On Saturday, Chicago welcomed Hayley Atwell (Peggy in Agent Carter) and Ming-Na Wen (Agent May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) at C2E2‘s Kick-Ass Women of S.H.I.E.L.D panel. The two actresses talked about what it was like to play strong female characters, their experiences as women working in the entertainment industry, and self-love and respect. Their discussion went beyond a conventional panel and turned into an improvised life lesson for not only the women in the audience, but also every guest that needed a bit of encouragement.
Both Hayley Atwell and Ming-Na Wen are beautiful and personable people. They also showed us that they’re incredibly charming and have a great sense of humor. The two shared how great it would be for them to go out and have a drink with their characters. They also joked about the fun they would have if their characters were to team up and fight against Loki. The hour was filled with lots of humor from both women. The most humorous moments occurred when they fangirled over Meryl Streep, when Atwell showed off her talent as a ventriloquist, and when fans asked Wen her opinion on the live-action Mulan movie. Wen was very clear when expressing that the only thing she truly desired was an Asian Mulan. When asked if she was interested in portraying the character, she joked that her only chance of playing Mulan was if there were a spinoff called Mulan: The Later Years.
Talk turned to their characters, and they spoke more seriously about the gender roles portrayed in their shows. The two talked about how great it’s been for them to play strong and influential female characters on TV. Both shared how exciting it’s been to play women who have been breaking the mold that society has for female roles. Peggy and Agent May are both intelligent and independent characters who serve as a breath of fresh air in a media filled with characters that are dependent and in constant need of saving. Though sexism still exists in our world and the Marvel universe, they and their characters have been working hard to defy stereotypes, and they hope to continue doing that.
Both Atwell and Wen had a lot to share about the importance of feminism in entertainment. Wen especially had a lot of insight on the hardships of starting out as an unknown actress while holding onto her beliefs. In a truly memorable moment, Wen shared about the struggles that she faced when first auditioning for acting roles. She was offered roles that she did not feel comfortable playing, and there were times when she had to settle for jobs. However, she highlighted that it was important that she set her values first. This was evident when she told her agent that she did not want to be nude in front of the camera. Her agent replied that having such standards would never bring her roles and ruin her career. Obviously, this did not happen. Wen happily shouted, “Well, the joke’s on you!” While things like success are important, Wen emphasized that the most important thing is to do what you’re comfortable with and to respect yourself.
In addition to self-respect, Wen also shared her wisdom of self-love. When a fan asked her about body appreciation, she responded that, “It’s all about flaunting what you have.” She talked about the inevitability of growing old and about how it’s important to appreciate yourself the way you are. However the piece of advice from Wen that stood out to me the most was what she shared with the audience towards the end of the panel. She said, “The message that all young girls should have in their hearts… [is to] love yourself.” Self-love is something that’s so obvious, but also easily forgettable. I’m glad that Wen was able to remind us that the most important thing is for us to remember to love ourselves.
I haven’t had the chance to watch either Agent Carter or Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet. Before the panel I only knew of Hayley Atwell from the Captain America movie and Ming-Na Wen from her voice role for Mulan. After hearing the two actresses talk about their characters and seeing the love and adoration that the fans have for these shows, I’m more encouraged than ever to start watching Agent Carter and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t wait to see their characters kick ass on the small screen!
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