COVERT AFFAIRS: Piper Perabo Interview re Season 3 (2012)

The first episode of the upcoming third season of COVERT AFFAIRS is a game-changer. Something so shocking happens that it propels CIA agents Annie Walker and Auggie Anderson into new departments and sends Annie on her biggest mission yet. As the show shifts away from episodic storytelling, Annie’s mission will continue over the course over the entire season. In a recent press conference call, star Piper Perabo talked about how this season will challenge Annie both professionally and personally, and what it means for Annie’s blossoming feelings for Auggie.

Can you kind of talk about the overall change in the season and how it changes dynamics of everything?
PIPER: Well, both Auggie and Annie are reassigned this season and we both go into more secretive departments and very different departments. In the office where Annie goes to work, it is sort of in this bunker in the basement and he’s working with the really high up powers of the CIA. So we’re not only physically very far apart from each other whereas we used to be our desks could see each other. So now we’re physically very far apart. Also because of what’s going on in our personal lives, we start seeing less and less of each other, and it causes, as the season goes on, all kinds of problems because you begin to realize that having Annie and Auggie together, they support each other in a way that ends up solving things; and when they’re not together, wires get crossed all over the place.

What have you learned about Annie as she is going into this world where she’s setting her own missions?
PIPER: Well, it was interesting. When the writers’ room started talking about this change that was going to happen for Annie, we never wanted her to get too expert too fast. So when she was going to get all this sort of economy to make decisions out in the field and make decisions about her own missions, one of the ideas that came up was the idea of like a teenager who just got their driver’s license and after they’ve been driving for a couple of weeks, they think they’re a great driver. That’s when teenagers get into accidents, when they think they really know what they’re doing. So that idea of the person who has newly acquired power, that thinks they’ve got it all under control, and how colossally dangerous that is because they go sort of way too fast. So Annie’s just right for that kind of problem because she never looks before she leaps, and she often solves problems on the fly. So economy is not necessarily that useful, at least in the beginning. So it’s going to cause a lot of problems for her.

Are we going to see a more ballsier, more risk taking Annie than ever this season?
PIPER: I think so. I mean I think the moral gray area is getting bigger, but in a good way. I think as Annie gets given more missions that are higher security clearance and more personal and intimate, and if you want to get into these places, you have to find a way and sometimes the way in is morally ambiguous. I think to be that level of operative, you need to be willing to blur the lines. So I think Annie’s ambition to really play in the big leagues is going to come up against her moral code.

How will Annie handle the aftermath of making that morally gray decision at the end of the first returning episode?
PIPER: Well, right now, we’re filming Episode 8 and Annie is still dealing with the aftermath of what happens at the end of Episode 1. I mean it’s such a blurred line and I think she makes a decision in the season premiere without really thinking it through. I mean she doesn’t have time in that moment to really sit down and think it out. She’s just sort of leaps before she looks. So the emotional fall out from that goes for quite a while. And I’ve only read up to Episode 9 because the writers they keep it so secret. So I don’t even know where she’s going to land in this. I mean it gets really confusing for her.

Did her decision have anything to do with here new handler played by Sarah Clarke and the conversation that they had?
PIPER: I think so. Sarah’s plays Lena and she’s super ambitious and she doesn’t care about the rules. I mean way beyond Annie. Annie =will disobey Joan, but she still has moral integrity. She still tries to obey the laws best she can. Lena just is about getting the op done at all costs. And I think being around someone like that, it’s sort of like — I always think of Lena as like when you’re in high school and there’s that really cool girl who all of sudden invites you to a party or something and she’s never talked to her before, and even though you’re not supposed to go to the party, it’s so exciting that that cool girl asked you to go and you think, “Well maybe I’ll just get in trouble and do this. I’m so excited she wants to hand out with me.” I think Lena’s sort of like that. And she’s so talented. She’s so highly regarded. She’s so cool, that she starts having an effect on Annie.

