Hayley Atwell talks Agent CarterShe stole Steve Rodger’s heart in Captain America, now she has her own show. Hayley Atwell talks to The Red Bulletin about playing Peggy Carter in the Marvel TV series Agent Carter.
THE RED BULLETIN: What was it like for you to play a single woman in the ’40s. Did you have to do a lot of research?
HAYLEY ATWELL: A little bit, yes. But we didn’t try to tell a historical tale with a political message. We are still in the Marvel world, it is still fantasy. The world Peggy finds herself in is a male dominated one. The men, the way they see her, is that she is really good at making sandwiches or coffee. So she has to fight a battle daily as well as fighting the bad guys.
Was it easy for you to slip into this world?
In some ways it was just a patriot traditional Captain America movie. That gave me an inside view to what the producers wanted. But what was exciting about it was that the writers wanted my opinion about what I wanted the show to be. It wasn’t so much about me getting into a role but me creating a role for myself.
Did you immediately say yes when you got the offer for the series?
Yes, absolutely. I loved working on the first movie with Marvel and they welcomed me into their family. So that meant I would be able to portray a character that I had already known and loved and was able to explore her in more detail. And I think it helped that social media already supported Agent Carter. They wanted to see more, which meant that it already had a good fanbase.
Why do you think comic heroes are so popular at the moment?
I think they are so popular because all the Marvel comic book heroes have some kind of withdrawal, levitation or disability that makes them truelly relatable to every person. It’s an archetypical thing, kind of an age old story – it is the coming of ages, someone having to overcome certain adversities to be able to become this incredible human being and I think that is something that we all can relate to.
Did you read comics when you were young?
No. (Laughs.) I have obviously seen a lot of films. I can’t say that I knew much about the comic book world before I joined it myself.
Okay, but now you have to read them professionally …
No, I haven’t read a comic book since ages. That is the great thing about it. Marvel are kindly working around me and my ideas and workling closely with the showrunners, so I don’t have to do any of that research myself.
What do you think about the fashion in the ’40s? It was very elegant. Do you miss that in our modern times?
It was a very elegant time and also not a very practical one. I had to walk in pencil skirts and high heels all the time. But despite that I loved the fact that she has a very definite wardrobe. She puts on a very tailored shirt and she just looks like she is ready to take on the world. It affected my posture, it affected my walk. That helped with the characterization.
You play a secretary and a secret agent. Could you imagine being a secret agent in real life?
I don’t think so because I am not very good at keeping secrets. I would tell anyone that I am a secret agent.
What’s your definition of a hero?
A hero is someone who makes us feel better than we want to be, is able to get in touch with the universal truths and lives by them. Someone who is kind of the best version of ourselves, who has a set of skills that is greater than the average person.
Is it true that there is a picture of Peggy Carter on your driving license? Kind of the ’40s agent version of Hayley Atwell?
Yeah, I had to renew my driving license and I only had half an hour because I was filming that day. So they said that I had to go in costume there. So I walked in as Peggy Carter: My costume, my hair, my wig, my nails, my make up - and they took my picture as Peggy Carter, because I had no choice. So it is now my official driving license picture.
And it worked out?
Yeah, they were pretty fine with it. They didn’t bat an eye. They thought I looked like that every day.
What was the most challenging aspect on of Agent Carter for you?
I think probably the fight sequences because they were so relentless. We had to keep doing them and doing them until we got them right. They were quite hard to choreograph. It takes a lot of stamina. So in addition to do the emotional scenes I had to do a lot of physical stuff as well. That was probably the most challenging part.
How did you prepare?
I had two stunt coordinators that would take me through basic unarmed combat and martial arts skills. And I relied very much on my training in theatre. When I was at drama school I learned a lot of things like that, so I felt I had the foundation in me to be able to do it. And then I would rehearse the day before each scene with a stunt coordinator – just the choreography and the movement. And then, the more you do it, the better you get. So you kind of get into it by just doing it every day.
Are you a sporty person?
Well, I was at school. I go to the gym three to four times a week and I do a lot of freeweights. I like swimming. I would say I am quite active.
What about extreme sports?
Um, can you call shark diving a sport? I like doing that.
There are a lot of other Marvel TV-shows at the moment. There is Daredevil obviously, I think the Punisher is coming up. Any chance that you could be a part of one of those?
Yeah, I think there is a possibility. Anything can happen in the Marvel world. And of course I have already had a couple of cameos in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So If I was asked again, that is something that I would love to do, because I think it would be great to have Peggy taking over the whole Marvel universe by appearing in everything. That would be fun.