Between sunshine, new enemies, and the presence of flamingos, the new season of Agent Carter will look markedly different when it returns on January 19. Hypable had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles set of Agent Carter season 2 in November and speak with the show’s cast and crew.
Our interviews with all of the primary cast members were conducted on the set of the Averbach Talent Agency, which serves as the front for the West Coast home base of the SSR. (It’s fitting, by the way, that Peggy Carter’s new office in Hollywood is located at a casting agency.)
Like Los Angeles itself, the talent agency set is sprawling. Several desks sit in orderly file in the center, with private offices for the higher ranking officials surrounding them (like Daniel Sousa, the LA department’s new Chief.) The SSR logo sits at the front of the offices, and it was in front of this symbol where we interviewed cast members old and new as well as the team of showrunners. Here’s what’s in store for the characters of Agent Carter season 2:
Straight off the bat, Hayley Atwell wanted to let us know that Peggy is indeed single and ready to mingle. When Hypable asked what opportunities she might have in season 2, Atwell explained that some of the darkness weighing Peggy down has gone. “I think she’s in a very different place emotionally because she’s let go of the grief that she had for Captain America. So her heart is a bit more open to possible romance, and so she finds herself in a love triangle out here. And there’s the visual aspect of it being shot in LA, the light, everything is a lot lighter. So her clothes are slightly different, her hair longer, she’s embraced the glamor of Hollywood a little bit, and I think that also affects how she is emotionally […] she can embark on something a little lighter. Of course, given the nature of the genre, it’s going to go dark very quickly. But she’s a little bit more quick this season to deal with it with an open heart.”
Enver Gjokaj and Leslie Boone spilled the beans on life in Los Angeles for the SSR team
“Their new fake front is a talent agency,” Gjokaj explains, pointing out that we are sitting in it right now. Rose, the SSR’s trusty secret switchboard operator at the telephone company, will make the move with the new Chief Sousa to help maintain their cover. The actors laughingly describe how Rose – who, according to Boone, has very much “gone Hollywood” – will have to crush the dreams of many young hopefuls who come in trying to get signed.
Hypable asked Gjokaj how Daniel has changed since season 1, and he spoke at length on the transition from a character who, in season 1, was fighting to be respected and taken seriously, to someone who is now in charge of his own bureau. “I think now, you’re going to see him dealing with actually being part of the machine, not trying to get into the machine, but being the boss. First season he was trying to be listened to, now he’s being listened to by a lot of people.”
Daniel Sousa was the closest thing the show presented as a love interest for Peggy, but something’s occurred to make things even worse between them than where they left off in season 1. Daniel’s adjustment to his new role as chief is further complicated by Peggy’s arrival on the West Coast scene. Naturally, that’s the fault of everyone’s least favorite SSR agent. “A little bit of time has passed, and something has passed between them, such that Daniel has decided he wants to leave New York, gets the feeling – correctly or not – that it’s not going to go anywhere, and he decides to start his life over again in LA, running the West Coast bureau. Jack Thompson decides that it’d be really really funny, when I ask for some back up, to send out Peggy.” Peggy and Sousa will spend the season trying to puzzle out the aftermath of what went down between them, while also trying to puzzle out their case, of a mysterious woman found frozen in a lake.
Atwell lets us know that Peggy is quite unaware of Daniel’s emotional state. “Unbeknownst to her, he kind of had to leave. He had to get out of New York, the tension between them and the fact that it kind of wasn’t really amounting to anything, meant that it was very painful for him. […] So she’s kind of sent out there under false pretenses, not realizing that Chief Sousa didn’t know that she was coming. He’s asked for reinforcements and Peggy’s sent. So, personally, it kind of throws his world upside down. And she’s also having to realize that he actually wasn’t the one that called her out there. So she’s feeling rejected.”
They’ll both have a friend in Rose Roberts. Given that Peggy’s beloved BFF Angie Cartinelli won’t make the move to LA, Boone’s role has been increased significantly, providing Miss Carter with a female ally who knows her secret life. She might match-make a little — “Rose gets Peggy, and she gets Daniel,” but she’ll be more than just a shoulder to cry on. Rose has been recruited for field work. How capable is she? “I think she’s quite capable, don’t you?” Boone retorts primly, with Gjokaj quick to add his praise for all the female characters on Agent Carter. “I think you’ll find that the female characters written in this show are all quite capable. […] That’s in the DNA of the show, for sure.”
