We loved, loved, loved last week's lady-centric Agent Carter premiere — so much that we immediately got Michele Fazekas, one of the series showrunners, on the phone to spill all the delicious details she was allowed to reveal about this season. Here's the scoop (small spoilers ahead).
Real fast, do you think you can list off all the 1946 slang terms you now know?
Michele Fazekas: You know it's funny, we actually try to not go all caricaturey with that. We sort of banned words like "dame and "broad" because we didn't want to go in that direction. However, what I have learned it there are certain turns of phrases that when you're writing you think, "Wait did that turn of phrase exist in 1946?" For instance, you know what didn't exist in 1946? Smart ass. I looked up the etymology on that, didn't exist in 1946. Turns out it was a term that came around in the 60s. But for instance, I wrote a line that said, "Oh I think someone's yanking your chain." And I had to look it up, did that exist in 1946? And actually it did; it's a mining term that exists from a long time ago. That's our research that we do. Did this word or turn of phrase exist back then? Somethings didn't come around until the 50s or 60s. So we try hard to be authentic in that way.
Does that get in the way of creating or writing? Do you find yourself stopping while writing to check things out, or do you just write it then go back?
I kind of love doing that. I kind of love really trying to be authentic. I can get in a google spiral for hours. I don't mind doing research. Tara [Butters the additional showrunner] and I came from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I would get in New York state penal code holes for two hours, because I liked that.
Do you find yourself stopping and doing research while you're writing or do you wait until you've planned it all out and then go back?
In a scene, if I'm writing a scene, and I want to know, "Did this thing exist?" I'll stop in the middle of a scene. God bless the Internet. I don't know what people did before that.
I guess go to the library and hope they have the right book available?
It's also really interesting — the history of computer storage, which actually did exist in the '40s. Because when you're dealing with people like Howard Stark, augment it a little bit. I'm a dork about that stuff. I'll research that forever.
Going back to the slang for a second, I felt like a lot of the slang was more slander directed toward Peggy. I don't know if the word "toots" was used, but it felt like that sometimes. Did you guys worry about overplaying the sexism and especially the sexual harassment stuff? It's a realistic portrayal of late 1940s behavior, but it could strike a lot of people as over the top nowadays.
We didn't want to do overkills. I think as you said, it certainly happened. I think it feels weird to us today because it seems over the top because we do try to be authentic. That's why we didn't want people calling her "broad" or "dame." Even though that probably did happen, we tried not to go there. It seems too easy.
The banter between Jarvis and Carter is top notch. How did that find itself? Was that on the page and you saw it and couldn't believe it? Did it happen on camera?
It was a little of both, I think. We knew that we were going to team them up. Our initial worry was, is it believable that she would be asking this guy, this butler, for help? And making that feel realistic. But as soon as we saw them in a scene together in the pilot, you really don't know until you see it, we thought, "Oh my god, their chemistry together is so good." And it really does inform on your writing. You start to figure out how to put them in situations together. I got the nicest compliment from James D'Arcy last night on the set he said, "You guys write period British dialog better than some British writers." And that was a worry for me; I've never written extensively for English characters. For me, I like to look at how people talk. When we were doing SVU you want to write how New Yorkers talk. And that's what you do, you listen to people and hear how they put words together and how they turn phrases.
Are we going to see a lot more of Cater and Jarvis together because of the pilot?
The story and character always thrive. We don't want to put them together just to put them together. There's an episode where they're not together as much
because Peggy's off on a mission and it works in a different way.
The two nicest characters on this show are Sousa and Angie. How evil are they really?
How evil are they in real life? [Laughs]
We're already wildly speculating over at io9! We like Angie too much. She's gotta be bad.
I don't want to give anything away, but I will say there will be characters in the show that are not what they seem.
Is Souza intimidated by Peggy's past relationship with Captain America?
Yes? Actually he and [the character] Krzeminski have a conversation about that in episode three. And I also think he's just intimidated by her, in a way. And he's got his own issues to deal with where he feels like he's sort of less than everyone else because of his injury. We've worked with Enver Gjokaj at Dollhouse and we've cast him in a couple of things in other shows. We knew exactly what we can get out of him. He can kind of do anything. He's great.
Will the absolutely torturous but brilliant Captain America Radio Theater be playing in the background of more episodes?
It will come back.
That was so hard to watch and so wonderful at the same time. Did you feel a little evil gleefully making this completely hilarious thing that's also so sad for Peggy?