Can we trust Lena? Or are we supposed to sort of wonder whether she has another agenda that she’s running Annie on?
PIPER: Well, I had those questions at the beginning too. But I can’t really tell you the answer. What I can tell you is I think Lena’s good for Annie. I think she needs a kind of push out of the nest. She needs someone like that. People can tell you how to do things until their blue in the face, but if you don’t experience something, you don’t really know how to do it. And I think Annie is ready to take on bigger missions. Although Lena’s methodology may be questionable, I think it’s good for Annie to be under that kind of boss.

About the change in the office positions and with the dynamics between Annie and Auggie, how that’s going to affect Annie and Joan?
PIPER: Kari Matchett, who plays Joan, we had a bigger scene yesterday in Arthur’s office. As much as it can be contentious between Annie and Joan, I think Joan in a lot of ways is Annie’s sort of touch-stone of a woman who’s done it right. So when she comes under the guidance of Lena, although Lena’s division is really cool, they’re a bunch of bad-asses. Nobody has a desk. They sleep on the floor. They fly to Cabo for 2 hours and they fly back out. Like it’s so rock-and-roll over at Lena’s, it’s kind of dangerous. And I think it gets contentious with Joan and Annie because Annie takes to Lena. But I think Annie will come to realize what a kind of rock Joan is for her even though sometimes it’s not so buddy-buddy with Annie and Joan. But Joan really does care about Annie. I think Annie’s going to start to realize that.

Does the dynamics of Annie and Auggie’s friendship change now that she’s realized she has feeling for him and he’s with someone else?
PIPER: Well, it definitely puts a strain on the friendship when one person feels more strongly than the other person. At least, that’s my personal experience. The fact that Auggie’s blind in some ways mirrors his relationship with Annie. And it’s fun to play the scenes with Chris Gorham because you can sort of be in love with him. So as long as she’s not saying anything, Auggie doesn’t know. So there’s a lot of moments in the opening, especially where Annie’s trying to sort of keep her feelings under wraps. But it’s plain by the expression on her face. It just that Auggie doesn’t know. It’s really fun to act it actually. Chris Gorham’s constantly laughing because he could see me sort of peripherally while he’s acting as Auggie and he’s like, “Come on, gosh. Everybody would feel that smile coming at them!” So he’ll tease me a lot about how I look at Auggie.

Do you want the show to pursue the Annie and Auggie relationship? Or do you want it to never go there? Or do you want them to just do it a bit little later?
PIPER: If I was watching the show, I always have that feeling when I watched shows, like I want them to go there and yet I never want them to go there because I love watching them think about going there. But, with Annie and Auggie at this point, we’re pretty far from them going there because with his relationship with Parker. It’s going to go far away from there before it possibly swings back around. So I don’t know. Annie’s going to have to try and work a little harder if she wants to get Auggie’s attention now that Parker’s in the picture.

Is Annie just try to tuck those feelings away and pretend like they’re not there for a while?
PIPER: I just shot a season of Episode 8 where Annie is supposed to have all those feelings tucked away in a little box that she’s supposed to leave on the top shelf of the closet. And then Auggie turns around and does something and literally Annie — it’s like, you know when you’re just so in love with someone and you have to be silent about it, and once in a while they do something that it just sends you overflowing — Auggie does something like that in Episode 8. And it’s so cool to watch him do it. It’s so fun to play it that he can’t see her, because you can just melt and he doesn’t know. So it starts to become undeniable to Annie. I’ll tell you that.

Chris Gorham mentioned that Annie and Auggie go undercover as a married couple in Spain in the second episode. What it was like to you know for Annie to kind of pretend to be married to someone she does have feeling for?
PIPER: I can’t believe he told you that! Well, first of all Chris and I had been begging for Auggie and Annie to go into the field again. I mean they’re kind of in the field in the pilot and then it doesn’t happen again. They’re such an incredible team that to have them in the field, it’s just so exciting. Then on top of it, to be married — like when Joan gives us our wedding rings — it’s so intense. Like when you like someone and by chance you just sat next to them in a meeting or you sit next them on the bus, or you happen to be at the grocery store, it’s so exciting. So if you like someone, and some says, “You have to pretend to be married to them,” I mean Annie can barely control herself. I can’t believe he told! I’m going to get on him for keeping his trap shut. He’s supposed to be a good spy and keep secrets.