Another very capable woman who’s set to leave an impression on season 2 is Bridget Regan’s Dottie Underwood, who was revealed as a Red Room assassin, the precursor of the Black Widow. It’s this character, above all others, that Atwell is excited to play against this season. “This is a different relationship,” she explains, comparing their interactions in season 1. “In some ways, without spoiling anything, I need her. And also I get to have scenes with her which are like a chess game. And so as an actor that’s incredibly exhilarating because a lot of the scenes between us, they’re filled with subtext. And yet on the surface just having to be… She’s got this very soft spoken eloquent voice, and yet you know she’s an assassin. And it’s this very potent mix.”
Chad Michael Murray’s Jack Thompson has a new ally in Kurtwood Smith’s Vernon Masters
At the end of season 1, Thompson took credit for Peggy’s city-saving work and was made the new Chief of the New York SSR office. To us, it was a move vilifying him for eternity, but if you ask Murray, he’ll tell the story very differently — he sees it as Jack saving the agency. “He did what was for the greater good, at least how he sees it. If Jack would have given her the credit, at the end of last season, it actually would have given the SSR a black eye. No one in any power position would have given credit to the woman and said ‘aw, you go get ‘em’ and given her the promotion, so to be honest, he actually made the right decision for the greater good of the agency and the SSR.”
Like it or not, Thompson will be standing behind that decision in season 2. Murray explained that for him as an actor, he couldn’t be waffling on this issue mentally — he had to decide “yes” or “no” for how Jack feels about it in order to play him, and he ended up going with yes. “He made the best decision he could, for the greater good of the agency. They could have been closed down. If he had given the credit to a woman, they would have said — barring the time period, of course, that’s why — “unacceptable. Your best agent’s a woman? I don’t think we need you guys anymore. Goodbye.” They could have closed them down and that would have been it.”
For Peggy, now that she’s truly proven herself, she’s tired of sugarcoating her capability. “She doesn’t suffer fools and she doesn’t have to pander to anyone and she’s very very straight up with Chief Thompson,” Atwell reveals. “She’s not even trying to make smart comments. She’s just saying it as it is. So I think she can be a little straighter with how she presents herself and how she defends herself. And she’s probably quite bored of it and tired of it by now. So, she just kind of wants to tell them to go away, and not have to do it in a way that uses irony, which they wouldn’t understand so she can get away with it.”
Thompson and Sousa won’t kiss and make up any time soon, either — the two agents are still at odds, even though they’re now both chiefs in their own right. Gjokaj mentioned that from his perspective, there’s a question mark around Jack. “What’s he going to choose to do, eventually? Is he going to choose to be a good guy, or is he going to choose to be, you know, an expletive?” On Murray’s part, “When you do something that you know wasn’t right or just, you want to get away from it as far as you can. Some people run, some people choose to run away. […] Jack just exports everybody, and that’s his way. He’s in the power position, he can say ‘I’m not going anywhere, you go somewhere.’”
However, he won’t be totally isolated — he’s just surrounding himself with like minded folk instead. Smith’s character works for the War Department, and he goes way back with Thompson’s family, so it looks like Masters will be something of a mentor to Jack in his new role, though Smith says the relationship will grow and change. Masters has a period-typical attitude to Peggy — “Well, she’s a woman,” Smith drawled slyly, in character, when asked what he thinks of her, and explains that sheer fact precedes her. “Other than that, he recognises her abilities and how smart she is, and consequently at a certain point he realises the problems that she presents for him.” Are they allies, Hypable wanted to know? “Well, neither of them like the Nazis…” He wouldn’t say much more on his interactions with Peggy, but he did make a point to give history buffs something to look out for. “If you think about the period, when it is in America, and what is coming down the road, what’s right around the corner, and I’m not referring to the Korean War, I think that there are rumblings of that in this episode, that we’re heading towards. I’ll let you figure that out yourselves.” Our bet’s on the Cold War, of course.
Power couple Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) and Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) will play a central role in season 2, and we doubt they’ll be making life easy for Peggy
For those who know their comics history, you’ll recognize Whitney’s name as the alias of Madame Masque, the disfigured criminal who is one of Marvel’s greatest female supervillains. This Whitney Frost has no mask in sight — she’s a famous actress and a genius scientist, inspired by Hedy Lamarr and Lauren Bacall — but Everett is thrilled at the prospect of her alter ego and even hinted at the potential of that arc being right around the corner. “There’s nothing more wonderful for me, as an actor, to have a physicality, something that you’re working with, and Whitney definitely has some things to overcome in this season, physically.”
