Every good drama needs a villain and a hero, and in the CW’s spy series NIKITA, the lines have become so blurred that one is never quite certain who is on the good-side and who is on the bad-side. In an exclusive interview, Xander Berkeley shared whether he thinks Percy is a villain at-heart and whether there is hope for a future relationship between Percy and Amanda on NIKITA.
This has been an absolutely fascinating season of NIKITA. With Percy, it feels like he’s got a bit of a “Silence of the Lambs” kind of story going on. It is very chilling and it seems like he is unpredictable even though he has been boxed up. Can you talk about what you’ve been enjoying about do that kind of captivity role for this past season?
XANDER: The “Silence of the Lambs” thing, I did my best to avoid even thinking along those lines. I was afraid that it was going to remind people of that and as an actor you never want to find yourself doing something that someone else has done before. But, for me, what was immediately exciting about it as an actor was sort of the small theater stage that it constituted. If he has been stripped of all his worldly possessions and power, what does he do to still have some sense of dignity and integrity and self-esteem? How does a guy like that handle the situation? I liked the implication that he did a lot of deep thinking. You don’t see Percy mediating, but as far as he does, he did and in a different way than anyone else would — he gathered his strength inwardly and composed himself and presented himself to everyone that came down to visit in a very powerful way — and ultimately had everyone running circles around him even though he was the one in prison. It was like whenever Amanda or Alex would come down, the effect was that they were running around doing what he told them to. He knew he had to get the power back. It was not the best way at times, but he had to get it back. I found the exercise of that really, really interesting. When you take choices away, the choices you have left become really powerful and interesting.
Do you think he had a plan for this situation or did he just kind of roll with it?
XANDER: I think he went back to “square one.” One of the things that happened was for the first time he didn’t have the burden of responsibility. He didn’t have to worry about things going wrong. Because if they did, it was just another feather in his hat. Like he said all along, they needed him. So he didn’t care how things went on the outside world. Let it fall apart. So for the first time he was able to kick back and relax in a way and he started to enjoy himself in the solitude. He also doesn’t suffer fools well. So he didn’t have to suffer any fools, and he could just be by himself and slowly watch the live news feed, that and the tea set and some furniture, and he was content for a while.
It always felt like he was pulling the strings, no matter whether he was just sitting there watching TV or not. It always felt like he was calculating something.
XANDER: Yeah, he was always calculating. He always had a master plan on how he was going to get out. He actually had a number of plans. So he was working on all the time. But, in the meantime, he got to enjoy the company of whoever came to visit him, whether it was Alex or Amanda, and get them to do his bidding. But he enjoyed their company in a weird way — sort of like a cat with mice. It was a good sort of spa, in a strange way and even though it was frustrating and demeaning, he made the best of it. But he was ready to get out when he did.
What is the one thing that you admire about Percy in this new situation?
XANDER: That he made the best of a bad situation.
Do you think there is anything too diabolical for him?
XANDER: He is Machiavellian. The ends always have to justify the means. He doesn’t go in for gratuitous indulgence of diabolical behavior.
So he’s always got a master plan?
XANDER: Yeah, it’s always a means to an end. It’s never the end in and of itself to hurt someone.
On a personal level, do you and Melinda just get giddy with glee that you get to play these incredible, calculating villains?
XANDER: We have a ball and we have a great friendship. So we all kind of missed it as I got out of prison and had to leave that set. There was something so pure about the way they wrote those scenes and how we got to play them with each director that came in. We really got to use the space in a different way each time, which is an actor’s kind of dream. When we were facing off it was always very, very fun and we’ll always look back on that period with a smile.
What would be the one thing that you wished Percy could have gotten while he was in the box?
XANDER: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that!
Okay, big secret, we’ll hold off on that one. So based on what’s coming it looks like Percy’s about ready to make a move and find a way out of the box, either through negotiation or to simply break out. Does he have a plan in mind once he gets out, or will he make it up as he goes along?
XANDER: There was a clue that was revealed in the scene when Ryan was found in the lion’s den with Percy, and he said, “I’m looking at a higher place” as he gazed heavenward, but then he quickly reassured Ryan that he was not talking about heaven, by saying, “It’s not the place you’re thinking of.” He certainly wants to take back control of Division. He is very clear about that. But whether that is the end in and of itself is very much the question. It also seems very clear that he is setting his sights beyond Oversight, beyond the United States of America, into the global inner circle to present himself as a necessary player.
Do you think he seems himself more as a savior for humankind because he always knows what’s best for it? Or does he just want to be the villain and do whatever he wants?
