Richard Short is a talented British actor of stage and screen whose television work includes American Horror Story, 666 Park Avenue and Covert Affairs. Crucially for ComicsVerse readers, however, is that last week he took up arms on Marvel’s Agent Carter as one of the iconic Howling Commandos, aka Captain America’s old team. In the episode, “The Iron Ceiling,” Short portrayed Pinky Pinkerton and joined our eponymous hero in infiltrating the Russian facility housing the Black Widow program.

Richard gave our friend, writer Lauren Damon, an exclusive interview regarding his experience playing in the Marvel Universe, the appeal of the Howling Commandos, and the impact Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter may have on young comics fans.

Did you have an affinity for comics at all prior to your casting? If not, how much did you subsequently dive into the Howling Commandos back stories?

Honestly, none at all. Unless you count my superhero themed birthday party when I turned 6 (I was the Hulk). I’d dabbled with a little Spider-man and enjoyed the whole Batman film series (Batman & Robin notwithstanding) but I’ve never read a single Marvel/DC comic-book until this year. It wasn’t part of the fabric of growing up where I came from. We had comics such as the Beano, Dandy, Oor Wullie and the Bash St Kids. Those characters are even further removed from ‘superhero’ status than you or I! Of course, upon researching my own entry into the Marvel Universe, I enjoyed going back and discovering who exactly this fascinating set of soldiers where and exactly why they were created. I also indulged in a little of the animated series on Netflix which feels like its own thing entirely but every little take on a character helps when researching and making those indelible early choices before filming begins.

Are there aspects of comic book Pinky that you’d love to explore if the Commandos were to return in the future of the show or anywhere else in the Marvel universe?

I think the Howling Commandos as a whole have a wealth of stories to be mined. They’re fan favorites for a reason. You only have to look at the myriad identikit battalions throughout cinema history such as ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and more recently ‘Fury’. This multi-layered universe Marvel are continuing to build leaves room for endless possibilities. Those familiar with Happy Sam, Pinky Pinkerton et al will be aware of their more ‘unique’ reasons for existing. They’re a microcosm of modern society and Stan Lee aimed to illustrate just how capable any minority, ethnic, political or otherwise could be. To not judge a character (ergo: a person) by their appearance. It’d be fascinating to portray the social background of Pinky Pinkerton and I hope we get the chance to do so further down the line. Of course, I shall save that particular intrigue for another day…

Marvel actors often talk about how hush hush the studio is regarding their scripts–when you were called in, how much did they let you know about the role or the episode?

I was very lucky to be called in to audition for Marvel, however it’s true that we’re given very little information with which to work with! Suffice to say, my character name was redacted and the dialogue given was from other material entirely. Honestly, I only got the job because I showed up with that rakish mustache! Information is then provided as and when you need it in order to carry out the work which makes perfect sense to me. Anything that hampers people’s attempts to read between the lines about upcoming work is a step in the right direction, if only to add to everyone’s eventual enjoyment. It’s the same with actors, the less you know of their personal lives the easier it is to project your ideas of a particular character upon them. Seasoned actors can unwittingly bring with them baggage of earlier work and so it goes with knowing NOTHING of a film before buying a ticket…the last time that happened to me was ‘Jerry Maguire’, which I assumed would be about an IRA terrorist. I was a bit off the mark, wasn’t I?

Did you guys receive extensive training for the shootout sequence of The Iron Ceiling?

There simply isn’t the window of time in order to undergo any ‘extensive’ training on a television series. We were taken through some basic training and most of the Commandos (myself included) were all experienced with gunplay from earlier projects. This is why sometimes it’s easier for networks to cast experienced actors simply because they need to know you can come in on day one, pick up the baton (be it a gun or otherwise) and run with it despite not knowing a single person on set. Not that we’re necessarily any ‘better’ but have earned a level of trust that’s invaluable when time is of the essence. The gunshots in “The Iron Ceiling” episode were actually all added in post-production though. It’s astonishing that not a single machine gun was fired. I believe a couple rounds were fired by Leonard (Roberts) as we rescued the scientist but his leg had just been met by a bullet so I think he earned that!

I think what was great about the episode your team was featured in specifically is seeing the Howlers defer to Peggy’s strategies rather than Jack Thompson’s–which is a shift from most of the male roles on the show to date–were you proud to be part of this shift?

Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier about Stan Lee’s creation of the Howling Commandos to mirror societies less represented minorities, as it is with Peggy Carter carrying the torch for the liberation of women. Hayley does it beautifully and understands the importance of her TV persona. All these characters are wonderful tools with which to dilute ignorance. If young women are growing up watching Peggy Carter show how to lead as a strong, powerful, intelligent woman in a world dominated by men, that will remain in their subconscious forever. And not just the young women but the gentlemen too. They’ll learn it’s unacceptable to underestimate a person based simply on their gender. It’s an archaic mindset and one I’m happy to say the Howling Commandos recognized way back in the 1940’s!

And further on that question, how important do you think it is right now in pop culture for Hayley Atwell to lead a show in this genre? How is she to work with?

I’m very happy for Hayley on a personal level, as success in our business is hard-earned. She’s whip-smart and a fine actress who will grace us with great work for many years to come. A nightmare to work with of course. Just horrible. I say this because not only does she appear on set looking fabulous, she then hits every note in the scene perfectly while running at full speed, climbing up walls and shooting all the bad guys. It can make one feel rather inadequate! In pop culture today we have James Bond, Jason Bourne and countless other male action heroes but still not many hard-hitting female characters leading at the box office. The roles that actresses are lauded for are usually very flawed in one way or another. The (admittedly fabulous) work done by Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl” is an example of that. Peggy Carter is very much a female James Bond and every bit his equal, in fact instead of philandering with an endless array of continental beauties she dated a superhero! She’s a counter-intelligence expert, multi-lingual, athletic and easy on the eye. Peggy to help James fight Spectre perhaps?

If you had to go fight on a different Avenger’s team besides Captain America, who would it be and why?

I shall bend your question to my own means a little here and say “Union Jack”. Having represented my adopted country by aiding Captain America, I think I’d like to ‘fight for my country’ too. Peggy will join us of course, as will Jarvis.

And finally, do you have a favorite of the Marvel films?

Confessing that I’ve had a quick Google search of ‘Marvel filmography’ in order to not miss anything too obvious, I’d have to say both Captain America movies….but I would say that wouldn’t I? If not those…..Howard the Duck.

Marvel’s Agent Carter airs Tuesdays at 9PM on ABC. Join us for our weekly recaps

Lauren Damon is a film and TV writer based in New York. You can find  more of her film reviews and interviews at Media Mikes. This is Lauren’s first post for ComicsVerse.

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