to take it one step further, and I certainly hope I get a phone call to at least make a cameo. I’m thrilled, and I hope they do it justice, historically.” When another fan asked if she could play Mulan in the live-action film, Wen said it’s not likely unless it’s “Mulan: The Later Years.” And while she doesn’t have a particular actress in mind to play the part, Wen did share one specific wish for the character: “I just hope she’s Asian.”
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