Just as hot as the Annie-Auggie friendship on COVERT AFFAIRS is the question of whether or not Jai is taking up the “bad boy” legacy his father has bestowed upon him. While chatting with press in a recent conference call Sendhil Ramamurthy shared his perspective on Jai’s chances of redemption versus the seductive appeal of ultimate power.
What’s next for Jai Wilcox? Will he be making a more prominent appearance in upcoming episodes this season?
SENDHIL: It’s interesting. There’s basically the Office of Special Projects that Jai is now heading up and it is tasked with different tasks that it has to perform and he answers to everybody’s boss — even to Arthur’s boss. He answers to the DCI. And as we’ll see in coming episodes: what the job entails, what that office entails, what the specifics of that office are; they’re not that specific and Jai finds that out very quickly. Like he’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to be doing and then Henry Wilcox actually will figure into informing him about what this is and kind of point him in a direction that will put him on a path that he kind of goes on which all comes to a head in the finale. Actually in the final episode, you’ll kind of see what the Office of Special Projects is and then what Jai is going to do about that — without wanting to give too much away. I know that was pretty broad.
Does Henry Wilcox volunteer this information or does Jai have to go and kind of question him about it?
SENDHIL: Well, you know what their relationship is like. I mean they don’t have the greatest relationship, so it kind of comes out in a typical Henry/Jai Wilcox fashion. There’s usually moments of contention between these two and that’s kind of where a lot of the information that Jai gets from Henry comes out of the situations — and we have plenty of them coming up.
Will Jai be featured more towards the end of the season?
SENDHIL: Yes. It’s coming. I think that next season what they have planned is to kind of bring Jai more into the fold with Annie because this season Jai was very much kind of on his own show a little bit kind of exploring other avenues and I think that the plan for next season – the writers went back last Monday — I think that’s what the plan is for the next season is to kind of bring him more into Annie’s world. So, again the finale, especially Jai’s final scene really kind of sets the tone for where he’s going to be headed for season three.
Do you find that you’re pretty in sync with Jai? Can you tell where his head’s at or what’s going to happen with him or does it all come as a surprise to you?
SENDHIL: No. I’m completely surprised by everything really. I didn’t see anything that has come so far or that is coming up in future episodes. Like I couldn’t have thought of them, which I suppose is why I’m not a writer. I always think, “Okay, so now he’s going to do this” and then it goes the opposite way of what I’m thinking. So it keeps me on my toes really, and I put the work to kind of try and make it all make sense to me. I find it actually helpful to go back and watch previous episodes to kind of help me plot his journey because it is quite extreme at certain points. He does extreme things; like what happened in the premier of this season 2.5. I didn’t see that coming at all. That was the last thing. It was him kind of using very ‘Henry Wilcox’ like methods to kind of get what he wants, but he was pushed up against a corner. So I think that that’s kind of where Jai operates out of a lot of the time is he kind of exhausts avenues that are ‘the right way to go about things.’ He goes through the proper channels and, if all of that fails, then he kind of has to go to his plan B or his plan C — and what I’m curious to see is: does that keep up? Because the CIA — it’s all about hierarchy and following the rules a lot — or at least the way Jai sees it or saw it. Is he going to continue on like that or is he just going to be like a rogue guy, like a Ben Mercer type guy. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that.
Since Jai has now shown himself to be at least as capable as his dad at the sneaking and conniving, I’m just wondering if that’s going to be something that he uses more frequently or will his use of subterfuge kind of be a last resort in situations where he just doesn’t have any other option?
