SDCC: Agent Carter Is The Marvel Heroine You've Been Waiting For, Says Hayley Atwell And Show's Producers

Marvel Studios made its first foray into television last season when it introduced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. Now, the studio is releasing its second televisions offering in Agent Carter, and eight-episode midseason replacement for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hayley Atwell will star as Agent Peggy Carter, first introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger. Carter was a love interest for Steve Rogers in that film, but really came into her own with the Agent Carter Marvel One-Shot short film.

"We made the one-shot with no agenda other than to tell a great story with Peggy Carter," says executive producer Louis D'Esposito, who also directed the One-Shot, "and we knew we had to go back in time because she wasn't frozen in ice, there were no experimentations done on her, she didn't have a red skull, her brain wasn't put into a computer, so what are we going to do? So we went back in time. After making the One-Shot, we showed it to some of the higher ups at Disney just to show them, as we show them any film we make, and they also knew we had something special, and they said this would make a great television show, and that's why we're here."

"It's a dream," says Atwell of getting the opportunity to reprise her role for the series, "because that was such wonderful experiences, playing her in the first Cap, and the second, and even doing the One-Shot. Then, to get the call to hear there was enough interest from the fans to make something like this was kind of a dream. It's like the gift that keeps on giving, and coming back and changing my life for the better."

It may also be a dream for many Marvel fans who have been eager to see a Marvel Studios project with a female lead.

"I think Marvel has a lot of strong female characters," says D'Esposito, "You look at Pepper Potts, and Black Widow, and on and on. Kevin Feige and I are asked all the time, 'When are you going to make a female heroine?' And I think that question's been answered now. We're doing it."

"She knows her place is right beside the men, not behind them," added Atwell.

Some might think of it as a half-measure, that a female-led television series isn't the same as a film. But those working on the series feel that they're infusing it with the Marvel movie touch, and the fact that Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnston and Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe & Anthon Russo were both announced as directing episodes of Agents Carter would seem to back that theory up.

"The nice thing about doing eight episodes is, we did treat it like, sort of, eight parts of a movie," says executive producer Michele Fazekas. "So I think, with that number that's a good way to look at it, because it's all a whole."

"We're trying to make it feel special," said executive producer Stephen McFeely. "That's part of the eight episodes. That's part of bringing on the Russo Brothers to do a couple episodes, this is a special Marvel film comes to your television, then comes to your shelf when it's a Blu-ray. It's like an eight-hour movie."

Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which struggled early on with endearing fans to their cast, Agent Carter is expected to hit the ground running.

"We've been really lucky to work with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote the Captain America movies, and they wrote the pilot," says executive producer Tara Butters, "and I think that they created such a great jumping off point in their pilot script that it became very apparent to us what these first eight episodes would look like, and it actually got us very excited about the fact that you could do many others seasons of it. And I mean, she's a spy, there's so much you can do with that. The time period too, during the Cold War, and who are your friends and who are your foes? And then layer in the Marvel Universe on top of that. It's very exciting.

"It's a pretty simple buy-in to the show," she continued "You don't need to know anything about Captain America, or Marvel, you just need to know that it's a female spy in the Cold War. And our challenge right now is that we have to appeal to both the people who know everything about the Marvel Universe, and the people who know nothing about the Marvel Universe. With a single lead, and a fairly straightforward premise, it's a lot easier to do that."

For her part, Atwell is looking forward to exploring a different side of Peggy Carter in the series.

"We've seen her be competent," Atwell says. "We've seen her with the guys. We know what she's capable of, in terms of the workplace. I'd like to see the emotional and psychological cost on her as a woman, who's dealing with compromising her relationships all the time in order to save other people, and making sure she's not putting other people in danger, as well as grieving over the love of her life.

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"I'd like to see her at home. I'd like to see her break down, and not be able to deal with it, and be able to say now we can relate to this woman who is just struggling, like the rest of us, to make a place in the world."

Agent Carter premieres January 2015 on ABC.