MCU Writer on Hayley Atwell's Live-Action Return & Captain Carter's Cultural Importance (Exclusive)

By Pamela Gores Updated:
Hayley Atwell Captain Carter Avengers Infinity War poster

With the finale of Disney+'s Loki breaking open the doors of the MCU's multiverse, anything is possible, and What If...? is set to explore that very notion.

Penned by A.C. Bradley and directed by Bryan Andrews, Marvel Studios' first animated project will take key moments from the Infinity Saga and turn them on their heads, thereby exploring new stories with well-known characters.

Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter will become the new Captain America in the form of Captain Carter, taking charge of the show as a whole and becoming the face of the series. Carter may soon break the boundaries of animation as well, as it has been rumored that her cartoon counterpart will be returning in next year's Doctor Strange sequel.

Seeing as though Peggy “Captain" Carter is here to stay in some capacity, The Direct asked A.C. Bradley herself about the aforementioned rumor and what it was like creating her new multiversal self.


Peggy Carter Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness

In an exclusive interview with The Direct, What If...? head writer A.C. Bradley addressed both the potential of multiversal heroes such as Hayley Atwell's Captain Carter making the jump from animation to live-action and the cultural significance of curating Carter's story.

Hayley Atwell's rumored appearance as Captain Carter in next year's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was specifically noted to Bradley as well.

Bradley recalled that the idea for What If...? began in 2018, citing that "animation is a medium of patience" and figuring out how or if the characters like Atwell's Peggy Carter could connect to movies down the line wasn't considered.

However, Bradley mentioned that the one person who likely does consider this is Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige:

"When we started What If...?, it was 2018. Animation is a medium of patience. So, you don't start looking at how it's going to connect to movies five years later. Maybe Kevin [Feige] does. Kevin is a brilliant man. If that man had decided he wanted to study astrophysics, he'd be leading the Mars mission. He's that kind of man."

Bradley then talked about creating Captain Carter's story, citing the pivotal turning moment in What If...? as when Peggy decides to stay in the room during Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America.

Connecting the 1940s era of Captain America: The First Avenger to the modern-day, Bradley said "a woman staying in the room is how we change the world:"

"When it came to creating Captain Carter, we knew we wanted Peggy Carter as the hero of the first episode. And my job was to find not the 'what if she got the serum,' but how do we get there? What's the character moment that brings us there? And re-watching The First Avenger, there's a moment, and this happens in the very beginning of The First Avenger and the very beginning of our pilot, where. Dr. Erskine says, 'Would you be more comfortable in the booth?' And, in our episode, she goes, 'No. I'll stay in the room.' Because a woman staying in the room is how we change the world. It's a powerful statement in the 1940s and, dammit, it's a very powerful statement in 2021."

From there, telling Peggy's journey as Captain Carter involved exploring ways in which a woman would lead during World War ll:

"So, from there, we started looking at how would the world change, what would it be like, and how wouldn't it change with a woman becoming the first real hero? Would they let her lead men into battle, or would she have to yet again raise her voice and say, 'I deserve this. I earned this. I can do it. Join me or get out of my way.'"

Finally, Bradley praised Hayley Atwell in general and expressed her hope that her Peggy Carter will return in live-action form in the future, going as far to say that Atwell "could play Ben Grimm in the Fantastic Four and be the right choice:"

"I love Captain Carter and Hayley Atwell. Hayley Atwell could play Ben Grimm in the Fantastic Four and be the right choice. She is amazing. So, I hope she appears in more MCU movies and TV shows, 'cause I'll be the first one watching." 


Captain Carter

Seeing as though Marvel Studios is pushing for more diversity in Phase 4 and beyond, the decision to make Peggy Carter a new hero in her own right is both unsurprising and undoubtedly welcome.

Whether she appears in Doctor Strange 2 or other live-action projects, the significance of creating Captain Carter and having audiences connect with her throughout the first season of What If...? will be long-remembered in the already-extensive catalog of the MCU. She's a Marvel veteran who has persisted throughout the franchise and now has her own heroics to carry out. 

Furthermore, the way Bradley described reaching the point where Carter takes the serum is simple, yet impactful. From the beginning, Peggy Carter was a strong woman in every sense of the term, so her choice to stay in the room for Steve's transformation seems like a given.

Nonetheless, for now, fans will get to witness this new evolution of Peggy Carter in the first season of What If...? as she takes the charge Captain America once did in new and invigorating ways. 

What If...? premieres on Wednesday, August 11, exclusively streaming on Disney+.

- In This Article: What If...? (Season 2)
Release Date
December 22, 2023
Jeffrey Wright
- About The Author: Pamela Gores
Pamela Gores is the Managing Editor of Copy and a writer at The Direct, where she's held these roles for over three years. A diehard MCU fan since 2012's The Avengers, she harbors an extensive appreciation for all things relating to Natasha Romanoff. Pamela serves as the main point of contact for all matters relating to editing and publishing at The Direct, maintains the staff's Writing and Publishing Guide, and helps implement all the latest copy rules, whether in-house or according to AP Style.