SENDHIL: That’s a good question. It’s a question that I don’t know the answer to. But I can tell you what I’d like to see. What I would like to see is that he varies it up — otherwise he just becomes the sneaky subterfuge guy, and he just becomes his father. I’d like to see Jai be more evolved really. It’s the CIA at the end of the day. Like you are going to have to use subterfuge at some point. I’m talking even within the walls of the CIA just politically in any organization; whether it’s the CIA or anywhere else, you will have to use that a little bit. So I hope I like it when Jai is forced to use those kinds of things, but I don’t want it to be his go-to. Like his first port of call to be sneaky and kind of devious and underhanded. I don’t want him to be that because then he just becomes Henry, then he becomes his father. And I don’t think that will happen just because I think that’s actually Jai’s greatest fear — his greatest fears are failure and becoming his father. Those are two things that drive him to excel and to try to be the best he can be and get to the strongest position that he can be within the CIA. Jai’s not the kind of person who’s ever going to go against the CIA or his colleagues or anything like that. I think that he just honestly feels that his talents aren’t being utilized at the CIA and he feels that he can do these jobs better than some people and that’s why he goes after it. That’s always kind of the approach and the position that I’ve seen him in. I don’t look at him as this bad person; as this evil person. I see that everything that he does — there’s a great scene that’s coming up where he kind of explains what he wants this new position to be, and what his goals and aspiration for the Office of Special Projects is and what his role as the director is — and it’s actually quite an unlikely person and it was a lot of fun shooting that scene. It’s in the next episode. And he kind of explains it and you’ll see that he actually just really does have a passion for what he’s doing and he has definite goals and ideas of what his position and what this office should be within the CIA and what he’s capable of but there are obstacles. There are roadblocks and he has to try and figure them all out.
Now that Jai has (through his use of subterfuge) gotten some respect from Henry, how will that effect his adversarial relationship with his father?
SENDHIL: That’s a great question and it is explored thoroughly in these next three episodes. Greg Itzin and I had a really great time when he came up. He’s so much fun to work with and he’s so detailed. Like I learn a lot when I work with him. We go through all the scenes beforehand, like we always meet for dinner when he comes into town. When he flies up to Toronto, we meet up usually the night before or maybe two nights before we shoot our scenes and we go through them all and we just talk through them all. The relationship is an adversarial relationship. They don’t have this lovey-dovey father-son relationship and I would kind of be surprised if it ever becomes like that. I mean, you never know, but I would be surprised if I think that so much damage has been done just like during his childhood and I’m still very curious to see what happened with Jai’s mom and how that all played out between Henry and the mom and Jai. I think that there’s a lot of baggage there and I think there’s a lot of hurt there on Jai’s part. I don’t know that it’s ever going to be a lovey-dovey relationship, but they have a relationship that they need each other certainly at this point in the story that we’re telling. It kind of comes to a head actually in the finale and ends again in a place that I never thought that we would go. Like I didn’t really even see that avenue which is why it’s a good thing I guess I’m not a writer!
What lengths will Jai go to in order to make a name for himself?
SENDHIL: Well, Jai isn’t pleased with what’s been happening. He’s being blatantly overlooked and set aside by Joan and by Arthur and he feels that it’s really not for the right reasons because it’s not like he’s screwed up or it’s not like he’s doing his job poorly. A lot of the reason is this ingrained notion that he must be like Henry because he is Henry Wilcox’s son. And I think that a lot of what you’ve seen, like how he got his promotion and all that, it’s kind of like, “Well if you keep telling somebody that their like this, then eventually they’re going to go to that place and show you that they can be that.” Now I think what’s going to be interesting is to see the different layers of Jai which we actually saw a little bit of in the last episode. He took the hit. He took the hit for shooting those people even though it was Eyal who did it. He’s not a guy who’s strictly out for himself. He’s going to take some heat for that — for saying that it was him that shot these people even though it wasn’t and it’s very clear that’s it not. I mean he just blatantly lies to the FBI agent. So I’d like to see the layers there and not him just not going to devious places all the time. So we’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out over the next few episodes and, more importantly, I think in the following season — in the third season.
How did the near miss with being shipped out to Phoenix change Jai’s mindset?
