Last month when I was in LA for the Disney/LucasFilm/ABC TV press event I got to have a little fun and get my con girl geek on. We had a chance to visit the the set of Marvel's hit show AGENT CARTER, which begins its second season today, January 19th at 9 pm EST/PST on ABC. We had get a special sneak peek preview of the Season Two premiere episode and and exclusive sit down a interview session with Executive Producers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas.
I couldn't wait for this. When I did the Marvel Agents of SHIELD set visit last year, a few of the sets we visited were also sets for Agent Carter. I wondered what might overlap this time. Because as we know in the Marvel Universe: It's all connected.
MARVEL'S AGENT CARTER – “The Lady in the Lake” – In the season premiere episode, “The Lady in the Lake,” Peggy moves to the City of Angels to help Chief Daniel Sousa at the West Coast Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) investigate a bizarre homicide involving an alleged killer and Isodyne Energy, and reunites with some familiar faces. “Marvel's Agent Carter” returns for a second season of adventure and intrigue, starring Hayley Atwell in the titular role of the unstoppable agent for the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), TUESDAY, JANUARY 19 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Patrick Wymore) HAYLEY ATWELL, JAMES D'ARCY
So in case you don't watch the show (um, and in that case you are missing out, and you show immediately head to Amazon and download Season 1 to catch up), Agent Sousa has been sent to Los Angeles to head up the West Coast Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) office and Peggy has been sent to help work out there.
Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas gave us some inside information about Marvel's Agent Carter and talked to us about the show.
Season Two story lines, plot, and spoilers
Michele: Howard has moved his sort of base of operations to L.A. because you have sort of the burgeoning scientific field. So 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. Howard does make an appearance, and Dottie Underwood comes back, in a fun way, and actually becomes somewhat integral in the case that they're working on.
Tara: You'll see Agent Thompson and Agent Sousa, but then there's a whole bunch of new characters that we bring that are really fun. I love Kurtwood Smith who comes and plays a new like mentor for Thompson and potentially a little bit of a foil for Peggy.
Michele: We worked with Kurtwood when we were on “Resurrection” last year and had kind of come up with the role, and we were like, “Yeah he's somebody kind of like Kurtwood Smith. Well I wonder if Kurtwood Smith is available?” And we were very lucky. And so that role ended up sort of beefing up because every time you see him in any scene, he's so right and brings such gravitas to the scenes.
Tara: And then we have a wonderful actress Wynn Everett who plays Whitney Frost and she's sort of our main antagonist for the season. And what I love about her character is her arc and where you kind of see her start and where she ends up. And I think that's really a fun foil for Peggy.
Michele: And Currie Graham plays her husband, but the way we sort of designed that relationship, Whitney Frost from the comic books is Madame Masque, and we sort of designed our own character. The way we designed their relationship was that it was a bit of a Macbeth thing. So Whitney Frost is a sort of scientific genius but to the public she's an actress.
If you know anything about Hedy Lamarr, she was this beautiful actress who was also an inventor, and invented a thing called Frequency Hopping, which basically is a way to control torpedoes with radio waves, which are very easy to block. And so she designed it with a composer, and said they used a mechanism from a player piano, and a piano is 88 keys. So basically randomly jumps between the 88 different frequencies.
So you can't block it because you can never sort of hone in on that signal. So we sort of based Whitney on that, where she to the public is this sort of very glamorous actress, but she's really sort of the brains behind her husband's corporation, which is a like a scientist—design bombs and stuff like that. They had this very sort of Lady Macbeth—Macbeth relationship, where she sort of manipulates from behind the scenes. But he's the sort of public face to it.
And their relationship, I would almost watch that show, too, they're so great together. There's a scene the two of them do with Ken Marino who plays, Joseph Manfredi, who's sort of like a mob boss within the Marvel world, we've also worked with Ken on “Reaper.” He's both really funny and a psycho
And there's a scene where the three of them are having lunch together and Currie Graham has maybe two lines in the scene, but is so funny just the expressions on his face are fantastic, and we love Ken, Ken is awesome. And that role is sort of beefed up, too, because it was Ken.
Tara: What I love so much of what happened in the second season is it's an evolution of the show and you see these characters not treading water and moving into new parts of their lives, because obviously we left Peggy at the end of Season 1 in sort of an emotional place where she realized in order to really move on with her life, she had to let Cap go. So we move on. And I think that it means that she's open to new relationships and so we kind of explore that with Peggy throughout the season.
And it also means she's seeing where she works in a different light, and realizing that maybe that she has a very similar moral compass as Cap where it's being challenged.
Because not everybody is like her, and so she faces all these new things, which I think are really fun, and kind of have been really fun to explore.
Michele: On a personal level, we get to see a little romance for Peggy, because she's sort of put Cap's memory to rest. She has a couple of different options. One of them is played by Reggie Austin, Dr. Wilkes.
When we were pitching it to the network, we didn't know who he was, we were like he's Dr. Handsome. And then we found out who he is and we were like, oh he is Dr. Handsome. He is lovely and charming and he plays a scientist. We also get to explore what it's like for an African-American man in 1947 and he's a scientist and he sort of explains how he got there, through the Navy he sort of got the experience.