Her husband Calvin Chadwick is a new character, an aggressive, type A businessman and politician. Graham describes their relationship as like Bill and Hillary, going on to say “Both of us feel the world is our oyster, and we’re going to make as many pearls as we can.” These two new characters will each have their own encounters with Peggy. Everett describes Whitney as being in a very similar place in life to our heroine, “We’re both trying to assert ourselves and ground ourselves in a world dominated by men.” For Calvin, Graham says there’s a love-hate dynamic there. “The idea that she’s a strong woman fighting for what she wants, there’s some admiration but also some annoyance with her.”
On her end, Atwell reveals that Whitney may bring out a new side in Peggy: “She’s never met a famous person before so I think she’s starstruck!” However, she agrees with Everett, calling Whitney Frost the other side of the same coin. “She’s very bright, she’s very successful in her own field, but she’s also probably had to overcome a tremendous amount of obstacles to get where she is. And she’s ambitious in her own way, and that’s something that Peggy can relate to. So the fact that Whitney has just gone down, kind of an abuse of power [route], the road that actually is much darker, but essentially is kind of parallel to the things that Peggy would have had to go through, and formed her character, I think there’s something quite intriguing about that for Peggy.”
At the core of these characters seems to be their relationship with one another, something that Graham revealed will be a bit unusual and not your stereotypical 1940s marriage, saying, “I think the audience will be surprised at how different this relationship is.” Hypable followed up on this, asking Graham whether if this was a happy marriage or more of a partnership? “I think it depends on whose perspective you’re taking it from. For us, in the beginning, it’s an incredibly happy marriage. I think we certainly put on that air.” Both actors were very enthusiastic about their instant chemistry on set, which was crucial for their roles to work. “For Currie and I, the first day they put us together, there were moments, which is so rare in the acting world,” Everett explains, and Graham was quick to agree: “I felt like it was literally first day, first scene. And I had never met her before.”
Hypable also asked the new couple to describe their favorite things about each other’s character. Everett: “For Whitney, he truly is my best friend. […] He’s always there at the end of the day. He’s always there, he’s behind me, he’s got my back, he knows I can do what I say I can do, especially in the science world. He’s really the only one that gets me.” Graham: “For Calvin, I look at Whitney and think perhaps I married above my class, not in terms of [social] class but in terms of intelligence and talent and drive, and I think that’s what I love so much about her, that she’s so smart, and so clear, and so driven […] I would do anything, anything for this woman. Anything.” Awwww!
New cast member Reggie Austin promises that the love triangle between Peggy, Daniel and his own character Jason Wilkes will leave you ‘rooting for everybody’
“Sparks may or may not fly,” Austin teases, describing his character’s initial meeting with Peggy. California native Jason Wilkes will become part of Agent Carter’s mystery-solving gang, working alongside Jarvis and Sousa to crack the case that Peggy has been sent to assist with, but don’t expect him and Daniel to butt heads just because they both might like the same lady. “We’re very nice to each, very professional. I think that Sousa likes Wilkes fair enough, and the same the other way. It’s not like they’re heated rivals or anything.” Good to know — Miss Carter is not a prize to be won!
Austin also confirms that his race will definitely play a part in his character’s story, given the time period. “It does play a factor. It can’t not, really. It’s America in 1947 […] You see that, in different spots over the course of the show, and I think it’s handled really, really well, when it’s addressed. It’d be foolish to not address it.” (Showrunner Michele Fazekas: “How does Peggy react when she sees blatant racism? Spoiler. Not well.”) Wilkes is, in fact, Dr. Wilkes, a scientist at Isodyne, and as an African-American, he fought to rise through the ranks in the 1940s and become the top in his field. He recognizes Peggy’s struggle as parallel to his own, adding to the connection between them.
Later in the day, Hypable observed a scene being filmed involving Peggy and Jason. The scene was for later in season 2, episode 8 of the season’s 10, and the cast and crew were playing coy about what we were observing: all Wilkes would say was that “that’s where things go crazy.” What we can tell you is this: the pair were in the back of a moving truck, and Wilkes appeared to be going rogue against our heroine. It was a tense scene which made us doubt that the rumored romance between Peggy and Jason will last long.
Here’s a last little clue about where things might be going for Dr. Wilkes: Austin, a “super comic book nerd” who collected Marvel titles growing up, also mentioned that his character did originate in the comics, and if you do your homework, you’ll discover that the only Marvel character named Jason Wilkes is also a scientist who has a very intriguing and not altogether pleasant storyline, one which could also easily fit into Agent Carter’s potential Cold War conflict.