SENDHIL: Well, it’s basically you’re in the major leagues and then you’re being sent down to the farm. You’re being sent down when your last name’s Wilcox and you’re being demoted to the Phoenix office. That’s going to get around really quick. Everybody’s going to know and that is ringing through Jai’s head when he makes these decisions. In a sick way, you can look at it as family honor, as well as just pride. This guy has gone to Yale. He has succeeded at everything that he’s ever done and he is getting, for lack of a better word, blocked by people within the CIA; namely the Campbells. And it’s turning into like a Campbell versus Wilcox type situation. And he’s kind of moved out of that realm where he doesn’t actually see Annie anymore. He doesn’t really work with Annie except on vague missions and he’s really being sidelined I think on the various missions; whether it’s being taking points on a mission or anything like that. So he’s not happy about it and he’s going to do something about it — and when Phoenix comes up, that’s just the last straw for him. There’s always the straw that breaks the camel’s back and that’s it. When it’s like, “We’re sending you to Phoenix,” it’s his back up is up against the wall and he has to do whatever it takes, even if it’s extreme. You know, he screws over his friend — his friend on the hearing committee. And he does say that he will make it up to him and I’m very curious to see, because I’ve always seen Jai as a man of his word, I’m curious to see in the third season if he does or not. I pay attention to all of those little things. I always mark them down because I want to see if there is payback for it further on down the line. But Phoenix was absolutely the impetus for him to go to the extremes that he did. He hasn’t done anything wrong and he’s being overlooked. That’s Jai’s point of view. And when that happens, you can either take it lying down and be a doormat or you can go after it and he’s a Wilcox. He goes after it. . . . And I’m very curious to see [how he makes up for it]. Matt and Chris and all the guys and the writers – and as much as we the actors keep track of it — those guys keep track of it even more. I mean they plot this stuff out so intricately and it’s tough to be able to juggle that many balls. It’s not something that I’m capable of. It’s hard enough juggling Jai Wilcox’s ‘balls’ but I think I’ll but that a different way. It’s hard enough juggling all those ‘balls’ and I have a hard enough time just juggling my character’s stuff. So for those guys to be dealing with all of our characters, it’s a monumental feat and I’m kind of in awe of what they do and I have no doubt that they will figure it out and it will be in a way that challenges me as an actor, which is the thing that I appreciate the most. It was a pretty extreme jump for Jai and that Matt and Chris and all the writers kind of trusted me to make it was quite cool.
Where would you like to see this character go and how far will you push it in terms of your acting in season three?
SENDHIL: Well, as far as I’m concerned, this is the right direction; like where we’re headed with this character because it was tough for the first 10 episodes where they were building his dissatisfaction. It’s a difficult thing to sustain as an actor for 10 episodes when you’re more or less kind of dissatisfied and glaring at people. And then the exciting part for an actor is when you get to take action. It’s really hard to play something that’s passive and now he’s more active and he’s more — I don’t know if aggressive is the right word — but he’s working towards something. I think we’ve certainly established that and I think that it’s certainly going to be a confrontational relationship with a lot of the characters. Because listen: he came in, he was shoehorned in by Arthur, he was brought into the DPT, and automatically treated as an interloper. So he came in in this very difficult situation into the DPT and into Langley and he’s come from London. I’m still very curious as to what happened in London and what he was doing there, but that’s a whole separate story. But I just want to see more layers to him like we’re exploring right now. I think it’s such a complex character and my biggest fear is that Jai just becomes the ‘evil guy.’ Because I just think that becomes limiting. You can’t keep playing that without exhausting the story very quickly. Like how evil can you get within the walls of the CIA without actually going against the country and going against the CIA which I just don’t think is something that Jai would ever do. So I’d like to see variations in what he does and I think that the way that that can be explored is through his interactions with the other characters because he has been very separate this whole season. And I’d like to see him brought more into the fold with the others characters and see how those interactions happen and how they affect him and how the antagonism maybe between certain characters and him goes and then how maybe they find common ground as well. Like that’s kind of the way things work in within the CIA. So I’d like to see that.
How do you see the relationship between Jai and Annie developing? It seems like they have had a few twists and turns.
