Marvel.com: Now that you’ve reached the end of the road for this first season, how different was the experience than what you were expecting? When you started filming did it end up being exactly what you expected?Source: Marvel.
Hayley Atwell: I don’t know when I learned [this, but] the lesson is trying to not actually expect anything because that takes you out of the moment and stops you from navigating your way through a journey as you find it. So without trying to sound all high and mighty, I felt that I actually came to it from scratch. I didn’t know what I was necessarily doing, other than what I had done before in the other movies. I set out [seeing] this as an opportunity to explore another side of Peggy.
The main thing that I wanted to explore was the vulnerability and the humor of Peggy, which I didn’t feel there was really any chance to explore in the other films. I wanted to make her three-dimensional and relatable. I wanted to see her flaws, her idiosyncrasies. I wanted to see her frustrated, I wanted to see her grieving, being lonely, and the kind of social awkwardness that she had with other women [who] she couldn’t really get close to them because of the job that she was in and the cost of losing Steve. Those were the kind of things that I set out to explore, and I think, having finished the first season, it makes me feel very proud that the writers took those things on board. They decided to collaborate with me and listen and pay attention to what I was capable of doing as an actor and what my skillset was and based the show around that, if that makes sense.
Marvel.com: Yeah, of course, and part of what you’re talking about is the fact that Peggy had a whole new cast of characters to play off. What were some of the things that you thought each of the different characters brought out in Peggy that we hadn’t seen before specifically from their interactions, let’s say with Jarvis or with Thompson or Sousa?
Hayley Atwell: With Jarvis it’s a huge sense of wit, irony, sarcasm, banter, and cynicism, which is very, very English between them. That’s the one thing that they have in common, they’re fish out of water living where they live, in New York. Having each other to bounce off of intellectually, that was really fun.
Marvel.com: That dynamic with Howard was another thing that I wanted to talk about, because in the fourth episode it was such a strong scene between you two. What made that betrayal sting so much for Peggy?
Hayley Atwell: I think Howard found her Achilles heel in that the one thing that drives her. Like she says in the scene, “Thank you for reminding me what Steve Rogers was and what he stood for, and I’m not as good as he was but you reminded me how good I want to be.” That’s a huge indication about what drives Peggy as a character. She met this man called Steve Rogers who was the best man that she ever knew. When he died, she suffered the loss of that, but she’s also given a gift, which is the drive and the purpose to carry on his work. So when Howard comes back and betrays her with that, he’s someone who’s ultimately the only person who’s really meant to be on Peggy’s side, and he’s using the one thing that drives her against her. It’s kind of the ultimate betrayal that she’s ever experience in her life.
The stakes are really high and there’s a huge cost for her there. I remember thinking that in the scene, and that’s why I got so riled, because it’s one thing to be betrayed by an enemy or an acquaintance, but it’s another thing to be betrayed by a dear friend. I don’t think you could really, fully, know what that’s like until it happens to you, where you’re so overwhelmed by the pain of someone being so dark and cruel. That’s what fuels the emotion in that scene.
Marvel.com: At this point, do you feel as if there’s any sort of opportunity for Howard to win Peggy’s trust back in any way? Hayley Atwell: I do in the sense that I think Peggy is a better person than I am. She knows what Howard’s character is. She knows that despite the fact that he respects her and they consider themselves friends, he is a womanizer and there are many aspects of his lifestyle that she condemns and doesn’t agree with. Once the truth is out, it’s out, and she gives him the breathing space to explain himself and he says, “This is my background.” He steps up and says, “This is where I’ve come from, and I’ve learned to lie. I’ve learned that you can’t have anything in this world unless you’re a social climber. If you come from nothing, you learn to look out for yourself.”
Peggy’s a very compassionate person. She’s out to get the bad guys, but the more sophisticated the bad guys become, I think the more complicated her moral situation becomes, which is what makes her so fascinating to me. I think it’s as worse as it could possibly get with Howard, yet she also respects that he’s a genius. And he was there for her, he’s really the only person in the world that fully believes in her. She probably remembers that, despite the betrayal. It’s an extraordinary thing, I think she’s an amazing person. She’s better than I am, she’s better than most people I’ve met, too.
Marvel.com: Looking forward towards the finale, is there anything you can really about what’s coming up for Peggy as her first real solo mission wraps up?
Hayley Atwell: I think I can say that Peggy retains her dignity and her mission, and she finds an emotional closure that gives her great comfort but also gives her great drive to carry on to pursue what I think has become her destiny. What’s fantastic is that by episode four we realize that this isn’t a series that’s about finding Howard’s bad babies every episode. We found all the bad babies, and by episode four it took on a whole different world where Dottie is introduced to us, where Howard’s betrayal and Steve’s blood is introduced to us, and it becomes something a lot more different. I think that what the writers and directors have done so beautifully is to give the story some psychological depth as well as a really fast drive, plot-wise, to keep people entertained. The story we’re trying to tell is quite archetypal and quite mythological and I feel very proud to be a part of it.
Don’t miss the season finale of “Marvel’s Agent Carter” Tuesday, February 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC!