In its second season, ABC’s Tuesday night MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER finds the title heroine, played by Hayley Atwell, relocating from 1940s New York to 1940s Los Angeles. Peggy Carter, a British special agent working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (the precursor of S.H.I.E.L.D. – AGENT CARTER s in fact a spin-off of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD), spent the first season trying to clear billionaire inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) of treason charges.
It would be an understatement to say that Carter’s skills were underestimated because of her gender. In Season 1, she bonded with fellow agent Daniel Sousa, played by Enver Gjokaj, whose own value was often overlooked by other agents because of a war injury that requires him to use a crutch.
At the start of Season 2, Sousa is now running the small Los Angeles office of the SSR. Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), now running the New York branch, uses the first excuse he can to send Carter off to Los Angeles. Since Sousa has been trying to douse the torch her carries for Carter, he’s unsettled by her arrival, even though he can certainly use her help when corpses start to turn up infused with an unearthly icy substance.
Gjokaj, whose first name rhymes with “then-fair” and whose last name is pronounced “joke-eye,” is a California native whose resume includes playing the younger version of Robert De Niro’s character in the film STONE, a series regular (who had to embody many different personalities) in two seasons of DOLLHOUSE, a small role as an NYPD cop in the first AVENGERS and a lead in the horror movie WOULD YOU RATHER. In a phone call, the actor discusses what’s new with Sousa this year.
AX: So, Season 2 of AGENT CARTER, Sousa is very conflicted, at least when we first see him.
ENVER GJOKAJ: Yeah, he’s going through a bit of a crunch.
AX: In your mind, how much of his move to the West Coast was, hey, he gets to be a station chief, how much of it was to get away from the dismissiveness of Jack Thompson, and how of it was to get away from the heartache of Peggy?
GJOKAJ: I think it’s pretty clear that he moved to L.A. in order to get away from Peggy. We’re not really told what happened in the intervening time, but I think the idea is that he somehow got the impression that it just was not going to happen, that she wasn’t going to get over Steve Rogers [Carter had been Captain America’s girlfriend before his apparent death], and he just takes off and decides to go run the L.A. office and tries as he might to move on with his life. Then, of course, Jack throws a wrench into all of his plans and sends Peggy without telling him to help him solve this new case. So this season is really going to be Sousa doing his best to move on, but not doing so well.
AX: His romantic life aside, how is Sousa handling being a new station chief?
GJOKAJ: That’s one of the fun parts about this season, is that they just fast-forwarded a bunch and it really starts a whole different place this season. Season 1, we saw Peggy and Sousa struggling to even be recognized within the office, and then we start Season 2, and he’s right at the top of the L.A. office as chief. So yeah, it’s a completely different thing for Sousa. He’s adjusting to being the boss – there’s a little scene in there in the first two episodes – he’s not really the best at H.R. [laughs], let’s just say that. And I think you’re going to see that more throughout the season, see him trying to wear the pants of being the boss, and not being actually really great at dealing with people.
AX: So he’s more of a field agent than a delegator?
GJOKAJ: I would say that’s probably correct [laughs].
AX: Without getting too spoilery, do you get to do anything new this season that’s exciting for you?
GJOKAJ: Well, I get to do what you’ve seen already [in the Season 2 premiere, which aired January 19], which is being chief. So that’s exciting for me. It’s exciting for the character, it’s also exciting for me as an actor, because last season I ended up plot-wise not being involved in what’s going on with Peggy, so as a result, I think it was just really hard for us to develop and move forward with that relationship, because I was on the outside of this secret that she had. This year, Sousa can be part of her team. It’s really exciting for the character, and it’s also exciting for me, because now there are not so many secrets. We can actually talk to each other, we can interact. So yeah, there’s that, and then there’s also all kinds of stuff coming up. They give me a lot of stuff to do, for sure. I was really, I would say, very happy [laughs] to see the show runners coming back this season and they had bumped the role of Sousa up and decided to go straight at the Peggy/Sousa complicated relationship and explore what was there or what wasn’t there.
AX: How much of the seasonal arc did you know when Season 2 started? Did they tell you before all the scripts were written, “This is where it’s going,” or do you find out as you get the scripts?
GJOKAJ: I find out when we get the scripts, but I don’t really ask much ahead. I can only really concentrate on one script at a time in terms of trying to break it down anyway, and there’s such a fast schedule on TV that, unless it’s something that is really important for me to know, I generally don’t try to know it, I just chew and swallow what’s in front of me.
AX: How much back story have you done for Sousa, and have you had to revise any of it as Sousa progresses in the scripts?
GJOKAJ: Starting in Season 1. I read a lot about World War Two and [what was] relevant to the character in terms of his injuries, stuff like that, but also, I think I’m very careful to make sure to take my cues not from a book or something else, but from the actual scripts. You just try to get a sense of the vibe for the character and use your intuition as an actor to kind of fill in the blanks. As an actor, you’re a bit of the final writer, except what you’re writing, you don’t actually say. You’re kind of writing the paths in between [the dialogue].
AX: Sousa is now dating Violet, played by Sarah Bolger, who’s a nurse. What are his feelings about Violet – that she’s great, and yet he doesn’t feel for her what he feels for Peggy, or …?
GJOKAJ: It’s the ex-girlfriend or I guess ex-boyfriend thing, where somehow they call you up the second you’re about to move on from them. This is what Peggy’s done. He feels like he’s moved on, met a really cool girl, she’s beautiful, she’s wonderful, she’s nice, she surfs, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, just the moment he’s about to get engaged and move on with his life, she shows up. Now, if we were just to analyze Sousa, I think he’s probably forcing it, I think he’s probably trying a little too hard to get over Peggy and doing his best. I think he thinks it’s a positive move forward, but he may be lying to himself a little bit.
AX: And what is Sousa’s view of Rose, played by Lesley Boone, who got promoted to being his office manager this season?
GJOKAJ: Sousa loves Rose. Sousa hand-picked to come out to the L.A. office. She’s got so much cool stuff do to. I cannot explain how much cool stuff is in store on this show, and I’m not just saying that. There is so much cool stuff that Rose gets to do, there is such an awesome team that they’ve assembled in the course of this season in order for them to join forces, and the dynamic that this created is hilarious, awesome – it defines the show in such a beautiful way, and Lesley is a huge part of that. Her character, when it clicked in and when it found a place for her in the show, just made things work. You didn’t even realize it was the missing piece until it showed up. It’s been wonderful.
AX: Are you dealing with the crutch any differently than you were last year?
GJOKAJ: You know, at this point, I just make sure that I put it on the right arm. And I just triple-check that I’m not putting it on the wrong arm. No, it’s something that’s just become second nature for me. In fact, a lot of people have mentioned, when we’re shooting the show, “Do you think about that?” At this point, I’ve been stuck on that crutch for so long, we’ve got a system now – they say, “Places,” I go to my mark, the props people bring my crutch and then the other five props that I have to juggle with the crutch. This is an inside joke with the writers – they always find a third prop for me. So they give me the crutch, and then they give me a flashlight, and then somewhere in the middle of the scene, it says, “And he pulls out his gun.” So this is an ongoing juggle that they make me do.
AX: Do you think that they’re ever going to make Sousa actually juggle?
GJOKAJ: I can juggle, so it’s definitely possible. They make me do something else, though, towards the end of the season, that I think is going to blow people’s minds.
AX: Without getting spoilery, do you get to do any big action scenes that you’re excited about coming up? Besides running on the crutch, which is sort of major action in itself.
GJOKAJ: Yeah, they let me get in it, they definitely let me get involved. What’s fun about Daniel is, it’s not about [action] for him. This is one of the reasons why, personally as an actor, I’m so glad that they haven’t fixed the leg, that they didn’t rush to try to make him a bionic leg-type person. One of the coolest things about his character is that his challenge is that he has to figure out how to be useful, how to use his brain, because his body doesn’t work they was it used to. And that’s actually really fun to watch, it’s really fun to see, and it’s also a really different take on a TV show where it’s the guy who’s running and breaking down the door and beating somebody up for information. So in the scenes with Peggy, what’s so fun, there’s a lot of times when Daniel and Jarvis [played by James D’Arcy] actually step out of the way and say, “Peggy, all right, do what you do best.” And I think it’s really fun, it’s such a big part of the show.
AX: Jarvis is Howard Stark’s butler, who is there to assist Carter in any way possible or necessary. What is Sousa’s view of Jarvis, do you think?
GJOKAJ: I think he must look at him like a totally alien-type creature [laughs]. I know he’d probably really like him, but I just don’t know what they’d talk about if you sat them down over dinner and chit-chat about stuff. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Jarvis and Sousa would grab drinks on the weekend.
AX: Do you have any other projects going on we should know about?
GJOKAJ: Not that I know of. The way that these contracts work with the show is, I’m a bit on hold until I hear what happens with Season 3. So it’s not the worst thing in the world as an actor – you spend so many years auditioning and chasing the next job that it’s kind of nice when someone tells you you’ve got to wait a couple of months until you hear for the next inning.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about AGENT CARTER?
GJOKAJ: The thing that happens in this season is, there is so much cool stuff, but there is something that will absolutely blow people’s socks off that comes around I think it’s the end of Episode Nine or the beginning of Ten. This first two episodes I thought were phenomenal. And it does not go down, it just keeps stepping up and up and up and up. I’m so proud of this season and the directors and the writers and I couldn’t be more proud of the product.
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Article: MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER: Enver Gjokaj gives the scoop on Season 2 – exclusive interview