Disney's new DuckTales series reinvents Scrooge McDuck's housekeeper Mrs. Beakley as one of the quietest, but most capable, heroes in the world. The former secret agent still retains her training and discipline, coupled with her role as caregiver to Scrooge and his family, and grandmother to Webby Vanderquack. It's a fine line to walk, which voice actor Toks Olagundoye has tackled with a respect for both fiction and reality.
During an interview at D23 Expo with CBR and other outlets, Olaguyndoye spoke about how affecting the next batch of episodes are, her appreciation for Emma Peel from the spy series Avengers and the real-life inspirations that seeped into her performance as Mrs. Beakley.
A former super-spy for S.H.U.S.H. known as Agent 22, this version of Bentina Beakley is heavily influenced by giants of the subgenre, like James Bond. However, Olaguyndoye said, "I’ve always thought of [Beakley] more as an Emma Peel. I’ve always been a big [Avengers] fan my whole life, although I’m a huge James Bond fan as well. She definitely is, and when you get to flashback to Beakley... she definitely was a take-no-prisoners sort of a young lady."
Indeed, the episode "From the Confidential Casefiles of Agent 22!," which flashes back to the first meeting of a by-the-book Beakley, complete with bouffant, hoop earrings and go-go boots, and brash freelance operative Scrooge McDuck, is a fun pastiche of such 1960s touchstones as The Prisoner, The Avengers and Bond -- with some Gummi Bears Easter eggs thrown in for good measure.
That take-no-prisoners attitude informs how Olaguyndoye plays Mrs. Beakley, even in the present day. "I think that at this point [for] Beakley, that’s just who she is," she said. "It’s not something that she has to refer back to or something that she has to pull out or anything, That’s just kind of how she’s made. And I think that she just very naturally is that sort of a take-charge person, who gets things done and fixes things. I think that there should have probably been a point of time in her life where she worked a little bit on her patience. But I think that that’s the beautiful thing about her relationship with the boys and Webby is that that’s kind of what she has to learn."
Beakley is usually depicted as the biggest threat to any villain seeking to breech the McDuck household. To play the role, Olaguyndoye admitted she initially had a specific idea for Beakley and her brand of no-nonsense order: "I think that the person that I actually did have the most in my head honestly, when I auditioned for Mrs. Beakley was Helen Mirren."
For Olaguyndoye, bringing that natural ferocity to the character extends past cinematic influences. "I was raised by some pretty strong ladies," she said. "My mother is Norwegian, my great-grandmother is German, my other grandmother is Nigerian, and they all worked, they all had their own businesses. One of my grandmothers was in the resistance during World War II. I mean, I come from some really solid, strong stock of women who don’t apologize for much, they get it done without complaining. So Mrs. Beakley is for them, I guess.
"[Mirren] very much reminds me of my grandmother. So I mean it would be my Norwegian grandmother, I wouldn’t mess with her but she’s very proper and you would never know she’s something else," she continued. "So I guess without even knowing it, I’ve been very fortunate to play a lot of very capable intelligent strong women, whether it’s live-action or voice-over. I think that [my grandmothers] have at least helped me."
"I loathe giving anything away," Olagundoye said as she teased the next batch of episodes. "There are a couple of things that I read this season that really caught me by surprise and made me really emotional, so I’m really excited to see how people react to those things. There’s a lot going for the family as a unit there’s a lot of changes a lot of new people coming in and, you know, old people coming back in and it’s exciting. It’s by far the most emotional that I have felt over a season. There’s a lot of really good moments that I think people can relate to in discovery of who you are and where you are in the world and what your place is in family. It’s good stuff."
Returning Tuesday, Sept. 3 on Disney Channel, DuckTales stars David Tennant, Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan, Kate Micucci, Beck Bennett, Tony Anselmo and Toks Olagundoye.