Hayley Atwell was first introduced to Marvel fans around the world as the confident and crafty Agent Carter in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, but there’s much more to the British-born beauty than meets the eye.
With her new limited series Marvel’s Agent Carter now hitting the small screen (Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET on ABC), PEOPLE asked the actress, 32, for five things fans should know about the woman behind Peggy Carter.
1. She’s actually half-American!
Though she grew up in London with a British mother, Atwell’s father is actually from Missouri.
“I would spend all of my holidays from school in Kansas City. So I guess you could say that I was educated in England, but my spiritual home is in Missouri,” Atwell tells PEOPLE. “The American side of me is the more domesticated, family side and the English side is my education and sense of humor.”
2. She got her big break from Woody Allen.
“I trained in classical theater and graduated 10 years ago,” says the actress. “Eight months out of school, I got the call to be in [the 2007 Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream.] That really started my film career.”
3. She’s more of a dancer than a fighter.
“We have a great stunt coordinator [on Agent Carter] who walks me through all the stunts as if they were a dance routine,” she says. “I studied dance in school, so I kind of had a natural instinct of how to do it.”
4. She wasn’t a big comic book fan before being cast in Captain America.
“I was never into it when I was a kid,” says Atwell, who tries not to let the pressure of being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe get to her. “I approach this job as I would any job I’m doing. I look at it aside from the success of the Marvel franchise and focus on the integrity of who the character is. [Peggy] has to use her wits and intelligence to get out of sticky situations and that’s always exciting to see.”
5. Sorry London, she’s a big fan of Los Angeles.
“I love LA. I love the mentality here,” she says. “Everything is ‘Yes, and?’ as opposed to England where it can be ‘No, but …’ It is a different kind of world in a way. This job has also given me great insight into the effort that people here in Los Angeles put into filming a project.”