Logic would dictate that an actor who has made a name for himself by slipping in-and-out of roles for the better part of three decades would be able to appreciate the chameleon-like qualities of Nikita. Unfortunately, in his latest job that has him playing duplicitous Division head Percy, renowned character actor Xander Berkeley’s one-and-only-job is to put a bullet into those chameleon-like qualities (Literally!) So how’s it going so far, what exactly does the future hold for the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma and whose team should NIKITA fans really be rooting for? We caught up with Xander Berkeley earlier in the week to find out just that.
Having played a multitude of government baddies, were you at all hesitant to sign onto NIKITA?
Xander Berkeley: One might say hesitancy is a recurring motif in my career, followed by grateful reconsiderations. I try not to repeat myself and with 24, I had just done Air Force One not to long before that and it felt like the turncoat sort of agent that they were playing on was something I had done before and I always like to sabotage my career as much as possible by flying under the radar and doing things people haven’t seen me do before! That said, I’m so grateful I reconsidered because they ended up really turning the character [of George Mason] into something and the show was just spectacular, changed my life. I met my wife [Sarah Clarke] through the show and I can’t imagine having said no. Same things with NIKITA. The show had been done before so I think I may have had some ideas about, “Gee is an audience going to want to see this show again,” they did it well before and I felt like there was enough similar to my character to my character in 24 that I was worried about repeating myself. But I read the script, met the people involved and changed my mind because I thought they had great ideas and I loved the writing and the whole direction and again I’m so grateful that I saw the light.
One of the differentiating factors between George on 24 and Percy on NIKITA is that it’s somewhat hard to see any redemptive qualities in Percy. Are we going to see a good side to the character?
Well, you know it was hard for people to see redemptive qualities in George until he inhaled airborne plutonium. In fact, I don’t even think the writers saw it. I remember fighting here and there on 24 with the Producers going, “Really, this is so gratuitous… you want me to say that? What am I, just a d*ck?” And they would say, “No, you know, part of the guy’s charm is that he is an a-hole.” For me with Percy, I continue to find reasons why and they [the writers] continue to give reasons why he does what he does, which I think are going to continue to be revealed as the show goes on.
Part of the differences between Percy and Nikita is that he doesn’t think anything is that simple or that black and white. He sees the big picture as it’s necessary to do what he’s doing. He has to keep the funding up in the face of budget shortcuts, in the wake of financial disaster in America and a new administration that has cut his budget back. He’s got to do what he’s got to do in order to keep his outfit up and running so that if there is an emergency he can be called upon. Those are a lot of the episodes that we don’t see, where Division is doing noble undertakings on behalf of the United States. There was a line in the original pilot that they ended up cutting but I think will probably come out at some point because it certainly speaks to his philosophy, “We’re not the good guys, we’re the necessary guys.” And a lot of people in general take for granted all the freedoms and opportunities they have. They come at a cost and not everybody wants to know what that cost is. But Percy is the one willing to cover it.
One of the most interesting things about Percy is how little we really know about his life outside of Division. Assuming he has one, do you think we might ever get to meet his family?
I’d have to think that if we see his family life, it’s going to be the shattered remains of one. I keep thinking that he has some illegitimate children running around, or perhaps legitimate children from failed marriages. I can’t imagine he’s got a very working marriage given that he is at work so much and has to keep everything he does so extremely confidential. Plus, I don’t wear a wedding band, that was a choice made early on.
Since Percy’s life is so shrouded in mystery, what can you talk about in terms of what’s in store for the character?
I have floated ideas out there. I love the idea of seeing the human side of Percy, whether it’s an ailing mother or father in the hospital, or whether it’s a kid that needs help. Maybe he’s spying on somebody that turns out to be his kid and despite his inability to help emotionally, he’s always there to write a cheque to some headmaster. Those are a few things the writers could do. What I can say is that they’ve given me assurances that they’re going to to get into a storyline that involves Percy’s relationship with oversight his Percy’s desire to be recognized more, promoted, and given other opportunities to escape from that hole. We’re going to see other sides of Percy down the line as we get further into this.
And since you mentioned “getting further into this,” we have to ask. Have you heard anything from the Network in terms of a second season?
Unfortunately we haven’t gotten that far, but I think the general assumption is that it’s a good show, it’s going to have a life and is going to be brought back. We’re all sort of assuming that, but they [the CW] love to keep you guessing. My wife and I discuss it everyday, like do we leave stuff here [in Toronto] and are we going to know before they finish shooting the season? You just feel so unsettled not knowing all the time, but that’s the nature of the beast. We have to go on the assumption that it will have a real life and I’m convinced if they commit to it that the show will just improve so much because of the different directions and the risks they’ll be able to take as the audience starts to grow. And I do believe the audience will grow as more people watch.
NIKITA airs Thursday nights at 9PM on the CW