On a December afternoon, somewhere in Burbank, not far from where Doc Brown and Marty McFly once traveled back in time to 1955, I too, found myself taking a step into the past for a glimpse into the future. Walking into a soundstage and onto the 1947 set of MARVEL's AGENT CARTER, I settled into the almost-too-real-to-be-fake Los Angeles Office for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), joining a familiar crew of fellow writers to meet up with Showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas (both of the upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL comic relaunch), along with stars Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter) and James D'Arcy (Edwin Jarvis) to pull back the curtain on what second season adventures await... and the off-screen shenanigans that bring the cast and crew of AGENT CARTER closer together.
It's immediately clear that longtime creative partners Butters and Fazekas (together since THE X-FILES, and the forces behind the cancelled-too-soon REAPER, which I loved) are a perfect pairing - as are D'Arcy and Atwell, the creative energy of both duos seeming to reciprocally feed the other. For the latter, Atwell is characteristically modest, while D'Arcy is a fine raconteur that can spin a lengthy and entertaining tale out of even the most simple (or silly) of circumstances.
"We've moved to Los Angeles, or actually no, I've moved to Los Angeles, but then for reason I can't ever remember, [Peggy shows up]," explains D'Arcy of the series' new location, humorously working between the things that are allowed to be said, and those that cannot - I myself even being required to sign the standard MARVEL non-disclosure agreement before taking an early look at some things that have since been revealed. "We can't ever tell you anything, so it's terrible. This is very frustrating. Things happen, which are terribly exciting, but they all take place in L.A., so instead of being a sort of New York-y, dark, dingy vibe, now it's bright sunlight and palm trees - a sort of CHINATOWN-type deal."
"Sousa [Enver Gjokaj] is running the West Coast SSR, and he catches a case that Peggy comes out to help investigate," elaborates Fazekas. "We really wanted a way to organically include Jarvis because their relationship was so great, and L.A. really provides a nice way to do it since Howard Stark [Dominic Cooper] has moved his base of operations out here. You have sort of the burgeoning scientific field; he's doing some government contract work; and he's also opened up a movie studio on the side. So Jarvis is setting up his Beverly Hills estate out here."
Just as their on-screen characters do, Atwell and D'Arcy play a fine round of back-and-forth about certain Los Angelisms...
Speaking of "iconic moments," the off-screen pranks delivered by the cast and crew of AGENT CARTER have become legendary, with Dominic Cooper said to be a frequent face on the receiving end, but perhaps one of the best on-set goofs was a "gift" from D'Arcy to Atwell in true "Bandit" style, a compliment to some other photographic mementos that he's been known to plaster about...
"My trailer is, because I can't really take it down since I'm too knackered, covered in pictures of James," says Atwell. "He went on to Google and got the art department to print every possible online picture [of himself] and they plastered it all over my trailer. I was like, 'Oh, for God's sake!"
D'Arcy reveals that among the pictures is a special one that he claims we'll never see because there's only one copy in existence.
"I also got her red, iconic hat and struck the Burt Reynolds 1970's pose complete with mustache, with the hat. You'll never see that picture, but I permit you to know that it exists. It was my Halloween gift to her."
Atwell: "It greets me every morning. I even found a picture of James in the toilet."
D'Arcy: "Yes, if you open up the loo, there's a little picture of me staring up at her. Happy Halloween."
Even the producers get into the act when it comes to shenanigans...
"We have a great history of pranking," boasts Butters, "and on the set and in our office there's one called Murder Lurking. What you do is like if someone was going to hide behind that door over there and someone walks around and you yell 'Murder!' and you jump out at them. We have great video of Hayley and James getting it."
In the midst of our interview session, a number of readers tweeted about the buzz for the past couple of months that's been building... buzz involving a pink flamingo.
"I did have to chase a flamingo around for a bit," confirms D'Arcy. "Howard has obviously decided to open a zoo, so they brought some flamingos onto the set and they brought four in various grades of rage. The nice one was called Simon, and there's two in the middle, and then there's one at the end called Cannibal... Cannibal was the one they used. I thought it was very funny when I read it. 'Oh, this is great, he takes the flamingo and the flamingo chases him, blah, blah, blah.' Then, when we got to shoot it, for some reason the flamingo wrangler insisted on calling me 'Cowboy.' Don't know why. And I said, 'ah, tell me, is this flamingo dangerous?' And he goes [Western American accent]: 'Oh, yeah, Cowboy, that thing will pluck your eyes out!' Then he got his wife, the other wrangler, to put her arm out, at which point Cannibal went bananas like jabbing away at her arm! We went with Simon, the nice one. Even Simon is not going to give you a cuddle, but, it turned out that Cannibal really liked me. I think I'm sort of a human flamingo, and I think Cannibal recognized the kindred spirit in me and didn't want to peck me at all. He just wanted to sort of stand there and, you know, maybe do something with his neck. A little neck cuddle."
With AGENT CARTER being part of a television extension of the greater MARVEL Cinematic Universe, I asked Atwell and D'Aarcy if they ever find themselves exploring the other offshoots to explore how the different pieces may one day hook together.
D'Arcy: "We took an executive decision to, I haven't watched any TV at all, because in 1947, no TV was invented. I only watch film. I can only watch films up until 1947, the last year-and-a-half, so no spoilers about anything that happened at the Oscars this year. We're really deep in character, here. So that, the MARVEL Universe? We don't know anything about that."
