‘Agent Carter’: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Jan. 02, 2015 | 9:00 a.m.
2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 12 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 01 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Marvel's "Agent Carter" shoots on location at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 14 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 10 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Star Hayley Atwell gets a lipstick touch up in between takes on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 16 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 06 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 08 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Enver Gjokaj and Chad Michael Murray on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 03 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Actor Enver Gjokaj, executive producer Louis D'Esposito and actor Chad Michael Murray on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 20 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca agent carter kdm 561a Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Chad Michael Murray and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca agent carter kdm 549a Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Enver Gjokaj and Chad Michael Murray on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 09 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Executive producer Louis D'Esposito and actor James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 19 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 18 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2051104 ca 1103 agent carter kdm 21 Agent Carter: Hayley Atwell reprises capable 1940s spy for Marvel TV show

Director of photography Gabriel Beristain and executive producer Louis D'Esposito on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Gracefully poised on a grand staircase inside historic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, seamed stockings just so, Hayley Atwell radiated old Hollywood glamour as she waited for the cameras to roll.

The star of ABC’s new limited series “Agent Carter” rested one hand on a carved wooden balustrade as makeup artists retouched her red lips, then at the director’s cue launched into a Tracy-Hepburn-style routine with actor James D’Arcy, the duo dissecting the details of a recent break-in at the home of billionaire inventor Howard Stark.

Set in 1946, “Agent Carter” arrives as the latest small-screen venture from comic book entertainment powerhouse Marvel and sees Atwell reprise her role as supremely capable spy Peggy Carter from both “Captain America” films.

FULL COVERAGE: Winter TV preview

The eight-episode series, which premieres Tuesday, features a number of key characters from Marvel lore, but with its espionage trappings and deft blend of adventure, comedy and intrigue, “Agent Carter” is more than just a superhero riff dressed up in pin curls and pinstripes. It’s a high-spirited caper that could easily appeal to the same audiences that tune in to other female-led top-rated shows.

“Maybe we’re going to capture the ‘Downton Abbey’ audience, bring them into the Marvel fold,” D’Arcy noted between takes.

For Marvel, the coming year will see a major push into television with not only “Agent Carter” joining “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC but also two new 13-episode series premiering on Netflix, “Daredevil,” starring Charlie Cox as the blind superhero, and “A.K.A. Jessica Jones,” with Krysten Ritter as a private investigator in New York City.

“Agent Carter,” however, is unique in terms of its overt connections to both the company’s blockbuster movies and its 1940s setting. The show is set one year after the events depicted in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” with Peggy grieving for Steve Rogers, who is purported to have died in a plane crash in the Arctic.

(A flashback to the tragedy features prominently in the pilot episode, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the duo behind “First Avenger” and its sequel, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which became the third-highest-grossing movie in North America last year.)

“Peggy thinks he’s dead, everyone in the world thinks he’s dead,” said Marvel’s head of television, Jeph Loeb. “These are the struggles and the triumphs, what happened to her next.”

When the new series opens, Peggy is now working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, where despite her impressive record of wartime service, she is relegated on the basis of her gender to glorified secretarial duties. After some of Stark’s more dangerous inventions turn up on the black market, she independently sets out to clear his name with the help of his man Friday, Edwin Jarvis (D’Arcy).

“I knew that they were going to be able to give her an emotional journey, make her more three dimensional, talk about the psychological cost of leading a double life as well as losing the love of your life,” said Atwell, 32. “There was a lot to explore with her, so creatively speaking, it was interesting. It was enough for me to grab hold of.”

The idea grew out of a short about the character directed by Marvel Studios Co-President Louis D’Esposito that was included as a bonus feature on the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Iron Man 3” in 2013. “Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter” tracked Peggy as she set out on a solo covert mission after another frustrating day in the SSR offices.

Actress Hayley Atwell on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Actress Hayley Atwell on the set of Marvel’s “Agent Carter.” (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

“One-Shot” was produced largely as an epilogue to provide closure for the character, but its popularity — and Atwell’s continued interest in the role — led to more ambitious plans, which conveniently dovetailed with Marvel’s existing network show.

“Peggy Carter is unique because as a character she was really there at the beginning of the Marvel cinematic universe,” Loeb said. “She was there at the birth of Captain America and then goes on and becomes, by being the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., she is also the first agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Show runners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (“Resurrection,” “Reaper”) and Chris Dingess (“Being Human,” “Chaos”) said “Agent Carter” would touch on aspects of its ABC predecessor, now in its second season. But for the new series, the trio is pulling from a variety of outside influences too.

“One minute we’re talking ‘Raiders [of the Lost Ark’], the next we’re talking about ‘L.A. Confidential’ or a James Ellroy novel. It’s a really good match that Marvel lends itself to,” Dingess said.

“We tried to treat it as the event that they are billing it as,” Butters added.

Asked whether a strong showing from “Agent Carter” might help bolster the middling ratings for “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Loeb responded, “Anything that gets people to watch more Marvel I’m in favor of.”

Enver Gjokaj on the set of Marvel's "Agent Carter." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Enver Gjokaj on the set of Marvel’s “Agent Carter.” (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Production began in L.A. in September, with D’Esposito directing the “Agent Carter” pilot, and Atwell anchoring a cast that includes Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (the father of Tony “Iron Man” Stark), D’Arcy as butler Jarvis, with Shea Wigham as SSR chief Roger Dooley, Chad Michael Murray as agent Jack Thompson and Enver Gjokaj as agent Daniel Sousa.

On the set of the show’s third episode, Murray and Gjokaj looked sharp in fedoras, neckties and sweater vests as vintage Plymouths and Rolls-Royces parked on the secluded property gleamed in the November sun. The duo was preparing for an interrogation — one that could spell trouble for agent Carter by revealing a key alliance.

Known for Joss Whedon’s short-lived series “Dollhouse,” Gjokaj confessed that Sousa carries a torch for Peggy Carter. “I think there’s definitely a situation where … if she hadn’t dated Captain America, he might ask her out for a drink,” the actor said. “It’s like if your new girlfriend dated Ryan Gosling. It’s going to make you sweat a bit.”

Not that Peggy will necessarily have much time for romance, given everything else she’s juggling — though should the show prove a breakout hit, the busy agent could return for further adventures. As the cameras relocated to capture the afternoon’s scene from another angle, Atwell stepped outside for a brief respite and reflected on the contemporary resonance of Peggy’s struggles.

“In terms of her actual personal journey, it’s something that’s very modern,” the English actress said. “In many ways, she could be considered a woman before her time. There happens to be no one else in the series yet that is like her, that has caught up to her abilities that’s a woman. She’s having to pave the way.”

— Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

RECENT AND RELATED

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' posterMike Colter set as Luke Cage for Marvel ‘Jessica Jones’ series

‘Jessica Jones’: Krysten Ritter tipped to star in Marvel’s Netflix series

‘Agent Carter’ clip: Peggy Carter meets the original Jarvis

Benedict Cumberbatch officially set to star in Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’

‘Deadpool’: Ryan Reynolds to play Marvel antihero in Fox film

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer: Ultron threatens human extinction

Marvel chief Kevin Feige unveils Phase 3 films stretching into 2019

Captain Marvel, Black Panther get stand-alone films; Twitter rejoices

Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

 

 

 

Comments


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis