Interview with Piper Perabo & Chris Gorham of Covert Affairs

Piper Perabo and Chris Gorham spoke with the press about season 2 of Covert Affairs recently, and I was lucky enough to be in on the call and get in 3 questions! They were so nice and so sweet, and just really, really fun to talk to. I really enjoyed speaking to them, and can’t wait to see the premiere tonight!

If you haven’t seen the show, here’s the blurb: Piper Perabo stars as Annie Walker, a young CIA operative, whose exceptional linguistic skills make her invaluable to the Agency in missions that span the globe. Annie’s career continues to intrude on her personal life as she strives to balance “pseudo-normal” life with her high-octane adventures as a covert operative.

The series also stars Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, a CIA Agent blinded in the line of duty and now head of the tech ops department and Annie’s first friend at the CI, Sendhil Ramamurthy as Jai Wilcox, another CIA Agent, Kari Matchett as Annie & Auggie’s boss, Joan Campbell, and Anne Dudek as Danielle, Annie’s sister. Peter Gallagher, who guest starred last season as the CIA’s director of Clandestine Services, Arthur Campbell (husband of Joan), joins the cast as a series regular this season.
Jump with us to see the great questions & answers!

My question #1: On the most challenging aspects of playing Annie Walker, and playing opposite Chris, who is a sighted person playing a blind character

Piper – Well actually the – I mean the thing with playing opposite Chris is really interesting because he was very serious and detailed about his research within the blind community and working with the Canadian Institute for the Blind about exactly how everything would be done and doing it properly.

So then I also had to learn. And we constantly in blockings we have a certain sort of rehearsal that we have to do because we really need to physically know each beat of the scene especially if Auggie and Annie are not in the DPD in our office. We did a scene this season where we walk into a bar together and – do you remember this Chris?

Chris – Yeah.

Piper – We poured beers and even our cinematographer was like, “Wow, you guys have this down.” I mean we rehearse it pretty serious so that it’s – so that it’s correct.

And although I – I mean the most difficult part of playing Annie Walker is I think the balancing of all the different aspects of the show. The show has a comedic element. We do a lot of languages. There’s quite a serious action component to the show. So you have to make sure that each thing gets its own time to rehearse and prepare so that we keep it, you know, strong across the board.


On how their characters are evolving from the first season into season two

Chris – I think the writers have done an amazing job in Season 2 because they’ve really taken all of the best parts of the first season and built on them. And that goes for the two things that you’re talking about. You know, we really pick up right where we left off at the end of Season 1 not just with the plot but also with the character development.

And so you will continue to see growth like you did last year. And – but, you know, it’s part of what makes our show so great is that, you know, part of growing is making mistakes and, you know, they don’t always do everything right. And sometimes, you know, the mistakes that they make can be the most fun.

Piper – I think that this year – I mean Annie has a little bit more experience than she did last year. I mean she certainly still relies – within the hierarchy of the office she’s still kind of low man on the totem pole. But she does have more experience and just a rookie starting out. And they think – they’re starting – this season they let Annie do more complicated and difficult missions because she has a little bit more experience.

But I think in the evolution of Annie will keep her sort of – I mean I hope that will keep her sort of at rookie status because it’s interesting to sort of – I mean to act I think and hopefully to watch to see her kind of trying to solve problems on the fly and not being this, you know, (uber) slick perfect spy. I think it’s fun to watch her solve it.


On challenges it will present for a rookie like Annie handling a long time CIA asset

Piper – I think the thing with – I mean this goes along with what we’re saying before that Annie’s getting given larger, you know, more difficult assignments. And they think there’s something when you’re sort of dropped into the deep end, I think you learn a lot faster. And so Annie – the possibility for Annie to kind of gain skills in the field has more potential.

But I think also it becomes much more dangerous because you’re running with a certain level of asset and spy that are very savvy in this world and how – who they trust and how they, you know, deceive people and how they know how to get around and disappear into thin air if they want to.

So it makes it much – the stakes are much higher for Annie because she’s working with a much higher level of asset and agent.


