By Andrea Towers
July 06, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
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When Hayley Atwell appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Peggy Carter in 2011’s Captain America, she was a welcome addition: a strong-willed, smart woman with an agenda of her own who was competent in the face of her adversaries. Following her appearance in the film, the character’s popularity intensified, leading to a Marvel one-shot called Agent Carter: a 30-minute mini-movie attached to the Iron Man 3 DVD that explained what happened to Peggy after Cap went into the ice. And even though she appeared bedridden and elderly in last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier she still proved that she was an inspirational force to be reckoned with.

This past winter, Atwell fronted Marvel’s Agent Carter — the first television series to be specifically spun off from a core character and Marvel’s first all female-led property. The series returns for a second season in 2016 and in preparation for Comic-Con’s Women Who Kick Ass panel on Saturday (hosted by EW’s own Sara Vilkomerson), here are five reasons why Hayley Atwell totally kicks ass:

She’s just as social media obsessed as the rest of us… and isn’t afraid to be herself

Like anyone in this day and age, Atwell uses Instagram and Twitter liberally. But she doesn’t just talk about her work or share links from her co-stars. Instead, she actively interacts with fans around the world, while openly sharing experiences from her own life – moments that range from falling asleep on set, to going to the DMV dressed as her character, to sharing fan art and letters she receives at conventions. And the fun doesn’t stop there: she’s not above sharing that she’s sad about not working or pranking her co-stars… or revealing that even she can get pranked in return.


She’s proven she can fight with pretty much anything

Agent Carter is just as much about being smart mentally as it is about being able to win your battles by physical fights. But as great as it is to watch Peggy outwit the men of the SSR, you can’t argue about the fact that Atwell kicks ass in heels and dresses… as well as with practical household items. (We could all learn a little something from Peggy.)


She empowers women and she doesn’t even have to be playing a character to do it

From seeing them on a screen weekly or daily, fans tend to “typcast” actors as having the views and ideals of the characters we love. But Atwell is the real deal: she truly does believe that women can make a difference no matter where you work or what you do, and tries her best to live up to the mantle she knows her character lives by: know your value. Whenever she talks about her character or brings up Peggy Carter during conversation — whether it’s a press interview, a convention, or a simple fan encounter — her words speak to everyone, no matter who you are.


One word: DUBSMASH (because we hope that we’ll get at least one Dubsmash video while she’s with her Marvel castmates at Comic-Con)

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Click here for more of Entertainment Weekly‘s Comic-Con coverage.

Marvel’s second TV series on ABC tracks the exploits of Agent Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, last seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
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