Atwell can barely hold back the grin: "It's like the biggest load of b.s.!"
D'Arcy: Okay, Hayley’s gonna tell you about how we fit into the Marvel universe. Go. [LAUGHING]
Atwell: "I do feel that because it's 1940's, that we do exist in our own world, really. It feels unrelated -- like this show has it's own tones, very different from MARVEL's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example. Because of that, there's a freedom. I like kind of signed-up for Peggy [in the movies] and I didn't know she'd end up here - and I don't think anyone did. There was no expectation. You see the reaction of the fans, and we were interested in that -- and me feeling that, that I could find different things to explore in her, but it felt against my stubborn single-mindedness, that it had to be more on my own terms as an actor of what I feel like I could do.... bring to it, that was outside of the fandom. Because I wasn't familiar with MARVEL, and I wasn't familiar with the comic book world."
"So I thought, well, if I'm not in the center of my own little microcosm of that, then it's got to feel relatable to people who are outside the fandom. So I approached the character as I would any other job, which is: commit to finding some kind of depth or some kind of psychological story behind what drives her, and then commit to it in the best way that I possibly could so that anyone from the biggest, avid fan of comic books to my granny could find something in it. It turns out, it was the costume [laughter]."
D'Arcy: One of the things that's so great about this show, I mean, look, I don't see all of the films. I'm...
Atwell: No, you're a PARKS AND REC fan, aren't you? That's your thing...
D'Arcy : I wish I hadn't spoken that one... but I haven't seen all of the movies and honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed by how big that the Universe is now. If you miss one of the films, you feel like, 'Ah, now I've screwed it up! Now I have to watch! I need to see everything in order to understand!' What's great about AGENT CARTER is you really don't need to know anything else. You know, we do pre-date all the other stuff that comes along, with the exception of the first CAPTAIN AMERICA film, so you can watch it kind of in it's own bubble... you know, in a double-bill with PARKS AND REC."
"Oh, God, what have we said?"
No matter how you watch it, or what you watch it paired with, MARVEL's AGENT CARTER is one of the most shining gems on television right now - truly a comic book show for all audiences.
MARVEL's AGENT CARTER is back for it's second season debuting tonight on ABC (9pm/8c). Additional episodes will air on Tuesday nights at the same time.
Synopsis - MARVEL's AGENT CARTER: Season 2
Dedicated to the fight against new Atomic Age threats in the wake of World War II, Agent Peggy Carter journeys from New York City to Los Angeles for her most dangerous – and bizarre – assignment yet. East Coast SSR Chief Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) sends Peggy to work with newly appointed West Coast SSR Chief Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) to explore a strange homicide involving a body that glows and emanates cold.
Upon her arrival, Peggy reunites with Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) butler and her loyal partner-in-crime, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), who welcomes her to the Hollywood life and sets her up at Stark’s mansion. There, Peggy meets Ana (Lotte Verbeek), Jarvis’ free-spirited and devoted wife to whom she takes an immediate liking.
Eventually, the odd investigation leads Peggy to quirky yet charming scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), who quickly becomes an ally — and sparks fly. As Peggy continues to find clues in this peculiar case, she is introduced to the machinations of Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), a movie starlet, brilliant physicist and the true power behind husband and senatorial candidate Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham). Calvin, a politician who will do anything to get to the top, befriends Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith), a veteran of the War Department with a keen understanding of how to work the system. Peggy soon discovers that corruption seemingly runs deep, making it hard to distinguish the good versus the bad.
The search comes full circle when Russian spy Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) returns into Peggy’s life in a new and unexpected way. But even as Peggy discovers a new city, both old and new friends – and potentially a new love – she’s about to learn the bright lights of post-war Hollywood mask a more sinister threat to everyone she is sworn to protect.
“Marvel’s Agent Carter” stars Hayley Atwell (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) as Agent Peggy Carter, James D’Arcy (“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”) as Edwin Jarvis, Enver Gjokaj (“Dollhouse”) as Chief Daniel Sousa, Wynn Everett (“The Newsroom,” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) as Whitney Frost, Reggie Austin (“Life Unexpected,” “Devious Maids”) as Jason Wilkes, and Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill,” “A Cinderella Story”) as Chief Jack Thompson.
Tara Butters (“Resurrection”), Michele Fazekas (“Resurrection”), Christopher Markus (Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Stephen McFeely (Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Chris Dingess (“Men in Trees”), Kevin Feige (“Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Marvel’s The Avengers”), Louis D’Esposito (“Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Marvel’s Iron Man 3”), Alan Fine (“Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Marvel’s Thor”), Joe Quesada (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”), Stan Lee (“Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk”) and Jeph Loeb (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Marvel’s Daredevil”) are executive producers. “Marvel’s Agent Carter” is produced by ABC Studios and Marvel Television.
THE ROCK FATHER Magazine has partnered with The Walt Disney Studios and MARVEL for this content series.
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality, Commentator, Adventurer and Raconteur.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as co-manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, has been quoted in BusinessWire, CNN and Babble, in addition to making appearances on ABC News, WGN and more. In the past he served as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), penned articles for Sprout, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.
Learn more here.