Hayley Atwell, star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, recently visited New York Film Academy (NYFA) to speak about her career and experiences as part of the ongoing Guest Speaker Series.
Known around the world as Peggy Carter, Captain America’s love interest and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Atwell is a Golden Globe and two-time Olivier Award nominee. She has appeared in multiple Marvel films, from Captain America: The First Avenger to Avengers: Endgame, as well as the franchise’s two shows, Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But Atwell shared that her career hadn’t always been easy. In her talk, moderated by NYFA New York Acting for Film Department Chair Peter Allen Stone, she stated that her very first acting job ended up on the cutting room floor. She remained undeterred, and eventually scored roles in period dramas like Mansfield Park and The Duchess. Following her huge success with Marvel, she scored the lead in ABC’s legal thriller Conviction, and stars in the Starz mini-series Howards End. She has also appeared in several live-action Disney films, including Cinderella and Christopher Robin.
In addition to her success in film and television, Atwell has also received numerous accolades for her stage roles, including The Pride and View from the Bridge. Most recently, she returned to the London stage in Dry Powder, a sharp and witty comedy about the people shaping the economy.
Despite her success, Atwell remains very down-to-earth. She offered a number of specific tips and insights on the nature of the acting industry, particularly on the challenges of fleshing out a fully formed character from a smaller role.
“[You should have] a clear understanding of what you’re doing but be willing to have it steered in a completely opposite direction if the director tells you otherwise,” Atwell said. “Do not be afraid to ask questions.”
Atwell also stated that she believed no director should ever give a line reading regardless of the size of the part, meaning that actors had the privilege and responsibility of embodying their character choices with enough understanding and conviction to bring originality to a role while remaining collaborative.
The New York Film Academy thanks Hayley Atwell for sharing her time and expertise with our students.