Agent Carter's Hayley Atwell on Why Peggy Is a Better Hero For TV Rather Than Marvel Movies

Calling all Marvel fans! Here's why you should watch the newest comic book show to hit the air

By Sydney Bucksbaum Jan 06, 2015 3:30 PMTags
Marvels Agent CarterABC/Eric McCandless

There may be a ton of comic book characters on TV right now, but time for a truth bomb: none of them can hold a candle to Marvel's newest hero, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

ABC's new series Marvel's Agent Carter premieres tonight, and you better not write it off as yet another comic book show or we'll sick Carter on you and she will kick. Your. Butt.

This prequel series to the Captain America movies and the network's other Marvel series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is everything you want in TV and in movies: A strong, fierce, capable and realistic female hero, without any superpowers other than her wit and her training.

ABC/Eric McCandless

"I'm excited for everyone to see her vulnerability and her humor more than anything else," Atwell tells E! News. "She really is a three-dimensional character with real flaws that people can relate to. She's going to be humanized."

Since Marvel's Agent Carter takes place after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy will be fresh off mourning her presumed-dead beau, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)—though Marvel fans know he's not actually dead, just locked in an icy slumber until S.H.I.E.L.D. finds and thaws him out in present day. Atwell promises the show will focus on how a strong soldier like Peggy can still save the day while dealing with losing the love of her life.

"His absence is very strong and prevalent in her life," Atwell says. "He was a dominating force in her life. There are things that happen that are immediately and completely linked to him and she'll be constantly reminded of him."

Yeah, if you're reading between the lines, that means you can bet on ol' Cap himself making some cameos via flashbacks on the ABC show!

Check out our full chat with the kick-butt Atwell below.

ABC/Eric McCandless

Having now played Peggy Carter in both huge blockbuster films (both Captain America movies) and hit TV shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel's Agent Carter), do you notice any differences in playing the same character in two different mediums?
Yes, I would say that because we have more time on television, we dig much deeper and we'll see Peggy much darker. We'll see her flaws and vulnerabilities and also more importantly we see her sense of humor.

Yes, I noticed that a lot in just the pilot alone. We were able to see Agent Carter's softer side for the first time as she mourns her lost love.
Yeah, absolutely! That makes her so much more relatable. That's what audiences want.

ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Since there aren't all that many female leads in the superhero universe, do you feel any pressure with your role going into the premiere of Agent Carter?
No! I feel like it's really an opportunity for a woman to shine. It's a great time for women: audiences have spoken and they want more women, Marvel is creating more roles for women. I don't see it as a pressure, I see it more as, "Yay! About time!"

Speaking of that, since Agent Carter takes place in the past, I found the way that it handles the old-fashioned gender roles very refreshing because clearly that issue is still relevant today.
Yes, we've come a long way from her, but it's definitely still felt today.

How do you feel about the way that Peggy deals with the sexism she faces every day in her job and life?
I think she's very much a woman of her time. She's up against lots of guys who see her as incapable as a child, and they think they need to protect her or to demote her. I think Peggy deals with that very sophisticatedly. She knows when to be passive, when she needs to use her sexuality as a weapon to get what she wants for the greater cause.

ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Tell me about some of the characters we're going to be meeting in the premiere that are going to be a big part of the show all season.
You've got Jarvis [James D'Arcy], who is Howard Stark's [Dominic Cooper] butler, and he is my comic sidekick. Jarvis and Peggy have a great, witty banter between them. They're both British so they both have that wry sense of humor. Then you have Jack Thompson [Chad Michael Murray] who is the rogue bad boy who makes life hard for Peggy. Then there's Chief Dooley [Shea Whigham] whom she respects, and he's trying very hard to protect her but also still respects her back. And then there's Sousa [Enver Gjokaj], who, having a disability himself, realizes that they are kindred spirits, him and Peggy. There are prejudices against both of them that they each recognize in each other. That lays the foundation for some kind of love story or chemistry between them for sure.

What can you tell me about some of the kick-ass action scenes we'll see on Agent Carter?
Well, I do all my own stunts. They're very highly-elaborate fight sequences. They get bigger and bigger and bigger and scarier and more dangerous and more crazy as the season goes on. That's really a testament to all the stunt men I've kicked in the genital area on several occasions by mistake. Those poor guys are all suffering!

Marvel's Agent Carter premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.