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Exclusive: Going 'Undercovers' with Boris Kodjoe

by Laura Prudom, posted Nov 3rd 2010 1:35PM
Boris KodjoePlaying a gorgeous, globe-trotting secret agent with an array of CIA gadgetry at your disposal, a sexy co-star at your side and J.J. Abrams writing your quips might sound like a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Alright, it pretty much sounds like the most awesome job in the world, and we can't think of any man better suited for the task than Boris Kodjoe, who plays one half of the husband-and-wife crimefighting duo on NBC's action-packed spy drama, 'Undercovers'.

In this exclusive chat with TV Squad, Kodjoe talked about the sexism of sexpionage and the importance of education, and gave us the first scoop on his character's estranged brother ...

Between Kodjoe and his on-screen spouse, the equally gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw, we're fairly certain that 'Undercovers' can boast the most attractive married couple on primetime, but being on billboards and bus shelters across America is nothing new for Kodjoe, a former model who booked campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent and Vogue early in his career.

When it comes to the business of showbusiness, Kodjoe also has the jump on a lot of other actors, having earned a BA in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University before he began his modeling and acting career.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe"I think one thing that some actors fail to understand is how important it is -- in my opinion -- to familiarize yourself with the process of being in the movies and TV," Kodjoe shared when we caught up by phone Tuesday morning. "It's a business, and a lot of people forget that, and that's when they get their heart broken, because they don't understand how random this all is. When you get rejected all the time, after a while you go 'is there something wrong with me?' That's why you run into so many neurotic actors!" he laughed.

A staunch advocate of children's education and charity work (Kodjoe has set up the Sophie's Voice Foundation for his daughter Sophie and children like her, who suffer from spina bifida) the actor goes out of his way to speak at high schools and colleges, encouraging children to follow their dreams.

"I love seeing how kids think, and I try to empower them to be individual and not just eat up everything that's being force-fed to them," Kodjoe said. "I love when these questioning minds develop -- I probably gain much more from a conversation with these college students than they gain from me."

Born in Austria and raised in Germany, Kodjoe is fluent in four languages (German, his mother tongue, French, Spanish and English), which certainly comes in handy for such a jet-setting show as 'Undercovers,' which takes spies Steven and Samantha Bloom across the world on a weekly basis (mostly through the magic of green screen, unfortunately for the actors). But of all the varying languages and dialects the 37 year-old has been faced with, none gave him such a challenge as the Irish brogue he and Mbatha-Raw had to adopt in episode 4.

"That was a huge challenge," Kodjoe admitted wryly. "I've never done that before, but we had a great guy on set who was from Belfast, and he told me how to speak it and taught me the differences between a Dublin accent and a Belfast accent. It was fun though, because you never get to do these kinds of things [in other roles], so I'm lucky to be able to work on a show that allows me to do that."

'Undercovers' doesn't just allow its actors the chance to try on a new accent or eye-popping costumes week after week, it also enables Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw to play action heroes -- which is pretty much every person's childhood fantasy. "I do most of my own stunts, if not all of 'em," Kodjoe confirmed, voice lighting up with enthusiasm. "I think it's a lot of fun and it gives you some real stuff to do with the character, and it makes it easier for the director to cut back and forth when they don't have to avoid showing the [stunt-man's] face."

Kodjoe admits that he enjoys the thrill of the stunts and the ability to contribute to the working process. "I'm like a kid, this is stuff that I was never able to do, and now I get to race cars and jump off buildings," he laughed, revealing that getting to work with their co-stars and fellow CIA agents, Ben Schwartz and Carter MacIntyre, also helped to encourage a family atmosphere on set. "Ben and Carter, those are characters, man -- we're like brothers already, it's so much fun to work with them."

Right now, 'Undercovers' is working with two central mysteries: Why did Steven and Samantha both quit the CIA in the first place (since neither is telling their partner the whole story) and why were they reactivated after spending five years running a catering company? (We'll get one step closer to discovering the answers to at least one of those questions in tonight's episode.)

Unfortunately, Kodjoe said that he's often as clueless as the audience when it comes to what's going on. "I read it in the script right before I shoot, it's the funniest thing, but it keeps it fresh that way -- like, I was told that I have a brother about a week before I shot with him, so that came out of nowhere!"

Steven's previously unmentioned older brother, Gary, is a career desk officer in the Harry LennixCIA who hasn't seen Steven in five years -- let's just say that the pair have "a lot of issues to work out". He will appear in episode 10, and and will be played by none other than Harry Lennix, most recently seen as gun-toting bodyguard Boyd Langton in Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse,' sources confirmed to me exclusively.

Kodjoe also asserted that there are a lot of secrets that are slowly going to be revealed over the course of the season. "They've certainly amped up the mythology aspect of the show, which is interesting, because at the end of the day, you have two characters who made a pact not to talk about each other's pasts, which leaves a lot of grey area, y'know?" he mused.

"There's a bunch of surprises that can be expected; now that we know that there's a real reason why we were activated, it's fun to try and figure out what that is, and with Alan Dale being the big boss and coming in with Gerald (McRaney), every episode is going to present us with a new shock and a new surprise."

Because of this, Kodjoe teased that we can expect more cliffhangers and ongoing mythologies, not just the standalone missions that populated the first half of the season.

"With all the secrets that are going to be revealed, there's so much at stake that it's like a really wild, crazy, suspenseful ride right now, where when every episode ends, you basically want to skip to next week and watch the next one, because you need some answers," he chuckled. "I'm very confident that as we go along, people are going to be more intrigued every single episode, because it'll wrap everybody up in the characters and the action and the drama."

As for whether we'll get to see Steven indulging in any of the "sexpionage" that wife Samantha seems so adept at, Kodjoe was on board. "That's a very good point; we're being a liiiiittle bit sexist with the sexpionage right now," he laughed. "I gotta talk to the writers -- sexpionage should be going both ways, right?"

He did confirm that as the show progresses, "there'll be situations where Steven will display his sexpionage skills. And in the last couple of episodes, we've had some female guest stars that are definitely going to challenge [the idea that Steven is always jealous of the male spies flirting with Samantha] -- that's another thing that we can be looking forward to."

Sexpionage, secrets and estranged siblings, what more could we ask for? Forget James Bond and Jason Bourne, Kodjoe's Steven Bloom is the only secret agent we have in our crosshairs.

Breaking news: NBC cancels 'Undercovers' -- it will be missed.

[Follow Laura on Twitter @LauinLA.]

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yet ANOTHER OF MY NEW FAVORITE SHOWS CANCELLED!?!?? it's not fair!!! they cancelled it, apparently, right when they were supposed to show the first episode of the first season, that starts delving into the mythology of the characters/show, and before we even get a chance with this great show, NBC yet again, just flushes it down the drain without an afterthought..... cruel, heartless, pieces of S*#T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GaHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

November 18 2010 at 3:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry to see it go. It was Goood. It just show people aren't interested in certain people leading in certain roles. Could have use another profession instead of a resturant owner though?

November 05 2010 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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