Marvel’s Agent Carter is a delightful TV series, on every level. It has great action and witty banter, it’s shot beautifully and with an impeccable wardrobe, and it’s all centered around the kick-ass Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Already half-way through its eight episodes, the ABC drama feels like it’s only just scratching the surface of who these characters are and what they can do, leaving audiences wanting more.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor James D’Arcy (who plays Howard Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis) talked about just how much fun this show is to make, why he wanted to be a part of it, getting little story hints along the way, but never learning the big moments ahead of time (except for the one thing he was told by mistake!), Marvel’s expert blending of action and humor, what he’s most enjoyed learning and exploring with Edwin Jarvis, where he’d like to see him go in future episodes, his most enjoyable scene, and why Jarvis and Peggy are just so great to watch together.
JAMES D’ARCY: It is fun to make. It’s really fun to make. I’m so gratified that you’re enjoying it.
When you were initially made aware of Agent Carter, were you interested in the project because of the character, specifically, or was it also a chance to work with Marvel and with Hayley Atwell?
D’ARCY: I would say all of the above. I actually knew about this show since probably a year before it came to fruition. I’d seen Hayley and said, “What are you up to?,” and she said, “There’s the possibility we’re going to do a TV show based on my character from Captain America.” I immediately thought, “That’s a great idea. That’s a really great idea.” After it came out, it was the combination of a wonderful character and it’s Marvel, who knows exactly what they’re doing. You just want to get out of their way and let them do what they do. They know their audience, and they know how to appeal to a massively wider audience than you would expect for comic book based material. Although now, we’re moving into a slightly new world with all of that. But, I adore Hayley. We’ve been friends for a long time. The chance to work with her was one that was incredibly appealing. I knew that we’d have a good time.
How much did you know about the full season before filming began? Because it’s a shorter season, did they let you in on the full story arc, or did they still keep you in the dark until each script came out?
D’ARCY: We got little hints, here and there. There’s something that happens, right at the end of the season, which someone told me by mistake. I don’t think they meant to tell me, but they did. And then, everyone pretended that I didn’t know, including me. I also pretended that I didn’t know, until we all read it. When we got the final episode, I did the best acting of the year by going, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming!” But that aside, there was always a big surprise when the script came, and I loved that. It gives me the absolute chance to react in the way that the audience will react ‘cause I’m reading it, as the audience will see it. I didn’t know, for example, that they were going to kill Krzeminski in the third episode, nor did any of us. Actually, the guy who was playing him knew, but the rest of us didn’t know, so that was a big shock. I felt that shock, which if I knew that was going to happen, I would have just been waiting to see how they did it.
Obviously, Marvel is known for really great action, but they’re also known for really great humor. How much fun is that? What’s it like to get to have the great dialogue and fun banter that you get to have?
D’ARCY: It is the greatest fun. I’ve never done anything comedic. In all the years I’ve been an actor, I’ve never delivered one comedic line. So, to get a chance to deliver almost every line with some kind of, at least, wry irony behind it, if not outright comic sensibility, is just fantastic. I’ve played my fair share of unpleasant character, and I have to tell you that you sleep better when you’re playing fun characters. You think you don’t take it home with you, at the end of the filming day, but subconsciously, there’s something floating around in the background there. We had a blast shooting this show. It was just a total blast.
What have you most enjoyed learning and exploring with Edwin Jarvis, and what would you still like to see with him, if you do get a second season?
D’ARCY: We’re four episodes in, and there’s a lot to set up and explore. With Marvel, they’re very good at balancing character, a fun sensibility, and the action-adventure suspense quality that drives us forward. In my head, Jarvis thinks that he’s Jackie Chan, or a 1946 version of Jackie Chan. If you’re asking me, James, what I would like to see, I would like to go off and explore that part of him, a little bit. But actually, what I really love is just how wonderful our writers are. I just love the fact that I get to stand there and deliver their dialogue. It’s beautiful.
D’ARCY: Yeah, there’s a scene in the sixth episode with a small child that I had really good fun doing. More than that, I simply can’t say. It’s really fun. As much as the scripts kept me on my toes, I would read them with moments of sheer delight and go, “Oh, my god, that’s what we’re doing?! That’s awesome!” And I hope that that translates to the audiences’ enjoyment of what they’re watching. Some of it is very out of left field. One of the many things that I just adore about this show is that they take these little flights of fancy, and somehow it all works and makes sense.
Because Jarvis and Peggy are such different people, what do you think it is about them that’s made that pairing so great to watch?
D’ARCY: It’s the writing. If we don’t have good words to say, then there’s no chance. Beyond that, we got some very, very good direction in the first two episodes, from Louis D’Esposito and Joe Russo. They really helped us work out how to speak together. We took a lot of pauses out. We spoke quite quickly, and that definitely helped the writing to stay on its feet and stay alive. And then, there’s another part to it where there’s some kind of alchemy that sometimes happens. I have no way of telling you when or where. It’s got nothing to do with how nice the people are, or whether you get on, off camera. Although, as it happens, we do get on extremely well, off camera, but it doesn’t have anything to do with that. It’s just magic, and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I haven’t actually watched any of the show, but I know what it feels like when we’re there, on set, and it does feel magical. It feels like we’re very in sync and we’re growing in the same direction. We do have a huge amount of fun shooting it, so hopefully that translates on some level, as well.
Agent Carter airs on Tuesday nights on ABC. To find out more about the show, go here.