On whether or not Annie and Ben could ever be happy together

Piper – Well, you know, I don’t know. I know Ben is not that trustworthy of a guy. You know, in Season 1 he puts Annie in a lot of dangerous situations, kind of a lot and kind of doesn’t go help her out. I mean sometimes I get sort of mad that Ben doesn’t help Annie out a little more. (Could) he, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know about that.

I think – but it’s like that with any kind of bad boy romance. You know what I mean? You kind of can’t tear yourself away but you know he’s really not that good for you. So it’s tricky with Ben. I don’t know the answer.

At least she’s got Auggie in the office and he’s so easy on the eyes and Jai Wilcox too. I mean they’re certainly, you know, quite distracting men around if Ben Mercer doesn’t make it.


My question #2: On Auggie’s love life and being single

Chris – One of the – one of our guest stars, Rebecca Mader, plays a woman that Auggie become romantically entangled with during that episode. And then there is at least one more relationship coming down the pike. We haven’t quite gotten there yet but I’m hearing rumors about it. So yes. He likes being single. Don’t get me wrong. He [likes to have some fun.] And, you know, even when it’s not – I mean – you know, the show really is Annie’s story. So don’t assume that just because you don’t see him dating someone for a few episodes that he isn’t.


My question #3: On the retraining Chris and Piper did for his character’s blindness

Chris – Yeah. We – I had this kind of – my friend and coach over at the CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a woman named Lesley MacDonald who – I had her come out to the set and work with me and Piper at the very beginning of the season and just as kind – just as a refresher really just – and really started – we started at the beginning and went over everything that we did last season just to make sure that we remembered all the little details because we use them so often in the show.

And, you know, we don’t have someone there to check with on set. So we need to make sure that we’ve got it in our brains. And then in addition to that this year, I went out with Lesley and did blindfolded mobility training out on the streets of Toronto, you know, navigating around the city and crossing busy streets and intersections by myself. And it was just an incredible learning experience.

You know, you get just the faintest bit of understanding of what it must be like to start that process having lost your sight. You know, you know, you get a new respect for how quickly you can get disoriented. I remember part of it I was standing – I’d crossed an intersection already and was standing on the corner and had turned around and was getting ready to cross again.

And as I was about to step out into the street, I heard some kids crossing the street but they weren’t – it didn’t sound like they were coming from the right direction. It sounded like they were coming diagonally across the intersection. And it was only then that I realized that I must not be facing the crosswalk. I must be facing the wrong direction and was about to step out into the middle of (black) traffic.

You know, and it was – I – honestly like I couldn’t figure out how it had happened because I thought for sure that I was lined up and ready to go. So it was just a great learning experience. And terrifying not just for me but also for the drivers who were sitting at the intersection as I walked into their cars with my cane, you know.


On whether or not we’ll see Auggie in the field again this season

Chris – Yeah we will and more than once. So one of the earlier episodes Auggie gets out in the field with Annie to help her out on one of her missions, which is – was a lot of fun. And then a little later in the season we’ll have kind of an Auggie centric episode where Auggie’s out on vacation and we’re in Istanbul and we get a flashback and see him in Iraq before he lost his sight and finally get the answer to the question of how he really lost his sight.

So there’s a lot of really exciting like field stuff for Auggie this year. And true to how we did it last year too. It’s all reasonable and makes sense. It all comes out of what he is capable and incapable of doing. And so it’s a lot of fun.


On their characters’ strengths and weaknesses

Piper – I think Annie’s inexperience still continues to be both a weakness and a strength for her. She has a, you know, she has a kind of trust in her gut instincts on how to solve things but not only can it kind of lead her off in a strange direction but actually lead her more quickly to the answer. But it can also put her in a lot of danger because she kind of leaps before she looks.

So in some ways, you know, what aids Annie is also what can put her in danger.

Chris – Yeah. I think for Auggie like one example of that is one of the earlier episodes because Auggie – you know, Auggie’s got the CIA dialed in and he’s very good at what he does.

And because of that he gets an opportunity for kind of a major promotion and really has to do some soul searching and decide what he wants his life to be like at the CIA and what he really wants to do because he gets this great opportunity because he’s performed so well but then really has to ask himself if that’s – at the end of the day if that’s what he wants and what’s going to make him happy. So it brings up kind of a crisis of a conscious and a big potential turning point for him.


