[11/22/11 - 08:41 AM]
Interview: "Covert Affairs" Creators Matt Corman & Chris Ord
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

When USA's hit spy drama "Covert Affairs" first premiered last year, audiences were introduced to newbie FBI agent Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) as she found her way through the dangerous world of international espionage and intrigue. Once season two kicked off earlier this year, Annie was a bit more polished as she had grown into the job a bit more and grew up personally, too. Also, thanks to series creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord and their writing staff, more layers were also given to the rest of the cast like Auggie (Christopher Gorham), Wilcox (Sendhil Ramamurthy), and married couple Joan (Kari Matchett) and Arthur (Peter Gallagher) as well as frequent, enjoyable appearances by solid character actors like Gregory Itzen, Eion Bailey and Oded Fehr.

As the series speeds to its second season finale on December 6th, our Jim Halterman thought it was time to check in with Corman and Ord, who touched on the overall development of the show over its first two seasons, whether spies can have healthy relationships and the guys also cryptically hinted that something fans have been asking for will finally happen in the season finale.

Jim Halterman: Well, first of all, congratulations on a strong second season as well as the renewal for a third season.

Chris Ord: Thank you. We're thrilled. I think it's been great doing this season. We feel we've brought in a lot of strong acts but with every episode you realize all the more opportunities you have with the characters and all the other ideas that you want to follow down. So, we're excited to get season three and bring some of those to life.

Matt Corman: We're actually already back with our writers and we've already started on season three, if you can believe it.

JH: Going back a little bit, what did you guys learn from the first season that kind of led you into the second and then what you've learned in the second that will take you into the third.

CO: That's a good question.

MC: Yeah. I mean it was interesting. In the first season, as in the first season of any show, you're just sort of finding the characters. What we learned is we have this amazing group of actors that we can take in a lot of different directions. It freed us up going into the second season to sort of explore some of those storylines even further. Our case and point would be stuff with Auggie. We were able to get into his story, his backstory and really sort of utilize this full toolkit we have of all these amazing actors. I mean we have a terrific ensemble.

Then the other thing is we sort of dipped our toe a little bit in some of the location shooting in season one. We've done a lot more of that in season two and we'll continue to do so. For us, it only works when it informs story and informs character. So, whenever we do go abroad, the reason that we do it is to tell richer and deeper stories. I think when those two things can come together it can make for really special episodes.

JH: Talk to me a little bit about the development of Annie because I was thinking back to the pilot and how green she was. Then, having just watched [this week's] and she's just come such a long way. What other obstacles are coming up for her in terms of her still finding her way?

CO: In many ways, the first season was about 'Can I do this job?' Second season has been a bit more about 'Should I do this job or what toll will it take, what sacrifices do I have to make?' She'll still be challenged in season three but it'll be more about 'I'm good at this job, I like this job, but how can I make a life doing this job? How can I make it work for me on my terms?' So, we see her growth both as an operative, yes, but also as a person. She's maturing. She's really looking at her life and her future so I think we have an opportunity to kind of develop that on both sides - the CIA and also in her personal life.

JH: One of the things I've noticed in the second season is the way in which you're blending the personal and the professional together in each episode. Is that a challenge to come up with those stories and make sure it doesn't come off as forced? In [this week's] episode, Annie is working through her conflict with her sister Danielle (Anne Dudek) while working on a case that involves two sisters.

MC: I think it's a good challenge. The show works best when there's allegory that's sort of just out of reach. So, in other words, the audience is experiencing it without it being too heavy-handed. In the instance you're talking about though, we felt that it was interesting to explore another sister relationship directly. There was a way to do it that informed her own story without being too heavy-handed. I think the way that it can work well is because the situation that those sisters were dealing with is very different than the situation that Annie and Danielle are dealing with.

CO: I would also add that I think we as humans all do that. I think we all relate our outside experiences to our internal lives. So, no matter what the case, Annie's going to reflect and project whatever she's going through onto it. But I think the sister relationship helped put it into higher relief without being too over the head.

MC: I think what's cool about spy shows in particular is spying is the only profession where your stock and trade is emotions. You're using emotions. You're turning people. You're manipulating people. You're getting them to trust you or not trust you. There's clear allegory because we all, as people, experience emotions. So, not everybody is arresting people or cutting people open every day, like doctors. But everyone, in essence, has the toolkit to be a spy. What they're doing, tradecraft, is just essentially using people.

JH: Can any of these characters have a healthy relationship? I mean definitely it's great for a story and the fact that maybe they can't but you see Annie with Oded Fehr's character and their chemistry is so nice.

CO: I think we'd like to believe that they can but there are a lot of major obstacles that get in the way of this. I mean, just being a spy in your own right, every relationship starts off with a lie. Because you never go up to somebody and you say, "Hi. I'm a spy." You say I'm something else. So, can relationships exist that start with a lie? Yes. But it takes a lot of getting over certain things to get there. As far as Eyal goes they do have great chemistry. We love Oded as an actor. We love Eyal as a character. They play really well on screen. The funny part about their relationship is if they just wanted to have a standard boyfriend/girlfriend relationship neither of their agencies would allow it. But if they said to their agency, "No. I'm going to see this guy because I want to get intelligence on him" then the agency would allow it. So, their kind of star crossed in that regard.

MC: Just to add, I mean I think our show is ultimately optimistic. So, I think we hope and we want the audience to hope that Annie could be in a positive, healthy relationship. I think she would want that. I think ultimately she's not so jaded that she can't imagine a life where she's in love with somebody without massive complications. She just hasn't found it yet.

CO: Well, one way to get around that big lie upfront is to be with someone in your own agency, which we know the CIA does get behind agency relationships. She has a great relationship with Auggie. We do like the chemistry there. He just so happens to be dating someone right now.

JH: Well, of course that leads me to probably the question you guys get the most. I'll make it a true or false question. Will Annie and Auggie someday be involved romantically? True or false?

MC: Are true and false the only options? [Laughs.] I think we love them both as characters and we'd like to see them get together just as we would if they were our friends. But we don't know what the future holds for them just yet.

JH: Do you feel like that's a little bit of the 'Moonlighting' curse? There's this kind of want that viewers have watching them together but if you've satisfied that then you don't know where the show goes. Is there a little bit of that with you guys?

MC: I mean to a certain extent. I also think they as characters sort of value one another in ways that transcend that. So, I mean to put it this way, we could imagine at one point in time one or another of them kind of realizing how special the other is. But we'll just have to wait and see if those things every sync up at the same time.

JH: As we're racing towards the season finale and then season three next year. What can you tease?

MC: As we did in the summer finale, we didn't just sort of tease Annie being kicked out, she moved out. We're not a big fan of cliffhangers, as it were. We're a big fan of changing things, seismic, big changes. And you'll see Annie acting in a way that we haven't seen yet. Things will change forever after you see this finale.

CO: But we're very excited about it. We think it's a really exciting episode.

MC: We're going to be giving the audience something I think they've been asking for.

JH: Are the changes for everybody or is it very Annie-centric and possibly Auggie-centric?

MC: It's Annie-centric. We were really proud of it. It's one that we wrote. We're proud of all of them but we shot a large portion of it on location in Sweden with Anne Dudek and with Piper. It's just got a real film quality and should be pretty cool.

"Covert Affairs" airs Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c on USA.

  [november 2011]  


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