XANDER: I don’t think he wants to be the villain at all. I think he believes — but he has had to recalibrate for his aim — but he is very much a believer. He was forged during the Cold War, when it was Communism versus free-market and democracy, and as he went along, he felt this world failed to realize the real stakes involved in maintaining their freedoms and the prices that needed to be paid for those freedoms to be maintained. That only people like himself, who are willing to do that dirty-work — he does it on behalf of those who enjoy all their freedoms. He also felt that he was giving people a second chance, people who would be normally on Death Row, and never get a chance to have a life. Their life was over, so he gives them a second chance and in the process he gets to protect all those people who haven’t had their freedoms taken away yet. So these people who are on Death Row, they lost their freedom on a certain level, but he’s made them soldiers to protect the people who haven’t — and he believes in that. Power corrupts on a certain level, so the more money he made and the more power he had access to, the more dubious his motivations became and the easier it became for him to justify questionable behavior. But I think he really did believe in what he was doing, and then when the Cold War ended and it shifted to terrorism, it sort of became a harder enemy to track down and during that time there were budget cuts that started to take place and he wasn’t getting access to the funds anymore, so he had to start taking side-jobs, and once you start to do that, it starts to get a little bit murky. He kept thinking, “If I make enough money coming in, I’ll be able to step up and protect America when I need to.” And he did continue to believe that. But Nikita kept making life more difficult for him, so he had to get rid of this thorn in his side. So Nikita became a big goal, and he began to gradually lose his moorings.
Since he is such a believer in giving people second chances, is he going to give Amanda another chance when he gets out?
XANDER: Well, she’s making it harder and harder for him every time she betrays him in one way or another. It’s like with Nikita, each time he comes in contact with her, there’s a part of him that wants to giver her a second chance. I think he has a hard time with those he is close to, they have become like family to him, and I think that will continue to be proved true.
Does he want to repair his “family” and bring them back together? Like bringing Michael and Nikita and perhaps Amanda back into his fold once he gets back in control?
XANDER: I think that sometimes it seems like a lost-cause to him, and other times he has this kind of power-trip fantasy that he can put that off. He does think that Nikita is burdened with blinding naiveté about how the world works. That she is so consumed with the idea of being a do-gooder that she doesn’t realize what the big picture is sometimes.
It feels like Percy is a master manipulator. Is there anybody you think he couldn’t manipulate?
XANDER: He certainly has a hard time with Nikita. [Laughs]
Percy goes through spells where he seems to have traps for Nikita and he is able to push her in certain directions to kind of keep her occupied and out of his hair.
XANDER: Oh yeah, definitely. But he’s having a hard time winning her over. He has a way of using his sense of humor and cleverness to beguile and unnerve people.
What would you say is Percy’s personal kryptonite, the one thing that really weakens him that he needs to watch out for?
XANDER: Hubris, probably.
Percy had told Amanda, when they had a conversation in the most recent episode, that she is incapable of love. It seems they had a personal relationship at some point, but what makes him assess her as not having the capability of that feeling?
XANDER: There is something so — well, sometimes when you have tendencies in a certain direction yourself, it is very easy to see those tendencies in others. But in Percy’s assessment, there is something so cold and calculating and shut-down about Amanda that it seems like the only joy she gets is in watching people suffer sometimes. So there’s some damage that she has.
So does Percy hold that as a genuine belief or was he just trying to needle her a little bit?
XANDER: I think it is a genuine belief. If they had a relationship, he thinks she was deluding herself. It was a relationship of convenience. This is one of the gray areas that we have discussed that whatever went on between them, it was sort of known that it should not be happening in the work place, and that work came first and because they were married to their work so they might as well enjoy themselves on occasion, but never to let be taken for anything more than that. In his assessment, she deluded herself into thinking she had feelings, when she was really just trying to manipulate him to get access to his power. That’s what he decided.
Their dance is absolutely fascinating. I love seeing it ratcheted up like this. Can you tease something about what’s upcoming?
XANDER: Well, let’s see. You know that Percy’s getting out of prison, right?
It feels like it’s going to happen imminently.
XANDER: Yeah, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen. I can say that the guardians come into play and there’s going to be a character from our collective past that emerges who has information that’s vital to Percy.
On that last teasing note, be sure to tune in for an all new episode of NIKITA on Friday, February 3rd at 8PM on the CW (CTV Two in Canada) to find out exactly how Percy gets out of the box and if he has a plan as to what he is going to do with Amanda. You know what they say about payback! Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. 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).