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Montreal ComicCon 2015: Hayley Atwell

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mg_1539-268x300The first Captain America movie introduced two strong characters to the Marvel movie universe. Hayley Atwell played Agent Peggy Carter, secret agent and true love of Captain America. She was such a compelling character that after the first movie and the subsequent releases of the Marvel One-Shot Agent Carter (released on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many were left wondering what had become of her. As a response to fan support, Marvel created the Agent Carter television series.

Of the role, Hayley said it was “about time” that there was a strong female character leading such a TV show. She feels thereis a sea change in progress in terms of women’s roles in film and television. In fact, a fan in the Middle East once asked her to write on her picture ‘Women can be heroes too’. It is “truly heartening” she says, to see the positive impact the role has on viewers: “It gives my work so much more meaning and so much more value”

Its hard not to play a character such as Peggy, Hayley admits, without her rubbing off a bit. “She uses what she’s got”, she explained, relying on her intelligence and wit when she can, but fighting dirty when necessary to counter augmented opponents. Hayley drew inspiration from reading about women spies in World War I: “They were more active that we realize” she told us, sacrificing much despite going uncredited.

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One of the things Hayley said made the character interesting was that despite her strengths, she was still flawed. Still in deep mourning for Steve (Captain America), she fears endangering those who get too close to her and has difficulty letting anyone in. In addition, finding herself in a man’s world, she initially fights hard for recognition. Over the course of the first season she gradually goes from seeking other people’s approval to knowing her own worth. However, while she has grown in confidence, she remains emotionally disabled by the magnitude of her grief: Something that will most likely be addressed in season two.

The power of the fan response to Agent Peggy Carter was unmistakable. One girl was moved to tears expressing how meaningful the character was to her. Hayley finds inspiration in that strong fan response. It has made her want to engage with fans, as she can then sit down with the writers and discuss ways to not only give fans what they want, but to exceed expectations.

    

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