USA's "Covert Affairs" (Tues., 10 p.m. ET) has been making a concentrated push towards more seralized storytelling in its third season, and as a result, the energetic spy series has been firing on all cylinders since its explosive premiere.
The show's next two episodes, "Glass Spider" (airing Sept. 4) and "Suffragette City" (airing Sept. 11) take the drama to a whole new level, arguably providing the strongest two hours of "Covert Affairs" to date and culminating in two intense cliffhangers that will likely see many a remote hurled at the wall in frustration. The show's creators, Matt Corman and Chris Ord, certainly know how to leave their audience wanting more, but there's a lot that should please the series' most loyal fans in the upcoming installments -- especially one section of the fanbase in particular.
I caught up with star Christopher Gorham to preview Episodes 308 and 309, as well as Episode 313, which will mark Gorham's directorial debut for the series. Because the episodes contain some deliciously unexpected twists, I've split the interview in half, with the second piece scheduled to go live after the East Coast airing of "Suffragette City" on Sept. 11, when Gorham will weigh in on some of the hour's most memorable moments.
In the meantime, read on for our preview of "Glass Spider," in which Gorham discusses his research for portraying Auggie's blindness with authenticity, Annie (Piper Perabo) and Auggie's evolving relationship, and his first attempt at directing an episode. Caution: Light spoilers ahead.
I hear you’re currently in the process of preparing for the episode you’re directing, which I believe is 313?
I am. I was just down on our set planning out some shots right before I came up here.
I know that you’ve directed the "Sights Unseen" webisodes and other short films before, but why did you decide now was a good time to tackle an episode?
Oh, now is the first time that they would let me! [Laughs.] I’ve been wanting to direct episodic stuff for a long time, but really the problem became my shows never lasted long enough for them to be able to give me the opportunity.
What can you tell us about 313 at this point, if anything?
Episode 13 really kind of kicks off another solid jumping off point -- smaller, obviously because we only have 16 episodes -- for another nice little serialized storyline. So I get some nice character bits in there.
Is it a fairly Auggie-light hour so you won’t have to multitask, or are you on-screen quite a bit?
No, I’d say it’s kind of an average episode for Auggie. It’s not heavy, it’s not extremely light -- they had no mercy on me in that respect. [Laughs.]
The next two episodes, 8 and 9, are pretty big for Auggie and for the story in general. In 308, "Glass Spider," all of the things that Annie (Piper Perabo) has been hiding from everyone in the DPD, especially Auggie, really come to light. How is he feeling about her in light of her revelations?
Well, it’s very complicated, I think. He has been known to sleep with an asset to get information that he wanted so he, I think, is in no place and wouldn’t necessarily judge her for doing that. I think what does get under his skin is that it’s very clear to him that she has feelings for Simon [Richard Coyle].
Is there a hint of jealousy when her feelings for Simon are revealed?
For sure. You know how us boys are! [Laughs.] When somebody else suddenly enters the picture, it’s a problem.
The episode really illustrates just how little Annie and Auggie have talked this season since their mission in Barcelona [in Episode 302]. From Auggie’s perspective, why do you think things have been so distant between them?
I think it’s just been the circumstances. You know, Annie was transferred, Auggie was transferred and they’re both working on different, very sensitive projects that they can’t really talk about. Annie in particular is told directly that she’s not to talk to anybody from her old division. And then Annie gets emotionally involved with Simon, which just makes everything more complicated. So the circumstances have kept them apart and I think that clearly both of them have suffered for it. In the first two seasons they’ve really grown to rely on each other and this year that’s been taken away from them. You saw what has happened with poor Auggie this season. He’s had quite a bit of a hard time and a lot of the decisions that Annie’s been making on her own are now coming back to haunt her in very serious ways.
Can you preview Episode 9 and what you’re allowed to say about Auggie’s story, without spoiling anything?
It’s a very big episode for Auggie. What we can say is that the tables have really been turned on Annie, and she’s under suspicion and Auggie’s on a mission to prove her innocence, and in the process of that, really discovers these latent emotions that I think everyone has been waiting to see.
I know that you're constantly researching to make Auggie’s disability as authentic as possible. Were there were any moments in Episodes 8 and 9, or in general this season, that you added in or discussed with the writers to add more depth to the character?
All the time! Yeah, there’s been very specific things I’ve put in throughout the entire season, really. Before [filming started], I went in and had a long meeting with the writers when they first started working on the scripts, I guess about 10 months ago now. I walked through a bunch of the stuff that I learned from just my research and my friends and a lot of it’s made it in.
The story that Auggie told about walking into the street when he tried to kill himself, that was my story. That was inspired by something that I read and something that I came up with in talking with my friends about just how difficult it can be when you’re going through that rehab and what it would be like for someone like Auggie who is so incredibly useful, and a really a valuable service member, to then suddenly feel totally helpless and useless. And I’m constantly coaching our new guest stars on how to do sighted lead and how to interact and what to pay attention to and not to pay attention to and telling them that it’s OK, that they can go ahead and take some liberties and they don’t have to look away. You know, when you’re talking to someone who’s sighted, you make very little eye contact. But it’s funny when you’re just getting used to hanging out with a blind person, you find yourself kind of staring at them once you realize that you can.
I’m always talking with our props department about the cane because these canes have different tips that you can put on them. And for some reason we had two or three different tips, so every once in a while mid-episode Auggie’s cane would have a different tip. So I’m constantly going up to the Props Department and asking them for the little marshmallow tip because it’s the one that I like best. [Laughs.] So there are little things. And we add technology every year that I stumble upon and my friends tell me about, like Auggie has a document scanner this season that he didn’t have in the first two. That’s a real thing and we’ve used it in the episodes.
I’m always looking for ways to make it really real -- as realistic as we can make it just because it’s important to that community. There are a lot of blind people and there are thousands of disabled Vets who are coming home from these wars. And I want them to be able to see our show and when they see Auggie, I want them to be able to be proud and think that he’s like them and not some superhero and not making fun of them, but really kind of honoring that experience.
Do you hear from Veterans frequently, since taking the role?
I do, yeah. Just because I’m so active on Twitter, and it’s always so humbling and amazing when I hear. I’ll get a tweet from sometimes an active duty service member or sometimes a Vet or a disabled Vet or a family member of a disabled Vet who’ll just drop me a little note and say thanks or just say they’re loving the show, or they love the character, and it’s amazing. In fact, Peter Gallagher and I were in frequent contact, especially Peter, with a group of Marines while they were in Afghanistan serving. And we would get these awesome tweets that they see the show over there and 'Thank you so much,' and they would send us updates on what their missions were and if somebody got injured. It was really extraordinary. One of the Marines came back and was at the VA Hospital and she tweeted me when she got out. She said, “Just so you know, there’s a bunch of guys in there who lost their sight and they all say they want to be just like Auggie.” It just reminds you that what we’re doing is important. You know, it seems silly sometimes, but entertainment is an important part of life.
"Covert Affairs" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on USA.
Are you hoping that Annie and Auggie will end up together? Share your predictions for episodes eight and nine below!