On June 2nd, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gave a sneak peek screening of the second season premiere of COVERT AFFAIRS to a select number of guild members, guests, and fans. Appearing at this fun event were cast members Piper Perabo and Chris Gorham, along with show creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord, and executive producers David Bartis and Doug Liman. Then moderating the evening’s event was TV Guide’s William Keck.
Briefly highlighting the genesis of the show and how the research was done to add as much realism to the show as possible, it was explained that, while the CIA does not exactly provide tours of its facilities, they were able to find a contact who got them access to tour at the Langley facility. It was to their surprise to find that the CIA actually has a Starbucks and a Burger King directly inside the building. They also got to see for the wall of stars representing the deaths of fallen agents whose identities cannot be revealed. It is remarkable that even after death so many of our nations heroes’ identities must be protected.
When all was said and done, the CIA were thrilled that COVERT AFFAIRS portrayed it as a group of normal people just trying to do their jobs; and not be drug through the mud, like so many other shows and films tend to depict them.
Piper also shared how she was lucky enough to talk to a young female agent in order to get first-hand knowledge about how an actual agent balances her personal life and her professional life. Piper thought it was important to get a sense of what a young woman close to the age of Annie Walker would actually go through in such a high-stress, demanding career field.
Doug and David also emphasized that it was important to get to the heart of what drives these people. Clearly, they do not do it for the money, as it does not pay very well. So the challenge became how to depict the COVERT AFFAIRS characters as not just living in a heightened spy world; they are people first. They do it for themselves, for their country, for the personal satisfaction. Although, they acknowledged that it is tricky having dual lives — even from their loved ones who do not know what kind of work they do. Spouses are not even allowed to know what they do for a living.
So taking that information, the writers really wanted to show the dichotomy of spies and their human-side — the work-place versus home-life stresses. For there is a human-side of being a spy, which provides a fertile story base and it offers a fun and creative environment to mine stories.
In creating the characters for the show, Matt and Chris did not write with a specific actor in mind, but rather they wrote complete characters to which they were then able to add nuances as each actor was cast. This allows them to now write to each actor’s abilities, particularly since such strong actors inhabit each role.
The producers also talked about the use of product placement on the show and how they only use it if it organically fits within the scene. They admitted that they make every effort to make it work as so much of the product placement pays for the cool special effects and location shots that they normally would not be able to afford. They also shared that there is more on-location filming in the second season as they made sure to send their second film unit around the world to get location pick-up shots, which could be used to incorporate more authenticity into the show. They also budgeted for more on-location filming for the principal cast, also to give it another layer of realism.
As for the stunts, the show tries to use as many big stunts as possible as it makes the show exciting. But most of the time they have to hold themselves back from getting carried away – especially Piper, who they have to reign in from performing all her own stunts as she is a bit gung-ho to try anything. But because Annie Walker never actually completed her training, she is supposed to be inexperienced. Thus, the action sequences have to be reigned in to reflect Annie’s current abilities. They also try to make sure the action sequences are part of the story-telling and not just thrown in for quick effect. Also, given that Annie is the low man on the totem-pole at the CIA, she would not be called upon to do all the bigger maneuvers. She would be held back so that a more senior operative can get the job done. So even Auggie has a lot more experience and training and thus his engagements reflect that seniority and he would more likely to prevail in a hand-to-hand combat situation given his years of experience versus Annie’s partial training.
Sharing a bit about how he undertook preparing for his role, Chris said that he has worked with the Canadian Institute for the Blind to get instruction of the basics of cane use and that was where he also had the opportunity to talk with people who had lost their sight later in life. He also found it particularly fascinating seeing a sighted person’s reaction to a blind person when they enter a room. There is a certain hesitancy on how to treat blind people and that social awkwardness is interesting. Chris also loves the positive feedback from the blind community and how COVERT AFFAIRS has been able to use “descriptive video” technology so that visually-challenged fans can also enjoy the show as well.
Because of his new appreciation of the challenges for a blind person, Chris is much more attune to how to block scenes in which Auggie appears so that it makes sense for a blind character — including how to stage Auggie’s desk and his apartment. In fact, Chris takes extra care to pre-block scenes and does walk-throughs to make sure that the movements, camera angles are entirely natural and that the appropriate props are in place. Even Auggie’s wardrobe is carefully selected to reflect what a sight-challenged person would wear — it has lots of texture.
Chris also loves that his character is not just seen as the blind guy. In fact, his primary goal in the role is to make people forget he is blind while still portraying a blind character. If he can achieve that, then he is happy.
The writers also chimed in to add that Auggie’s limitations in the field would continue to be explored, which poses a host of challenges since they must work within the confines of his disability. They have thus found those scenes to be the most intense to film and write since Auggie has a limited number of skills he can work with and the environment needs to be just right for those skills. The solutions need to be more thoughtful, opposed to just explosive.
When asked if Auggie is more attune to Annie than anyone else, Chris also admitted that Auggie is finely in-tune with Annie in a unique way — whether it be her perfume, her high heeled shoes, the gait of her walk — he can always tell it is Annie. As discussed by the entire panel, the consensus was that if there were a possible romance brewing between Auggie and Annie, they are going to take the long-road to develop it. Which Chris explained that, for now, it is more fun to embed just special moments for them — teasing and tantalizing the audience and having some fun along the way.
Chris then volunteered that there is an upcoming “shirt-off” scene which the fans will enjoy. To which the producers happily revealed that last season’s episode where Chris took off his shirt was the highest rated episode, so they are determined to give the viewers exactly what they want in that regard. They know the fans love it and they are going to get it!
Then after carefully dodging the questions about Annie’s long-lost love Ben Mercer who was shot in last season’s finale, it was admitted that he is going to continue to be the haunting presence in Annie’s life. Though, as fans will see in the second season premiere, this time Ben will have left her for a second time — and Annie not only knows and understands, she gets that is just who he is. It will free her up a bit more to embark on other relationships. Her love for Ben is intoxicating, but ultimately not healthy. It is the seminal relationship by which all others will be judged, but Annie realizes that she cannot pine away for a man that is just not there.
Then as to Auggie’s relationship with Liza Hearn, anyone but Auggie would have been fired by the CIA for that improper breach of protocol. So he may have dodged a bullet on that fiasco, but there is nothing to say that Liza is quietly going away during the second season.
And what is next for Arthur and Joan, played by Peter Gallagher and Kari Matchett? Their relationship continues to evolve and we will see a bit more of their home life. In fact, a special new set was built for their home.
Teasing what to expect in the second season, it was revealed that Oded Fehr will be making a return appearance and Rebecca Mader is a potential love interest for Auggie. As for what else to anticipate in the second season, there will be a trip to Paris involving Oded Fehr’s character, some sky-diving, a trip to Istanbul, Iraq and just more of the heart-pounding excitement that viewers have come to expect from the show.
To find out what is really in store for Annie and Auggie, be sure to tune in for the explosive second season premiere of COVERT AFFAIRS on Tuesday, June 7th at 10:00 p.m. on USA Network.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).