And then he says, “I came back and applied to 16 different companies and Isodyne was the only one that hired me”. And we see how Peggy reacts to like sort of blatant racism, spoiler alert, not well. Peggy doesn't like it. And so we kind of sort of get into that issue, in a way that we tried to use the historical elements of the time to also drive story.
Tara: But you'll also see a lot more Marvel this year. There's a lot more of the kind of visual effects that you associate with Marvel, even more so than in the first season. That was really fun for us to play with.
Michele: But it's all science-based, which I think is what Marvel does very well too, like it's not just a magic thing. There's a somewhat scientific explanation to it.
Michele: So [Peggy] comes out [to LA] and finds out Sousa is engaged to be married. Not engaged, or almost about to be engaged really, and it's a weird thing for her, because at the end of the last season he sort of gets up the courage to ask her out for a drink and says, “Oh I've got something to do.” But you sort of see that little smile on her face like she's sort of considering that. And his takeaway from it was like, “Oh my god, I just got my heart broken.” So in the interim, he took the job in L.A. in part because it was like, “I can't work with this girl anymore.” So when she comes out to see him, it's the first time she's seen him in months, or talked to him in months. So it's kind of instantly awkward and strange.
On whether or not they have always been Marvel fans
Tara: Even as a kid as much as I wasn’t reading a lot of comic books, the fact is it's hard not to know some of the key characters for both, whether it's Marvel or D.C. I grew up watching “The Incredible Hulk.” I would say I came to reading comic books later because my husband actually writes comic books, and is a big kind of grew up being a comic book fan. I got more exposed to it that way. But then I have to say it's hard not to when so many of the big fun movies that are coming out are superhero-based. And I have to say I was we were involved, I was a huge fan of all the Marvel movies.
Michele: I was not a comic book reader, but I was a big sci-fi fan, so I was a big Star Wars fan and Star Trek fan, so it's a very easy world to get into. Tara and I were assistants at the “X-Files.” that’s how we met. It's not hard to become a big fan of it.
On what the production season looks like
Tara: We started kind of breaking the episode arcs in May, started production like in the early August, and finished right before Christmas, shooting, and then post will go into—so I mean, we have a pretty tight turn around. Personally having as much time, they were very gracious and gave us a lot of time on the front side to basically break stories and that makes everything go smoother. So I mean, we're very lucky we're very supported.
Michele: And this year we're doing a thing called Cross Boarding, which basically you shoot two episodes at the same time. So usually if you're doing just a straight production, you have 7 days of pre-production, 8 days of production, for each episode. So for this you have 15 days of production for two episodes, so essentially every episode is like 7-and-a-half days. But it's a way to sort of save some money. We really wanted to tell a story in L.A.
Tara: It also gives you big production things because you're able to say I get 2 days shooting at a really great location, and so it actually, I think, makes the episodes a lot of times look bigger.
Michele: But the hard part is every production has two scripts, which is why having the lead time to do it is really important. It's hard on makeup and hair, because within one day you can have two different hair styles and you're switching back and forth. And it's hard on wardrobe because you're constantly having to have numerous outfits available.
Tara: It means everybody has to be on their toes.
Michele: Yeah. I'm sure even for actors, script wise must be jumping between two episodes, they're such pros that they're really good at it.
On Peggy's signature look
The Red Hat makes an appearance but it's a little different, and because the show takes place in LA, the overall look is a little different. The colors are brighter, it's more colorful. No winter coats. Palm trees.
Tara: It's hard to imagine Hayley looking more beautiful than she already looks and she looks more beautiful.
On shenanigans, pranks, and stories from set
Tara: In the beginning of the season we were doing all those dubsmashes, and it was absolutely hysterical to get them in with Miss Piggy, and it was so much fun. And they had the time of their life. It was weird because when we got there, and we went to their stage and we were on set and it was sort of completely under the radar. At a certain point you realize James was having a conversation with a pig—and really believing it—all of us had the same reaction.
Which was, “Oh my god, we're talking to Miss Piggy and she's so real!” And so that was really fun. That whole thing just took on a life of its own, but it just kind of shows you, truly the personalities that they really love what they do. And I think it really shows on the show. They truly have that much fun.
One time Hayley and I came in on a Sunday and we wrapped a writer's office entirely in wrapping paper for their birthday. And everything from a penny and a paper clip, to their pillows, their couch. I thought we'd be there for 2 hours, we were there for like 4 hours and made three trips to the store. It was crazy, it was one of those things where you start and you're like, “Oh no, we have to keep going.” And it was, it was a great afternoon and it was so much fun. You're just really happy to come to work every day.
We have a great history of pranking, on the set and in our office, and so it's one we call, it's 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. And so we have great video of, of Hayley…
Michele: Hayley getting it, James getting it.
Tara: Us doing it to other people, it's us doing it to everybody at the office.
Michele: Whitney over there is a prime target.
Tara: No but it's that, again it sort of just goes to the nature of the show and how much fun we all have.
I’ve been invited to LA courtesy of Disney for a media event. All opinions are my own.