In the editing room we got to watch a couple of scenes from the season 2 premiere, including the cold open in which the SSR take over a bad situation at a bank. The action-packed opening may be one of the best scenes in Agent Carter’s history (so far!), and it’s a thrilling way to kick off the sophomore batch of episodes. In another scene, Peggy and Jarvis meet in sunny Los Angeles — and Jarvis downright hates all of the sunshine.
James D’Arcy was less than enthused to climb into a woollen three-piece suit under the hot LA sun, but his two leading ladies should serve to make Jarvis’s West Coast experience worthwhile
Poor Jarvis. Life in LA, setting up Howard Stark’s new base of operations, really is going to be a trial for him. First things first: that flamingo. “There were four flamingos,” he begins, “as they told me, ranging in aggressive natures, from quite mild to psychotic. And the nicest one was called Simon. And the one that was a menace to society was called Cannibal.” D’Arcy had the room in fits of laughter describing his experience shooting with Howard’s ridiculous new pet, and it’s made us eager to see more comedic scenes from the uptight butler. Even Peggy seems to delight in pushing Jarvis’s buttons: “Peggy knows that Jarvis is someone she can trust and a confidant, while not necessarily being the number one draft pick for going on missions,” D’Arcy explains ruefully. “I think she quite liked torturing him as well. So there’s a sort of glee in her face as she makes me do things that I don’t want to do. And God bless Jarvis. He’s game! And ineffective for the most part.”
After D’Arcy explained his inspiration for Jarvis’s very specific period British accent and how it compares to the J.A.R.V.I.S. of Iron Man (he thinks that Paul Bettany should go back and copy him!), Hypable asked, just for fun, what Jarvis would think of Tony Stark’s tribute to him. Would he find it creepy, or would he be touched by it? Edwin Jarvis is, after all, the man who ended up loving Tony like a son. To our surprise, this question was met with one of the longest and most ominous pauses in any of the cast interviews. “I’m not entirely sure how to answer that question. Your question may or may not get an answer in this season,” D’Arcy told us after some consideration. What on earth could this possibly mean?
But, of course, the most anticipated development for Jarvis this season is the on-screen introduction of his wife, Ana, who in season 1 “appeared” only as a touching anecdote about Jarvis’s past and and as a comical voice behind the curtain. But for season 2, she had to truly come to life. “It was something that we went back-and-forth on in the first season, on whether or not to show her,” showrunner Tara Butters admitted. “But if we’re moving to LA and Peggy is going to be staying with them, you can not not show her.”
One thing that D’Arcy wanted to make very clear is that we’re not being introduced to Ana purely to sate curiosity — she has a very real reason to be there, one that will serve the story dramatically. He also praised his new co-star, Lotte Verbeek, faced with the position of coming into the second season of a show that already works well without you and worrying that you’d be the one to mess it up, and demonstrated her fearlessness by describing her first day of work: a scene that — whether it makes it into the episode or not — should tell you something about the home life of the couple. “She’d just flown in, I met her in makeup, we had a chat, then suddenly we were on set, we were doing this scene in front of the crew, and she did something that wasn’t in the script. Which was she smacked me on the ass, at the end of one of her lines. And as she did it I thought, that is great. That is brilliantly courageous. Firstly to do with an actor that you don’t actually know very well! But secondarily, perfectly what they were hoping that Ana would be like. She’s not like Mr. Jarvis at all.”
Verbeek agrees, telling us that to be Jarvis’s wife is to be completely opposite of what he is. When asked for her take on the butt-slapping incident, she credits the writing, saying it gave her the inspiration to be playful and free to her husband’s stuck-up and proper attitude. “The role of Ana Jarvis is definitely described as the polar opposite of what he is, anything that’s playful and kind of provocative, fun and outgoing.” Mrs. Jarvis may be more keen on her new home than Jarvis himself — “What’s not to like? There’s sun, there’s colors…” she exclaimed, when we asked whether Ana liked LA, despite her husband hating it. Though, as they say, home is where the heart is. “Ana Jarvis is the kind of person that makes Jarvis like LA a little bit more than he would have,” she continued. Too cute.
In case these moments slipped by you in season 1, Ana is a Hungarian Jew whom Jarvis fell in love with while serving another employee in Europe. He committed forgery to get her safe transit during WWII, and this incident both cemented his bond with new boss Howard Stark, and was later used against him by the SSR, who uncovered his crime and threatened to deport Ana. She was heard as a voice down the hall or on the telephone, and the pair seem to have a very sweet, domestic relationship, one that helps to re-assert the platonic friendship between him and Peggy. Fans can look forward to seeing that actually happen in person: “You get a sense in the first season that he’s a really devoted, loving husband, in the cutest, most adorable way,” Verbeek gushed, “but you never see him be that way with her, you just hear him talk about her […] I think there’s something very cute to it, just the way they are together. Because they’re so different, I think it’s very powerful.”