SENDHIL: Yes, those are the swings that television takes and you don’t really have any control over them. It’s hard just because you don’t exactly know what the endgame is but that’s where your trust in your writers has to come in and you have to trust that they have taken Jai out of the fold to somehow bring him back in in a new and interesting way because otherwise what’s the point. Otherwise, there’s no point to the character so I have to assume that at some point, Jai will be brought back into the fold and more into the mix with Annie. At the end of the day, the show’s about Annie Walker. It’s not about Jai Wilcox or Auggie Anderson or Arthur Campbell or Joan Campbell. It’s about Annie Walker. So, at some point, Jai will have to be brought back into the fold with Annie and I’m very curious to see how that’s done because I think that the one constant has been that there’s clearly an affection for Annie with Jai. Even in the last episode we saw it. It was one of the few times actually that Piper and I had worked together up until that point this season. Jai really has been off on his own. And I think that’s something that’s important to him. I think it’s important to Jai and I think that when he was told to get close to Annie during the first season, he did because he was supposed to because that was his job but he actually developed a an affection for Annie and is certainly there for her if and when she needs it and I’d love to see more of that and see whether that’s done by Jai going on missions with Annie or if it’s done some other way. I don’t really know what is planned. I just know what I hope.
Your character is borderline villainous, how do you like playing a character that is gray area of both friend and foe?
SENDHIL: Gray area is the way I look at it. I don’t actually see a villainous side because ‘villainous’ is really from what perspective you’re looking at it. If you look at him as a villain that means that you think that Arthur and Joan and what they’re doing is right and Jay certainly doesn’t see it that way. So the gray area is something that I’m very interested in for Jai and, as an actor, those are the things that I find really interesting to play. Where it becomes hard is that if the gray area becomes all black or all white because then there’s nothing to play. So I really want Jai to balance it and that’s hard. That’s hard to write and it’s hard to maintain as an actor. It’s a very difficult thing and there are actually very few shows that are able to do it properly and I think that ours is going to be one of those that’s able to do it because of the just because of the strength of our writing team. Just when you think Jai is doing something wrong and you think he’s going down the wrong path, for him to prove you right and then when you think he’s doing great and he’s going to be the good guy, then he can’t help himself and his ambitions get in the way. That’s really what I would like to see more of because just being a good guy, I just find that really boring to play. It’s not something that appeals to me. So I want to see him teetering on the edge and to be kind of pulled in different directions and for his emotions to be pulled on as well. And we get a little bit of that actually towards the end of the season involving Jai and Henry. I think it’s certainly an avenue that the writers are open to exploring and I think that we’ll see more of that in the third season as well.
What guest stars would you like to see on COVERT AFFAIRS?
SENDHIL: I’d love to see Santiago Cabrera come back. He’s a very good buddy of mine. I was actually at dinner with him last night and I’d love to see him come back. It’s always fun when Oded comes back. He’s certainly one of our favorites. He and Bailey are really great to work with and, for me personally, my stuff with Greg Itzin — Jai’s juiciest stuff is with Henry — and I’d love for him to come back. Who else was cool? Jaime Alexander who played Reva, that was a fun character. We’ve actually been really lucky with a lot of our guest stars. We’ve had some really good people and I have a feeling that you’ll be seeing more of your favorites hopefully in the third season. Again with guest stars it’s tough because it depends if they’re available. I know for sure that last season there were people that we wanted to have back but we weren’t able to because guest stars aren’t under contract. They’re just under contract for the one episode so you have to make sure that the actor is available. So it’s dependent on that a lot.
Knowing what you know and what we’ll know soon enough, if you could give Jai a piece of advice, what would it be?
SENDHIL: If I could give Jai a piece of advice, it would be – wow, that’s actually a really great question. If I could give Jai a piece of advice? It would be to maybe trust people a little bit more. I think that because of the way that he has been treated within the CIA and because of whose son he is and the reputation of his father, I think, at first, he kind of came in really game and, I think over the course of these two seasons, he’s become slightly jaded and I’d like to see him back to being able to trust certain people. I think that he does still intrinsically trust Annie. I think that there’s a possibility and I’m watching to see some more interactions between Jai and Auggie in the next episode. But I think that the sentiment that everybody is against Jai. While a lot of the time that seems to be true, I’d like to see if that’s something that he can work around and kind of be able to trust people and to have people trust him because you can’t do things on your own in an organization as big as the CIA. And, at some point, Jai is going to have to learn that. He’s going to have to know that he can’t just kind of use people to get what he wants all the time. That’s where I’d like him to go; that’s what I’d like him to learn — and we’ll see if that happens.
To see what path Jai chooses, be sure to tune in for a new episode of COVERT AFFAIRS on Tuesday, November 22nd at 10PM on USA Network. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv
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