Previously on THE ROCK FATHER… We took a journey to Los Angeles, following Agent Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis in their relocation from New York, setting up shop in the newly-created West Coast Office of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). There we met with actors Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy, along with showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas to discuss Season Two of MARVEL’s AGENT CARTER. Now that story continues…
What is visible on the surface is often just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg – the front-facing public visage of the SSR being much the same. Hidden behind the New York Bell Company on the East Coast, the precursor to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have taken on a very “Hollywood” front for their entry into the sunnier climate, naturally, a talent agency. Behind the painted glass window of the Auerbach Theatrical Agency, the familiar Rose Roberts mans the phones, a task in which she’s well-versed – but here she finds herself fending off a seemingly endless onslaught of Hollywood hopefuls with stars in their eyes. “We don’t advertise. Our sign is barely legible. Our address is wrong in the city directory. And yet, somehow, they find us,” she tells Agent Carter upon her arrival, speaking of the hungry actors who constantly come calling. Perhaps a talent agency wasn’t the best front they could’ve chosen, but with Howard Stark now moonlighting as a film producer, a natural one to fit with the show’s new West Coast narrative… and a fun one in which to play a bit of “make believe” for the cast and crew.
Stepping onto a soundstage not terribly far from countless other dubious-looking storefront casting agencies sprinkled throughout the greater Los Angeles area, we find the Auerbach Theatrical Agency in it’s real-life, 2016 form – a meticulously-constructed set with both interior and exterior configurations present and functional. Photos were restricted in true MARVEL form, with my visuals to share limited to those provided by the official staff photographer. Inside the office, there’s a portrait of a Flamingo – a motel art depiction of an animal that will become sort of a running gag this season. Just past the desk and waiting area, around the corner and through a hallway lined with file cabinets (presumably not filled with headshots and resumes) is the entrance to the SSR, which thanks to television magic will seamlessly open into a realm filmed on a neighboring stage.
The SSR Offices are impressive – something that astute viewers might notice is actually a creatively re-dressed set that we’ve seen on-screen before. The detail makes it feel lived-in, with a tattered American Flag and art-deco paintings depicting post-war American progress providing a heavy dose of U.S. propaganda for an era in which the Third Reich has fallen, but Hydra continues as an enemy that will be fought for decades to come. In a front corner, just steps from the iconic SSR shield is the office of Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), whose chair I momentarily borrow to accept a troubling phone call from the past…
The phone call was no doubt a ruse – a dubious piece of bait that lured my group into a holding cell that for most purposes, doesn’t exist. When you’ve found yourself captive by the SSR, there is no quick way out. Unless, of course, you’re just on a set, in which case you just unlock the cell and step out, then head over to the costume department to meet with Costume Designer Gigi Melton.
For a costumer, a show like AGENT CARTER is a dream – the opportunity to work with and explore the often luxurious, and sometimes outlandish fashions of decades long-since passed. For the team working under Gigi, this means not only working with actual vintage clothing, but sometimes crafting new outfits using vintage styles, and sometimes having to rebuild the vintage pieces – some of which are easily damaged due to the delicate fabrics that are slowly breaking down over time. Then there’s also the on-the-job hazards, such as when a background actor accidentally spills coffee from the craft service table, instantly destroying a nearly irreplaceable piece… something that’s happened on occasion.
“Salvage” is often the key in the costume department, with nothing wasted. The costumes are kept for the run-of-show, an inventory instantly accessible should something need to make a return appearance. Even when a piece is destroyed, elements like buttons will be saved for future use.
So what about Agent Peggy Carter’s iconic, red hat? That was Gigi’s spin on the STETSON hats of the 1940s, a dash of red ribbon initially added to break the “sea of grey” hats that the men were wearing back then. Working from a hand-made replica, the style was born, inspiring STETSON to reissue the hat as the AVIATRIX last year.
THE ROCK FATHER Magazine has partnered with MARVEL and ABC for this content series and set access.