What do you think of Annie’s progress so far as an operative?
PIPER: I think Annie’s progress is pretty impressive considering how often she breaks the rules and that she’s still alive. So I’m proud of her for not dying. I think most people would not have made it this far. I also think progress-wise, what she has to balance between life and work, I can relate to. I mean my job is not life threatening nor does National Security depend on it, but it’s still hard to balance a busy career and family and social life. And I think considering how much stress she’s under, she does a pretty good job staying connected to the people she loves. It’s something that I admire in her that when she’s been away from Danielle or when she hasn’t spoken to her nieces in a while, it does weigh on her. That’s important to her and stays in the front of her mind amid such an ambitious career. I just like that about her.

Which do you enjoy more, the dramatic-part of the show or the action-part?
PIPER: Well, I enjoy them both. I mean, I like the acting. That’s really where my heart is. But this show, I like how we do action on this show. It’s a real Doug Liman-style, where we’re real run-and-gun with handheld 5D Canon cameras; and when we internationally, most of the time, we don’t block off a street. We don’t have cops to shut it down. We just go. So the whole world sort of starts invading our set. And then we’re on foot. The camera boys are used to it. So, the action has a great acting component in the show because of the way we shoot it.

Is there you know a piece of advice that you would give Annie?
PIPER: Gosh, that’s such a good question. Well, this season is so explosive and so fast. I mean if Annie would just slow down a little bit, she might see things more clearly. But she just doesn’t want to slow down. She gets a little excited and drunk on the power that she’s given under Lena’s division. So if I was her friend, I would tell her to slow down. But since I get to play her, I don’t want to tell her that because it’s really fun to just go running towards a burning building.

What do you like most about Annie?
PIPER: I like that Annie is impulsive because acting-wise, it’s very active. To sit and ponder the consequences before you do something is not active in a way. And what’s fun to act is someone who goes, and goes, and goes, it’ll get you into trouble faster which is fun to act. It has like a kinetic thing that I really respond to. And while it sounds so girlie, but I also really like how Annie dresses. I love that’s where the kind of James Bond comes out in Annie, in her shoes and her dresses and her jackets. I mean a character makes a joke about it in this season, he says, “you know how can you could you afford this many shoes on a government salary.” And it’s so true. It’s so beyond fantasy, her shoe collection. Oh god, as a girl, it’s so fun to walk into the wardrobe trucks in the morning.

Will Annie and her sister get to any more trouble this season?
PIPER: Well, I can’t tell you exactly what happens with Danielle this season. But there is a big thing that happens in Danielle’s life and it sort of puts a strain on her relationship with Annie. Anne Dudek, who plays Danielle, went on the road with us and traveled at the end of season 2 and got involved in Annie’s mission. So now she’s really waist-deep into the spy world with Annie. She knows how dangerous it is. She knows what’s going on. So it makes Danielle worry even more now that she realizes the great risks that Annie is under. So when Danielle’s life gets complicated, it puts a lot of stain on the sisters.

Why do you suppose this show is such a good fit for you?
PIPER: Well, it was luck initially. I wasn’t looking for a television show. But I’m always sort of looking for a strong female lead. So when the show came up, what I really liked about Annie is she’s true to her moral code, even if it’s not the sort of the rules of the game, and I thought that’ll be a fun conflict to play. Then the writers and the creators, Matt Corman and Chris Ord, we all have a similar sense of humor, we get excited about the same things. So I feel like my imaginary world and the writer’s imaginary world overlaps in a lot of ways. We like the same things. So I think somehow that makes the show kind of mesh together.