Of course, the Peggy and Jarvis dream team wouldn’t exist without Howard Stark — the show’s three British leads go way back
“I’m very lucky on this because I have Dominic and James who I’ve known for so long that there’s a natural ease when we work together,” Atwell explained. “We can go to those places because we’ve known each other for a long time. We know how to push each other’s buttons and how to make each other laugh. And I think that helps to create the rapport between the characters.”
Dominic Cooper wasn’t on hand during our visit, but Atwell described the changes in the relationship between Peggy and her old friend with a telling anecdote about her own life experiences and what the opinion of someone with a worldview like Stark’s means.
“There’s a new comfort level between Stark and Peggy. Because of what they went through in the first season where he betrays her and she realizes how kind of fragile human beings are, and she kind of comes around to his way of thinking, as to why she was betrayed. And because of that, they’re on a bit more of an even level. She respects him hugely, but also is not afraid to comment on his lifestyle choices and how disgustingly misogynistic that she finds him.
But I remember the greatest compliment I ever got from a guy who was at school with me, who was a real misogynist, just the way he would talk about women, his conquest for women… I remember him coming up to me once — we had to do this exercise where, it was so drama school, like, ‘go around one at a time and compliment each other,’ you’d say something that you acknowledged about that person. And this misogynist said to me, he used the word ‘equal.’ He just said ‘equal.’ And that had so much more of an affect on me than ‘oh she’s fabulous’ or you know she’s this, that, or the other. It just felt coming from him, given his perception and view of the world, being so alien to mine, and in fact actually quite insulting to me, the fact that he saw me as an equal was quite a big deal.
And I think that Howard and Peggy’s relationship is that, is that he has these kind of floozies around, and he does kind of use women as a form of escapism for him, his Dionysus ways. But actually when it comes to someone like Peggy he doesn’t see her as big boobs and red lips. He sees her as someone who he can actually have a proper conversation with. Which probably scares the hell out of him as well because he’s very confused by it all. But then also at the same time, she’s living at his house. So he’s graciously opened up his doors to her. Which also means she’s more privy to how disgusting he is. So it kind of works both ways.
Location, location, location — the entire cast had a lot to say about the show’s shift in setting to LA
All the actors we spoke to were keen to express their admiration for the behind-the-scenes work on the show, how much delight it brought them to be a part of such a perfect recreation of the Hollywood Golden Age, getting to don the hair, make-up and costumes from an era where day-to-day life was a lot more glamourous. Wynn Everett explained how thorough the transformation is, recounting an anecdote about getting told off for wearing her own undergarments rather than the era-appropriate ones, and her on-screen husband Currie Graham was even blunter. “I romanticise about that time, because people really put their shit together!”
The change in setting also means that the show can add another level of authenticity by doing more work in real locations. “Changing the location to LA means that we can use a ton of these LA landmarks that are, in some cases, preserved almost perfectly,” Enver Gjokaj told us. One you’ll definitely get to see? The iconic Griffith Observatory, which nearly every cast member asked permission from the showrunners to mention! “There’s nothing that says LA more than pulling a body out of the LA River. I feel like that really solidifies it,” added Fazekas, on a grimmer note. “The period itself lends itself to just feeling so much more exciting,” Leslie Boone explained, and Gjokaj had perhaps the most moving statement about what it feels like to make Agent Carter. “This is what I thought — when I started off acting — this is what I thought this is what acting was going to be, and it wasn’t, and it turned out not to be. But this show is.”
Will the show stay in Hollywood? Who knows, at this point. Season 1 was New York, and now in season 2, we’ve got LA. Could season 3 see Peggy going back to her roots, with a London setting? “That would be amazing,” Atwell enthused. “I love that. I love it. I think in season 2, without kind of giving anything away, there are moments that we see of what her life potentially could have been before back in England. And it also sets up quite a very rich background for her. So knowing that her roots are there, knowing that there’s certain things that happened in her past in England that defined who she was as woman as a person, I think there’s plenty of opportunity to explore that a little bit more.” D’arcy was also, unsurprisingly, very keen on that idea. However, the showrunners aren’t making any promises to the homesick Brits. “I kinda like LA,” Fazekas admits. “I think there’s still more stories to tell.”
Agent Carter airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC beginning tomorrow, January 19.
Additional reporting by Andrew Sims