Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2015 by Fred Topel
The ABC party for the Television Critics Association brought additional talent that was not featured on panels during the day. That included producers on Marvel shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. I spoke with Agent Carter executive producers Tara Butters and Chris Dingess privately off to the side of the bar.
Earlier in the day, ABC President of Entertainment Paul Lee spoke about season two of Agent Carter taking Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to Hollywood. Butters and Dingess elaborated on that as well as the new villain Madame Masque, the extended 10 episode order and Peggy moving on from her grief over the loss of Steve Rogers.
Was the original plan for Agent Carter a limited series or had you always hoped for a second season?
Tara: You know what, we’d always hoped for another season of the show. We love doing it so much. It’s so much fun. We always thought there was many, many more stories we could tell for Peggy Carter.
When did you get to see the Ant-Man prologue?
Tara: They invited us to the premiere so that was when we got to see it. We obviously knew she was in the movie because we had to make time in our schedule to get her out to Atlanta, but I thought they did a great job.
Where is Peggy in dealing with her grief over Steve Rogers?
Tara: The nice thing is, I feel like by the end of the first season, she had decided emotionally that she needed to move on. I think that when we start season two, the nice thing is you will see a much lighter Peggy, one who is ready for the adventure of her job and potentially the adventure of a new relationship. She’s not going to be mourning the loss anymore. It’s still someone she absolutely loved but the fact is she knows she has to move forward in her life.
Season one takes place right in the aftermath of Captain America: The First Avenger, so there are rightfully many references to Steve Rogers. Is that less necessary in the second season?
Tara: I definitely think there’ll be references to the greater Marvel universe whenever possible. The fact that her relationship with Jarvis and friendship with Howard, these are all things that play on in our universe. It’s hard to say that we’ll never mention Cap, but I think it will be…
Chris: I think she put that part to rest a bit last season but like any great love in your life, I think his name may come up.
Does 10 episodes let you do a slightly bigger story, or maybe leave room for a standalone episode?
Tara: Less likely that there’ll be a standalone episode but I definitely think it allows for more character, because we can have more personal stories built into the framework of the overall arching mystery, which I like. I like seeing these characters and seeing their relationships to each other.
Are there any Marvel villains exclusively from the ‘40s you have access to?
Tara: Here’s the thing. It’s a little hard. In the comic books, a lot of the Marvel period, there are issue rights. Our villain from the season is very much a Marvel villain that we co-opted a little bit like we did Dr. Fennhoff in the first season.
Chris: It’s a ‘40s version of that villain.
So you’ve adapted her back in time.
Tara: We’ve co-opted her.
Chris: We put our spin on her.
What was modern about Madame Masque that just wouldn’t work in the ‘40s?
Tara: I think we’ve changed the look of her a bit obviously. We’ve made her an actress, which is very Hedy Lamar. She was a ‘40s siren actress who was also a scientific genius, so that’s part of what we’re mining with this character.
Have you cast her?
Tara: Yes, we have but we’re not allowed to announce it yet.
Is it significant that the villain is a woman?
Tara: For me it is, because I feel like that is something that… as much as there are not enough female heroes just on television, I feel like having a female villain is just as equally powerful.
Chris: I also think because she’s a female villain, her story informs Peggy’s story in a unique way and vice versa.
When did the idea for going to Hollywood come about?
Tara: It was something we had talked about in the middle of the first season, just because there are so many fun stories we thought we could tell. But then actually as the season progressed, we realized that not only was it a good idea for the storytelling, but also the idea that for the physical shooting, it’s much easier for us to shoot L.A. for L.A. than try to shoot L.A. for New York. So it served two purposes.
Are there comic book series of Peggy Carter in Hollywood?
Tara: This is all new. Obviously we are drawing from the Marvel universe and they’ve been really generous to us in terms of the characters and getting to play with some iconic [things]. The nice thing is we get to set things up. There’s a lot of fun to that.
How many places in L.A. still look like they do in the ‘40s, that you can use without dressing them up?
Tara: Actually quite a few. Our hope is that you will see places like Musso and Frank, the Formosa, the Griffith Park Observatory. There’s tons of stuff downtown, actual buildings that were there.
Chris: I think they’re redoing the Formosa. I just saw an article, so if we want to do that we have to get a jump on it.
Tara: There are racetracks, the pier. There’s tons of things that are still there. Obviously modern space encroaches on it a bit but the fact is, it’s much easier for us to erase a billboard or a building than it is to build it.
How does Jarvis handle himself in Hollywood?
Tara: He’s hot.
Chris: He’s still wearing wool.
Tara: I think he finds it a bit frivolous but at the same time, he’s here and basically helping Stark start his mansion.
Chris: His west coast operation.
Do you need to build a new SSR office?
Tara: Yes, we will see the new SSR office that we will find out that Agent Sousa is heading that.
Did you build that on the Disney lot?
Tara: We are currently changing our location where we’re shooting. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say.
Would you want real Hollywood stars of the ‘40s to be a presence on the show?
Tara: I think it’s a little tricky if we have somebody who’s pretending to be Humphrey Bogart or something like that. I have no problem with having them mentioned or referenced to who would be working at that time. For the most part, we’re staying within our Marvel universe of we’ll meet an actress, the character Whitney Frost who will have a part to play in our larger storyline.
Chris: Part of me feels like if we introduced real members of the Hollywood community at that time, the focus would shift from story to: does that person look or sound like an actor? I wouldn’t want that to be what the episode is about.
What sort of cool action do you have planned for season two?
Tara: Oh wow, we’ll hopefully see a lot more great fight sequences with Peggy. I would love more scenes where she and Jarvis have to work together.
Chris: I think we can maybe involve Sousa in some more action now. Peggy’s not having to go around behind his back. So the SSR agents, because Peggy’s not having to go behind their back, know she proved herself last year. They’re working a little more
together in the action.
Did Peggy have to leave Angie behind in New York?
Tara: As of right now, the fact is Lyndsy Fonseca is not a series regular. So my hope is that we will see her in this season. We’re just right now figuring out that season so it will be based on actor availability, but she is absolutely part of our universe and we hope that she’ll be in it.
When Daredevil did that hallway fight scene, did that raise the bar for action on Marvel shows?
Tara: I thought that was a fantastic sequence. It was beautifully shot, beautifully performed. I do think that we are true to our show.
Chris: The style is different for each show. We’re even different to a degree from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m sure Jessica Jones will be different from all of the other shows.
Tara: But I was absolutely blown away by that scene.
But you don’t feel you have to top it?
Chris: We want to top ourselves.
Tara: Yeah. I think it’s just a different style. We have to figure out what style works best for us.
Do you feel like Agent Carter paved the way for shows like Supergirl and Jessica Jones to come along?
Tara: I don’t know that we paved the way but I definitely think that I like the fact that there are more of us out there. I love the fact that they’re doing Supergirl and I love that they’re doing Jessica Jones. I think the fact is if there are more of these types of shows, more people will get used to them and start watching them.
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