As an actress, you know you’re called upon to do a lot of different things: running, jumping, sliding and all the different languages you have to speak. Was that easy for you to pick up? Or if it wasn’t, has it gotten easier for you as the show has progressed?
PIPER: The languages were not. We’re up to 18 languages that Annie speaks. I told the writers they have to sort of put a lid on it because it started to get a little ridiculous. Although, some languages have gotten easier. At the beginning, Annie didn’t speak any tonal languages and now she speaks Mandarin. So the tonal languages are still really difficult for me. But the European languages and Russian I sort of have a handle on. So at one point, the boys were saying if we could find a way to justify it, we could do a whole act in a foreign language. I think that’s such an exciting idea and I don’t know what language we’d do it in. But I just hope it’s not Mandarin.

The fight scenes look really real and accurate and you actually look like you’re getting the crap kicked out of you.
PIPER: Sometimes, I am. I was injured in the first season in a fight scene. I injured my leg. Like the boathouse sequence, I hit a guy with a crew rowing boat. There was one take where I did clip him with the boat. I mean when you know we shoot, we always talk about how the Jason Bourne-fights are sold by Doug Liman and how it’s messy and hand held. So we’re always sort of aiming for that kind of visceral feeling of a fight as opposed to a cleaner, choreographed style. So when you start moving fast, it is more dangerous and you have to be really alert and really rehearsed in a way to make it get it messy. By the end of the day, you definitely can use a cool bath and a beer because you’re tired. Because you just don’t do the fight once. You do it so many times from so many different angles. So the good thing is we have great stunt people on our show. So I always feel really safe. We now have like a stunt fight room where we block out the whole thing and we rehearse fights in there. It’s fun to make it up and to think about who you’d be fighting and what’s in the room and how would you defend yourself because she’s a woman. I’m smaller than a lot of people I fight. So you’re constantly looking for weapons. It’s really fun.

What do you do in between seasons to stay fighting trim?
PIPER: Usually, I mix up my training a lot. Just because I get sort of bored doing one thing all the time. There’s a gym in New York called Tracy Anderson, which is the kind of mix of like dance and pilates and I do a lot of that recently. But in the last hiatus, I did a bear hunting movie called “The Red Machine.” So we’re in the mountains east of Vancouver and we were hiking in the mountains in the snow with packs on. So you don’t need to go to the gym at the end of the day after hiking all day.

Can you talk about that and maybe some of you know your favorite places that you’ve been for the show?
PIPER: Well, in the season premiere, we’re in Marrakesh. We’ve been in so many beautiful places. The light in Paris is so outstanding. Venice is so good for it’s architecture. I liked Berlin just because the art was so amazing. But in Marrakesh, the spy local is so perfect. It feels far away. It feels fantastic. The souks make for these incredible chase scenes where there’s shacks of light and darkness, and I think that Arabic is such a beautiful language. It has this kind of curvaceous and still strong feeling. For me, Marrakesh was incredible for the show.

What do you think it is about COVERT AFFAIRS that really resonates with viewers?
PIPER: Well I think in the summer, it’s an escape. We travel a lot and it’s sort of high-octane, and in the way in the summer the blockbuster movies come out. You want to go see “Ghost Protocol” and you want to go see “Prometheus” because you want these kind of big blowout escapes. And I feel like COVERT AFFAIRS really takes advantage of that sort of tone of the summer.

What’s your general reaction when you get the script for the first time. Is there something you know that you’re always on the lookout for or anything like that?
PIPER: Well, we’re doing a lot more long arcs this season, so characters and guests stars come in and they stay for many episodes and the story of who they are unfolds and old characters come back. So I do a lot of cracking of how much information certain people know because certain people only have certain security clearance. So I have to sort of think about how much they already know and where we’re going and cracking the guest starts this season because of the way their writing. Also, I think as we come up to the end, things have gotten really dangerous. So I’m always sort of curious to make sure everybody’s still safe by the end of the story. It gets really dangerous at the end.

To see how difficult it is for Annie and Auggie as their professional paths take them in unexpected directions this season and the delicate balancing act Annie has in keeping her feelings for Auggie to herself, particularly on these increasingly dangerous missions, be sure to tune in for COVERT AFFAIRS as it returns for its third season on Tuesday, July 10th at 10PM on USA Network.

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