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'Covert Affairs' Set Visit: Action, Secret Romances, CIA Sexiness

by Annette Bourdeau, posted Jul 8th 2010 2:01PM
The USA Network certainly isn't scrimping on the production budget for 'Covert Affairs', a spy show set to debut on July 13. We had a behind-the-scenes tour of the show's elaborate multiple sets in Toronto, including the White House replica used for 'Murder at 1600', and a custom-built CIA headquarters set.

The show stars Piper Perabo ('Coyote Ugly') as Annie, a rookie undercover CIA agent who's immediately thrown into the field for some complex assignments. Her co-worker Auggie, played by Chris Gorham of 'Ugly Betty', shows her the ropes. By the way – he's blind, but that's not really an issue because he's totally smooth and has tons of cool gadgets to help him navigate his way around. The cast is rounded out by Anne Dudek ('Big Love', 'House') as Annie's sister, Canadian Kari Matchett ('24', 'ER') as her difficult boss and Peter Gallagher ('The OC') as a CIA honcho.

We caught up with Perabo, Gorham, Dudek and Doug Liman, one of the show's creators and producer of the 'Bourne' trilogy, to fill us in on what to expect from TV's newest spy show.

Everything you need to know about 'Covert Affairs' after the jump!

Spies Are People, Too
While there's certainly a ton of action, mystery and suspense, at its heart 'Covert Affairs' is about a regular twenty-something woman leading a double life. "Just because you're a spy doesn't mean you don't have to pay taxes, or that you're not the one having to take the lunch order because you're the newest employee," says Liman. At the end of each episode, Annie comes this close to spilling her secret to her sister (Dudek), who has no idea Annie is a spy. (She thinks she works a boring museum job.)

Piper Perabo Does Many of Her Own Stunts. While Wearing Louboutins
"I did a scene where I rappel down an elevator shaft with this really hot guy, in Louboutins, and I was like, 'This is my favourite job ever!'" says Perabo. "It's so hard to do in a pair of Louboutins, but so worth it." During our set visit, she was sporting a business suit paired with scuffed white Keds. We suppose variety is key.

Real-life Spy Valerie Plame Was a Consultant for the Show
Liman worked closely with Plame while directing 'Fair Game', an upcoming movie starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. 'Fair Game' is about how the Bush Administration outed Plame while she was a covert operative. Some of Annie's crazy missions are inspired by assignments that Plame actually went on herself during her time as a spy.

Being a Woman in the CIA Is Different. It Just Is

On the show, Annie often uses her feminine charms to get the information she needs. Liman says he was fascinated by how the CIA leveraged Plame's good looks, and how she was instructed to use her sexuality. Fun fact: Men in the CIA are encouraged to sleep with "assets" (a.k.a. sources), while women are not. Why? The CIA figures women are more likely to get emotionally attached to their assets if they sleep with them, which could compromise the mission. "These aren't my rules – I'm just the messenger," says Liman.

The CIA Encourages Workplace Hook-Ups. For Real
"Valerie told us that they were encouraged to date within the Agency," says Liman, adding that the rationale is that if CIA agents couple with each other, there's less of a risk of secrets spilling outside of the Agency. "That's very much part of our show. But it actually happens to be the reality of working at the CIA. The divorce rate for people who marry outside the agency is very high."

Chris Gorham Works Closely With the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to Get His Role Just Right
Gorham's character Auggie lost his sight during a mission in Iraq, so Gorham has been spending time speaking with and studying people who have actually lost their sight to get a sense of their mannerisms. He's also working hard to do the character justice by integrating feedback about what the people who have lost their sight would like to watch on the show. "It's all about the little things, the little behaviors. They want to see a character with a disability who is capable, which Auggie is, and they don't want him to be a superhero, which Auggie is not," explains Gorham. "I feel like they'll be happy with what we're doing."

Anne Dudek Doesn't Only Play Psycho Bitches
She's creepy as Alby's #1 wife on 'Big Love.' She's bitchy as stuck-up suburban mom Francine on 'Mad Men'. And she's downright mean as Dr. Amber Volakis on 'House'. Yet her role as Annie's sister on 'Covert Affairs' is very mainstream. What gives? "The people I've played recently, like an evil doctor or a murderess polygamist, are fun and you get to use your imagination in a really interesting way. But this role is more about things that are closer to me and the people that I know," says Dudek. "It's a little more relevant to my life, because I'm married now and I just had a baby."

Kari Matchett Gets to Play the Bitch This Time
Matchett is as cold as ice in her role as Joan, Annie's boss. Does she warm up and develop into a mentor as the show progresses? It doesn't look likely. "Joan is a f---ing bitch!!" says Perabo. "It gets so much worse... I think now I sort of realize that Joan was a great agent in the field in her own right. And now that she's higher up and a bit pinned-in in her office, maybe there's a little bit of envy there with what Annie does."

Peter Gallagher's Eyebrows Look Smaller Than Usual
Perhaps his trademark bushy brows are a tad too conspicuous for a CIA boss? Or perhaps we're just crazy. Regardless, we're pleased to see Gallagher back on TV. He plays Arthur, the CIA's Director of Clandestine Services, who also happens to be married to uber-bitch Joan.

'True Blood' Star Anna Camp Guest Stars
During our set visit, we spied Anna Camp (Sarah Newlin on 'True Blood'; Pam's sister on 'The Office') shooting a scene. All details about the extent of her role on the show remain classified. Watch out for her!

'Covert Affairs' premieres on Tuesday, July 13 at 9PM ET on the USA Network.

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Chris Gorham is portraying the blind extraordinarialy, but I am puzzled by this line, "He's also working hard to do the character justice by integrating feedback about what the people who have lost their sight would like to watch on the show". They see his actions?
I love the show and am so glad it is picked up for season 2. They are excellent. Great work team. WTG!

August 21 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Spies Are People, Too"
certainly they are. Why do people always think of them like some kind of alien or something like that?
J's World

July 08 2010 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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