I love those scenes, and I love how she reacts to those scenes. Eric Pearson wrote the episode that had the Captain America radio show. And he did, and we did, a lot of research. You can go online and get scripts and mp4s of radio shows from that time. So we really tried to make it as authentic as possible. I love them. I think they are so much fun. People are saying, "You guys should do a real Captain America adventure hour," like a blog.
That would be fun, as long as you promise to bring back all the sound effect explainer moments too, like that lobster and slapping the ham.
And we researched that, how did they really do these sound effects!
And then juxtaposing that insanity with her face. We really haven't seen her cope with her grief yet. Are we going to see her grapple with her loss in this season?
That's actually her personal journey throughout these 8 episodes. Will she be able to let that go and move on. Because that's really the thing that holds her back in her personal life. That comes back throughout the season, it's a big journey for her.
Dealing with loss and coping with PTSD from World War II that seems like something that is running through a lot of the characters. Is that going to be a theme that gets developed?
Absolutely. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote the pilot and all the Cap movies, that was their big, big thing. The war damaged everyone. We sort of get into that even with the bad guys, and how did it effect everyone. In a way that you can still sort of never move past it. You can fix it but it stays with you forever. That's a big theme for everybody throughout the show.
So how exactly does this series connect up with the one-shot that was on the Iron Man 3 DVD?
The way we look at it, the end of the one shot is she gets called from Howard Stark saying, "Hey I want you to go run SHIELD." So in our mind that's sort of the last thing that would ever happen in the Agent Carter series. You will never see her going off to run SHIELD in this show. That will be the last thing that happens at the very end of the series.
We know that Peggy Carter is the greatest hero in SHEILD early days, so we're never going to see that?
There's already a show called SHIELD, so we don't need to play in that sandbox because they've got that covered. We exist before them.
Obviously SHIELD is infiltrated by Hydra. Is that going to happen in this series? Are we going to see hints of that?
In these 8 episodes… well I won't say that. Yes, you'll maybe see little hints of that.
Is Leviathan a one-season villain, or are they going to keep coming back and growing more powerful?
They handle the immediate problem… but something is still out there.
Golden Age Marvel is full of insane characters. There's the original Human Torch. There's the Sub-Mariner. Could we see a version of a 1940s Marvel character besides Cap and the Howling Commandoes show up?
We will see other Marvel characters that exist in that world. And that's all I'm going to say.
When you introduce a character like Dr. Anton Vanko, who is the father of Whiplash Ivan Vanko, do you worry about placing that all together, when you introduce a character like that how much research do you have to do to make sure you're not messing up the MCU? Is there a specific person who is assigned or has a job to check Marvel canon?
We work really closely with Eric Carroll in Marvel Studios. He's sort of the guy who tells us, "Well, you can't really do this to that thing, because that's going to step on this project. But what if you do this?" They're really generous with that world. And they also, because there are so many different versions of these character in the comic book world, they let us create a character and it doesn't have to be exactly what was in the comic book. They let it be inspired by the character, but we have a lot of freedom to put them into the story that we want to tell.
That's cool that there's a guy at Marvel that checks that. I'd feel like there would have to be.
He's so great. It's interesting in a writer's room on a TV show where you have somebody who is not on the writing staff in the room, it doesn't always work. And he's so good at it, it's great. I'd have him in the room everyday if I could.
Will there be any saving this Jack Thompson character? Or will he continue to be a dick for most of the series?
He is a really interesting character in that you're going to learn a lot more about him and a lot more about his backstory. He's a complex character. He's not just a jerk.
Peggy's new pad has a lot of restrictions. How is her new all lady apartment going to play into this first season?
Yes, very much. It's a lot of fun. It's sort of based on the hotel called the Barbizon Hotel in New York. It was an all women hotel. It's somewhat based on that. There was also the movie Stage Door that was also somewhat based on the Barbizon Hotel. There's a lot of fun to be had there.
Will there be more dance numbers, there was a little bit of dancing in the pilot, will there be swing dancing?
You saw the dancing in the pilot. Peggy doesn't have a lot of time to do more dancing that she does. She's got other fish to fry.
How much red lipstick has this series gone through in production?
There's a lot of red lipstick. A lot of red lipstick. She looks so good in it.
And then you turned that into a great gadget!
And that won't be the last time you see that.
What was the one thing from the 40s that you couldn't wait to have Agent Carter play around with?
There's so much. Even just stylistically the clothes and the cars and just creating the New York streets in the '40s. There's that shot in the pilot where she's crossing the street, right in the beginning when she's going into work and crossing the avenue. That was all a matte painting. It was beautiful. It's a hard question to answer, we just love playing in that world. Playing in the noir world.
Top image via purrdencelady.tumblr.com