Peggy Carter is moving to L.A.! When Marvel's Agent Carter returns on Tuesday, the badass superspy will be moving out west to help out her old pal (and possible crush) Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) on a case. What Peggy (Hayley Atwell) doesn't anticipate is how that one case soon leads her into a spiderweb of conspiracies involving the devious actress Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), her politician husband Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) and a shadowy organization that is - as you guessed it - up to no good.
Why did you decide to move the show to Los Angeles?
Michele Fazekas: It was something we actually talked about a lot in the first season, in part because a lot of the touchstones, the things we were referencing when we were talking about the story were L.A. Confidential or Chinatown. We were talking about film noir, which is one of the things we're doing in the 1940s. L.A. is a real natural location for that. It's also that we shoot in L.A., so we were trying to turn modern-day Los Angeles into 1940s New York City. And I think it's kind of nice to be in the same city where all you have to do is worry about making it go back in time. It was also exciting to put things in a new location, to have a little bit of a different look, down to hair and makeup and wardrobe and even how the show is shot. It really infused a different style into the show that everyone really seems to like. Hayley Atwell looks great in everything, but certainly she wears 1940s L.A. very well.
It's the peak of the Old Hollywood era. Will we see that incorporated in any way?
Butters: One of our main characters this season is Whitney Frost and Whitney Frost is a screen actress kind of in the vein of Hedy Lamarr. The thing that most people don't know about her is that she's also a scientific genius. So we get to play with the Hollywood glamour of it all, but also touch upon the scientific community of that time. In L.A., they had Jet Propulsion.
Fazekas: And Rocketdyne and General Atomic. It was all the beginning of the space industry, so that was actually a great way to incorporate Howard Stark and by incorporating Howard Stark, incorporating Jarvis (James D'Arcy). And also Howard is out here opening his movie studio a la Howard Hughes.
Whitney Frost and Calvin Chadwick are a very interesting couple. How would you describe their dynamic?
Fazekas: Certainly there's a little bit of Macbeth in that relationship where Calvin Chadwick, whose played amazingly by Currie Graham, he's sort of the face of the company that he owns which is Isodyne, which is based on Rocketdyne or General Atomic. But Whitney Frost is the brains behind it. She operates and exerts her powers through him. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. He gets to be rich and powerful and married to a famous actress. She gets to be a scientist, even though it's just a secret scientist. He gets to have affairs and mostly not get in trouble for that, although that's one of the things that get shim in trouble in the first episode. They have a very interesting relationship.
What would you say is driving them? Is it just a thirst for power?
Fazekas: I would say initially, yes. Calvin Chadwick is involved in what we'll call the Council, which is sort of taken from the Marvel universe of the Secret Empire. It's just sort of rich white guys who control everything. So I would say initially for him certainly its power. For her, it's a little more nuanced. I think she feels like it's the only way she can have any power initially. She thinks, 'Well, I can't have it for myself where I'm only really respected for my looks.' And I think the events that happen in the first two episodes actually show her, oh, you can actually have power that isn't based on your face. That you can actually have control over your life and actually use other gifts that you have. Because she was told her whole life that no one cares how smart you are. They just care about how pretty you are. So it's very interesting because we're able to contrast her character with Peggy Carter's character because they're two very smart women, beautiful women, who ended up in very different places in their lives. So we can explore how they get to that place in their lives.
The first season was really great at tackling misogyny and it sounds like we're going to be dealing with more social politics through Whtiney Frost this season. Will we also get to explore the prejudice facing Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) as a black man in the 1940s?
Butters: We absolutely touch on that. We see the Dunbar Hotel, which is an actual hotel in the jazz scene in Los Angeles in the '40s. It's one of the few places where a white woman and an African-American man could be seen together without it causing a huge problem. We touch on it in many ways. I don't know. It's hard to explain. It's not what the shows about, but we wanted to be as accurate as possible in how we portray these relationships.
How would you describe Jason?
Fazekas: When we were creating that character, we were coming off of the heels of her last boyfriend was Captain America, so that's a hard act to follow. We definitely wanted to differentiate him from not only from Steve Rogers, but from the other men in the show. He's obviously he's a genius, kind of quirky and odd in a cute way. He and Peggy can share a mutual understanding of what its like when people look at you and make an assumption of you based on the fact that you are a woman or the fact that you are a black man. So they share that in common and he's a guy who's not afraid to ask somebody like Peggy Carter out. There's a certain quiet confidence to him. And he's really smart. We knew we wanted to do a love triangle this season and he's one leg of the love triangle.
People are very invested in Peggy and Sousa's relationship. What will that look like this season?
Butters: At the end of last season we left them in an interesting place where he asked her out and she said she has plans. He turns around and he seems very dejected and Peggy smiles. For her, it was, 'Oh, she really did have plans and maybe that's something that I'm open to.' So when we catch up with them at the beginning of this season, they're in a very different place. He's moved out to Los Angeles and she's moved on from Captain America. So she's thinking there might be potential. Fazekas: I think what's fun about putting Peggy in any romantic sort [is she's] unsure of herself. In the rest of her life, she will punch people in the face all day long and be very confident and sure of herself. In this part of her life she's a little bit awkward, which is cute and fun to see. And then when she finds herself, 'Oh, there's two guys I'm sort of interested in.' She says at one point I did not plan this. So we have a little bit of fun seeing Peggy not so confident in this part of her life.
Will we ever learn more about Peggy's backstory and her past outside of Captain America?
Fazekas: Yes, a little bit. There will be an episode coming up where I talked about the contrasting her and Whitney Frost. We'll actually see a little bit of their backstory and tracing how they got to where they are today. So just a little bit.
Last season, Peggy had the main mission of clearing Howard Stark's name. Will this season have an overarching mystery or mission as well?
Butters: Everything starts with the woman in the lake in the first episode. We really wanted to do a film noir style season where that initial investigation ... it's sort of like peeling back layers in an onion and one thing leads to another and this Isodyne and Whitney and her husband and ultimately the Council and what they're all up to.
The SSR was a wartime agency, so now that the war is over how is that affecting them?
Fazekas: We looked at the SSR as the Marvel version of the OSS, which was the spy organization during the war. And once the war was over everything got reorganized and the spy part of the OSS eventually became the CIA. And that's a really big part of Jack Thompson's (Chad Michael Murray) story. We brought inKurtwood Smith to be Thompson's mentor, his boss at the war department. We had worked with Kurtwood on Resurrection and loved him. He can literally do anything and when we were creating this character Vernon Masters we were like, 'He's sort of somebody like Kurtwood Smith.' And then we were like maybe we could actually see if Kurtwood Smith wants to do it and he did. So he just makes every scene amazing. He early on comes to Thompson and is like, 'Listen, things are changing and you just need to figure out which side of history you want to be on,' and he sort of tests Jack's ambition. Because jack is a good guy, but he's an ambitious guy. So he will make decisions that aren't necessarily good decisions based on furthering his own career and based on what he thinks he wants to do. So some things that goes against what Peggy wants. That becomes a really big arc for him for the 10 episodes.