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'Nikita' Star Melinda Clarke Teases Amanda's Past, Alex's Present and the Show's Future

by Laura Prudom, posted May 5th 2011 1:00PM
Melinda ClarkeNo one in Hollywood schemes half as well as Melinda Clarke -- and we mean that as a compliment. From her scene-stealing role as Julie Cooper on 'The O.C.' to her current guise as manipulative Division agent Amanda on The CW's 'Nikita,' Clarke has made a career out of playing powerful, seductive and downright devious women. Her enigmatic performance in the action-packed spy drama has rapidly become a standout in an already impressive ensemble.

AOL TV caught up with Clarke yesterday to discuss what's next for Amanda now that she's got rogue agent Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) in her grasp. With only two episodes left in season 1 (episode 21 airs tonight at 9PM ET), the stakes are high, and Clarke shared plenty of juicy tidbits to whet our appetites for what's to come in the next couple of weeks. Caution: Spoilers ahead.

AOL TV: I've always suspected that Amanda is really the evil mastermind behind Division, and that she knows far more about what's going on than Percy does. Do you think that's a fair assumption to make?
Melinda Clarke: Absolutely -- I think the writers have purposely kept her very cryptic, popping in and out of episodes here and there and only revealing a little bit, which I think makes for good entertainment and a good storyline, because we really don't know what's going on with Amanda. I think even the writers are trying to figure out what really is going on with her, so she absolutely knows more than the audience would ever know. Of course, there are also so many things going on behind the scenes that we never actually reveal to the audience, so it will always be ambiguous and enigmatic and surprising, I think, with this character.

Has she had her suspicions about Alex and her loyalty from the start?
Absolutely, I've always thought that she has her suspicions, and there were moments in this past season where, if Amanda really wanted to, she probably could've had Alex killed. Like when she accused the Division doctor of harassment, it was her word against the doctor's -- Amanda chose to take Alex's story as truth, and whoever's side she chose, the other one was going to die, since this is Division. My take on the entire thing was that Amanda sees so much potential in Alex, she really is very similar to Nikita and she's very talented. I keep saying [Amanda's] like the ultimate tiger mom; it's okay to let Alex get away with a little bit of fibbing here and there. Basically, she knows something's going on, but she's going to let Alex continue because we don't want to lose this asset.

Melinda Clarke and Lyndsy FonsecaHow long has she been sitting on the truth about who Alex really is, her past as Alexandra?
I wouldn't be able to answer that question truthfully. You guys will be able to see ... it's possible she's known for a while; I mean, maybe the backstory could be that she's known for a while but she wants to see how this plays out. In the upcoming episodes, there's one moment where you really finally see Amanda as a human being, it's a spectacular scene -- one of my favorites of this season -- in the finale, it's a long scene and there's so many beats and there's so many things that happen, just when you think what's going to happen doesn't and what happens does. It's just very surprising and it's great writing on the part of Craig [Silverstein -- the show's creator], who wrote the final episode. I don't know, personally, how long she may have known. But she obviously figured it out!

Speaking of backstory, did Craig give you any information on Amanda's past at the beginning of the season? Or have you had to form your own ideas and create your own backstory to inform your performance?
Craig and I have actually had discussions about Amanda's backstory; of course, the backstory with this character, the audience would love to hear about, they would love to see it, but at the same time -- I don't know if [Craig] said it or I said it -- somebody said that if you tell Hannibal Lecter's back story then you have to go with it. So they purposely kept her enigmatic, and we don't really want to know because then we have to go there. We have so many seasons, hopefully, in the future to tell that story. That's the success of the TV show, to have that longevity -- they definitely will draw this out.

And there's a reason that [Amanda] is constantly, I think, an actor; she acts a certain way in front of her recruits. For the most part, that's the way we see her. We see her talking to recruits, we see her in business. We've never seen her in her personal life -- I always joke that she might be a disco dancer and a tequila drinker or something, who knows what, on the side. Xander Berkeley [who plays Percy] and I always talk about the fact that maybe she's on lithium because she has some deep psychological issues. [laughs]

I mean, when we say master manipulator, a master manipulator is one that can be whatever they need to be for the person that they're speaking with at the moment, to use words to get what she needs from them in that moment. Even more than the military, she's more than just a drill sergeant; she's there to produce the best human weapons possible.

Have there been any discussions about season two with you in regards to what the story might be if (and when, I hope) you get picked up?
Well, I have to say I haven't heard anything negative as far as the show not being picked up, so, we're all assuming that we'll get to continue the story, the Nikita trilogy. There is definitely some betrayal; I think Percy and Amanda do have some pretty serious backstory, we haven't explored that yet. In the upcoming episodes, there are going to be storylines in that they both have a lot of power, but we really don't know what Amanda's power is; whereas Percy is the head of Division. Amanda has her own power and she's quietly on her own path, so it'll be very interesting.

Is Amanda aware of Percy's plot to take down the CIA or is she kind of oblivious and working on her own endgame at the moment?
No, no, she's never oblivious. That's not a word that I would ever use to describe Amanda -- Xander Berkeleyeven when you think she might not know, I think she's that person that somehow knows all.

Having seen the promotional photography for the finale, I'm guessing that fans shouldn't expect Alex to get out of the sticky situation she's in with Amanda in this week's episode quite so easily. It might lead into the finale, perhaps?
Right. For a lot of episodes it's Amanda interrogating Alex -- for a while I thought 'how many more interrogations can Amanda do? How many more questions can she ask of Alex?' [laughs] But there will be a really, really shocking thing in the finale during this final interrogation -- Alex is not safe at all. Amanda truly is one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet but also probably one of the best teachers at the same time.

Will we see any more Nikita and Amanda scenes before the end of the season? You and Maggie Q. have such a great dynamic, it's always a pleasure to watch.
There's a little flashback with Maggie; that will be something that I think the audience will look forward to. All that makes me think is, 'Dang, I've got to keep up on my hand-to-hand combat.' Because I haven't been! I've been enjoying the LA sun for a few weeks here. There's a little bit of that. I think that will have to happen in the second season; you will see, hopefully and what I've been told, a lot more Amanda being a bit more in a power position [next year].

How was it to film the brief fight scene at the end of last week's episode? I've got to admit, I've always kind of wanted to hold someone down with my stiletto, so I appreciated that scene.
[Laughs] It was interesting, because at one point I think in the script it was written that Amanda kicks [Alex] in the head to knock her out. We figured out that I'm wearing 5 inch heels and this really tight dress, so to actually kick somebody and make it work ... It was a last minute decision to just do things subtle -- I think Amanda is in what I would describe as a 'Matrix' kind of place, as far as her combat goes; she doesn't have to use big moves and use a lot of energy, it's not worth her time, so she's efficient, which sometimes isn't the best for television or film because visually you want to see these big action sequences.

But you have so much of that with the other characters I think it was great, the way they edited it and that it was just one shot: You come at me, and boom. As much as I wanted to have some big fight scene, I had to stay true to the character; I think ultimately it was good, because the shoe on the neck was kind of a humiliating moment for Alex.

By the way, I've had so many people tweet me about those shoes; everybody wants to know, so they're Stuart Weitzman shoes -- the costume designer, I had to call her because I had so many questions about it and I couldn't remember!

The penultimate episode of 'Nikita' season one airs tonight at 9PM ET on The CW, and tune in next week, May 12 at 9PM ET, for the season finale.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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Sally Holland

Great article! Nikita looks so exciting! Great interview. I just love Melinda Clarke and Amanda's story looks so intriguing, scary, but intriguing.

May 05 2011 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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