After this week’s first season finale of Agent Carter, fans might be wondering what the future holds for the two-fisted S.S.R. operative. We just learned Peggy will return in the anxiously awaited Avengers: Age of Ultron. But will she get a second season of television? If so, in which decade would it be set? And could any other past Marvel heroes appear alongside her? Might there be any more crossovers with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? All are questions that Christopher Markus addressed when the co-creator (with Stephen McFeely) and executive producer of Agent Carter — as well as co-writer of Captain America: The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, and the upcoming Civil War — sat down to chat me with me for the following exclusive interview…
Nerdist: Agent Carter has, perhaps as much as any Marvel movie, helped introduced comics to a mainstream audience by deepening the Marvel Cinematic Universe and exploring avenues it hasn’t had a chance to explore on the big screen.
Christopher Markus: We always wanted it to stand on its own. People keep expecting it to lay the groundwork for what you already know; and it does a little bit — but you already know! There is no point in going there.
N: So it’s not so much about answering unanswered questions as it is telling your own story? It appears you don’t have to connect the dots the way a lot of other prequels do.
CM: No, we don’t have to connect the dots. And we are so far in the past that even if we were laying groundwork, it’s like, “This is the grandfather of the person that you know.”
N: So unless every Marvel movie is suddenly going to be about opening a time capsule…
CM: Well, Kang. That’s all I’m saying. Kang. [Laughs] I’m not even sure if Marvel owns Kang.
N: I’m sure they do. He’s primarily an Avengers villain.
CM: Yeah… But it keeps us in our own nice little bubble in the ‘40s. So any connections are just sort of gravy, a cherry.
N: Regarding the rate at which the show’s story will be told, it’s been said that each season could explore a different decade in the life of Peggy Carter. How do you see it?
CM: I love that idea. I don’t know if it’s a whole decade. It could be a year. It could be two years. We are not obligated to be episodic. So we can move her to different places, different times. The problem is, you fall in love with Jarvis, you fall in love with Chad [Michael Murray] and Enver [Gjokaj]. But that was the attraction to her after Cap 2 — “Oh my God, she’s seen all of it!” She’s the spine of the Marvel Universe. She’s been there the whole time. So you really can take her to any point from Avengers 2 back to Cap. She’s in the whole thing. The last season takes place entirely in an old folks home. [Laughs] But no, the world doesn’t know anything about her past.
N: Haley Atwell has said she’d like the show to go back to England and for us to learn a little more about Peggy’s background.
CM: We’d love to go back to England, and find out what the circumstances are that take a woman in 1946 and [make her] say, “I don’t want to live in my country.” S.S.R. is a completely American organization, so I think there certainly is more opportunity to rise. But there’s other things like Agent 13 — who’s Haley’s brother’s granddaughter. Who is this guy? I don’t know actually. [Laughs] But there are lines, whether you work on them or not, that get drawn as these characters exist. So it’s fun to think, “Oh, if we went there, we could find that out.” So it’s almost just a question of budget and what we can make look like other places. We’re shooting in LA now – it’s working pretty well, it’s looking like New York. We can probably shoot in LA and make it look like LA…
N: Do you have any idea when you may find out if the show’s renewed?
CM: This is the only television show we’ve ever had. I don’t know when you normally find out, but I don’t think we’re the normal show. [Laughs] It’s a fun show, and it’s all down to Haley. If she didn’t work, no matter how good everything else was it wouldn’t work. We’ve been very lucky to get her. She is a lot like Steve Rogers. She has this sort of moral gravity without being a pain in the ass about it. Where you’re like, “Oh no — she’s right. She’s always right.” You almost don’t get that chance anymore, to have the Gary Cooper character walk in and go, “Well, that’s the voice of authority that just walked in the room.”
N: Despite that, the show doesn’t make her character vanilla, as one might expect of someone who’s always right.
CM: Yeah, doing it in present day would be hard, because it would just be like, “You’re kind of annoying.” In the same way, if you invented Captain America now, you’d hate him. But because he comes from the ‘40s it all works. So it’s a rare opportunity. It’s part of the reason why we went after Cap in the first place — they wanted to do a period and all of the sudden it’s like, “Oh wait, that lets you do something you can’t do anymore…” It’s the same thing with the show.
N: One of the coolest things the show does is fill a need that some are only now realizing existed — for a two-fisted pulp heroine, a woman of action to stand alongside guys like the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Spirit, and Dick Tracy. There were a few women like that in the comic books of the time, but not many, and hardly any outside of the comics.
CM: Yeah, and it works better now with a woman. The guys are played out and it feels more old-fashioned. But if you have a woman doing almost the exact same thing… It’s like, “Oh, that’s great. That’s a whole new thing!” It’s a nice genre twist. It’s a nice way to rejuvenate something that we really love but that we otherwise… So often we’ve seen shows set in the ‘40s and ‘50s and it just looks like acting class present-day, but everybody’s got hats and it’s like, “I’m a tough guy!” No, you’re not. The way this has fallen together, at least to me, it doesn’t feel that way.
N: Has there been any discussion of an Agent Carter comic book?
CM: I know nothing. It’s weird in that, in the comics, she’s not English. They might find their way around that. Nick Fury’s black now! Or would they have to have a new Earth 71925?
N: They’ll work it out. I’m sure they’ll clone her if necessary.
CM: Yeah. [Laughs] So I haven’t heard anything but I think they ought to. And then you can bring in all the people that we don’t have the rights to! Another thing about this, which we’re doing very little of, just because it could go over the top very quickly, is all those untapped ‘40s Timely properties.
N: Have you talked about that?
CM: We bandy it about, and then we go, “That’s insane.” But I’m not sure who owns the rights to every last one. I’m not sure who owns the Whizzer. But we’ve taken names. Like, Leet Brannis is actually the name of a guy who [appears with] the Whizzer. He’s a crook [who fights] the Whizzer.
N: Has Joss Whedon given any input?
CM: No, he’s finishing the biggest movie ever made. I don’t think he has time to breathe. But Jeph Loeb remains a connector to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so we know what they’re doing. And all of the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter went to Disneyland together.
N: That’s cute. [Laughs]
CM: It was adorable. We want your hearts to be warmed. [Laughs]
N: While there are always opportunities for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to develop things introduced on Agent Carter, do you find there’s a danger in burying too many time capsules?
CM: Yeah, it can become not enough of its own show. Because they don’t inherently have any story meetings. A lot of the time it’s, “Oh my God, that’s the Cosmic Blah, Blah, Blah, from issue #551.” But it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just sitting on the table. It’s fun, and we love it when we can pause Guardians and see stuff in the Collector’s lab. But it doesn’t actually help your show. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already did that trick with Peggy earlier this year, so we can’t… But it’s always possible.
N: Is was great to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier co-director Joe Russo direct Agent Carter. Is there any chance we might see The First Avenger‘s Joe Johnston direct if the show’s renewed?
CM: We tried. He was totally in. We just couldn’t make the schedule work with his next movie.
N: But the door is still open?
CM: Oh the door is always open. That’s his wheelhouse. Steve [McFeely] and I would like to try directing one. I know Anthony Russo would love to try directing one. It’s a nice little playground. It’s just a matter of these other little movies that have to get done, that tend to consume people’s time. But this is the important thing. These eight episodes of TV are much more important! [Laughs]
N: Right, what are they thinking? [Laughs] Thank you so much for your time.
CM: Thank you, man!
What did you think of the first season of Agent Carter? What would you like to see in future seasons (fingers crossed)? Let us know in the comments below.