On how it is working on the show now that it’s a confirmed hit

Piper – It’s always more fun when your job’s not on the line. That’s for sure.

Chris – That’s true.

Piper – I think – I mean I think (unintelligible) first year really emboldened everybody all the way through. You know, the product design this year has been really gorgeous and detailed and exciting all the way up through the actors and the writing, the guest stars we’ve been getting have been amazing. You know, great guest starts that we had last year are returning and so those characters are developing. And we’re getting to know them better.

We did – I think it’s the second episode that has Oded Fehr in it again and he met in the first season. And so, you know, we’re shooting internationally this year when we do our international exterior. So it’s sort of hand an emboldening affect all the way up and down the line.


On upcoming guest stars in season two

Chris – Yeah. I think Piper just mentioned that Oded Fehr is coming back for more than one episode actually. And we just had Jamie Alexander from Thor who’s done a couple episodes. Rebecca Mader just started shooting an episode for us from Lost.

Piper – Peter Stormare came in and did direct an episode. So amazing. Amazing. Yeah. It’s been – we’ve gotten really good guest starts this year. Mark Moses from Mad Men. It makes it really fun.


On her stunts this season

Piper – Oh my gosh. They’re so much more exciting like I – it’s so – one of the funnest parts of doing the shows is the stunt. And I mean all the action sequences are worked out to such a degree and the writers are so, you know, going for the fences with the action.

We were doing – you know, Doug Liman is our Executive Producer. And so a lot of times he comes up and talks about the structure of the action sequences with the directors. And we did one shot – this is so early on in the season this year. But we did a shot where Annie, an asset that she’s with us in Argentina, has to get on a helicopter but the helicopter doesn’t land. You have to actually like run and jump into a helicopter.

And the director as I was just saying as we’re about to go, he’s like, “No matter what happens, do not try and jump into that helicopter.” They know me and I will try for it. As soon as I see that door open and the camera inside, it’s hard. I mean it’s really fun stunts this show.

Piper had to leave, so Chris answered a few more questions.

On shooting internationally

Yeah. We’ve sent people to Puerto Rico. We’ve been to Paris. I’m going to Istanbul soon. And I think we have at least one more international location this year that’s on the books. So we’re really getting out there. I mean it’s (fun). But we kind of tested the waters with it last year sending a second unit crew to different spots around the world. And then at the very end of the season they sent Eion Bailey to Sri Lanka.

And so since we had success with it last year, this year they’ve allowed us to kind of expand things a little bit. And it’s been great. I mean the second episode of Season 2 is the Paris episode and, you know, you know, it was Doug Liman shooting Piper in Paris and at the Louvre. And the footage is incredible.

And it just – it really adds to the show and just broadens the scope and makes the show bigger. And so it’s been great and really – we’re shooting like two full production days in Istanbul for the Auggie episode. So it’s just – it’s going to make it incredible.


On what it was like shooting an episode with a sighted Auggie

It is fun. Yeah. We just started – we just started shooting the episodes so I’ve done – I had my first day of sighted Auggie and yeah, it was a blast actually.


On any new gadgets Auggie has this season

Yeah. Well, you know, we do have some new stuff. It’s – we haven’t – none of it’s been incorporated into the story per se but we do have some new things, some of which are new to us and some of which are not new to the world but I think will – might be new to audiences.

For instance, Auggie uses an iPhone this year, which a lot of people don’t know is completely accessible to the blind. Right out of the box. So, you know, I wanted to make sure that we used that and we do.

Another thing that he has this year that we didn’t have last that we – that I was asking for all last year but we just – we didn’t end up getting it but now we do is a portable Braille device. It’s a portable Braille keyboard and reader that he can take around is – around the CIA so when he’s away from his desk he can still not only input in Braille but read the Braille keyboard.

You can chat up Chris on Twitter (@Chris_Gorham). Piper isn’t on Twitter yet, but Chris is trying to get her on there, so keep checking back! 😉

Meanwhile, check out the second season premiere of Covert Affairs tonight on USA Network at 10/9c.

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3 Responses to Interview with Piper Perabo & Chris Gorham of Covert Affairs

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