‘Covert Affairs’ Debriefing: Anne Dudek

During The Flickcast’s set visit to USA Network’s new series Covert Affairs we spoke with Executive Producer Doug Liman about the origins of the show. Following that we had the opportunity to speak with three of the show’s regulars, Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty, Harper’s Island), Anne Dudek (House, Mad Men) and Piper Perabo (The Prestige, Coyote Ugly).  All the interviews took place on the Covert Affairs sets in Toronto, Canada.

Playing to the extreme opposite of Christopher Gorham’s CIA Officer, Auggie Anderson, is Anne Dudek as Danielle.  Older sister to Piper Perabo’s lead character of Annie Walker, Dudek balances the intense CIA action with a life in which the biggest challenge is getting her kids to school on time.

Don’t let the pedestrian existence of domestic bliss fool you, Dudek explains the critical part she plays in the world of Covert Affairs:

“I mean you know the sisterly relationship that, it’s a little more than that because Danielle sort of feels motherly in a way that’s a little inappropriate towards Annie.

But then also, Annie really needs Danielle and they really do need each other.  And so I think it’s sort of like well, there’s this huge lie in the middle of this really vital relationship.

And what would happen if that really came out?  But everything Danielle knows about her sister is like a complete lie and that’s what’s being built is this web of lies.  And so it is a support system that if it breaks down, I mean, it’s going to be really, really bad news.”

Certainly to Dudek, there’s no secret in the fact Annie’s CIA life is going to have consequences not just on their relationship as sisters but possibly affect Danielle’s family overall:

The Flickcast: Even in the pilot there were a couple scenes with you and Piper where you could almost get this idea where she wanted desperately to tell Danielle what she does.  Do you think that would be a good thing for the story or the show overall?  Or do you think it’s important to—would it be a detriment to that support network that you spoke of?  Do you think it’s more important that Danielle never find out that she’s with the CIA?

Anne Dudek: Well it’s kind of, it’s like a snowballing thing.  I mean, if in episode four Annie came out and said, “Okay Danielle I’m a spy and I kind of lied to you about everything [I ever did], you know the Smithsonian thing is a cover.”  And, you know, then Danielle would sort of be like, “Whoa, okay whatever.”

But Annie really can’t do that because that would endanger Danielle and it’s just not possible.  And the longer it goes on the worse it becomes as a lie because, you know, can you imagine years and years of your life being built with somebody and it’s all a lie?

TF: It’s a house of cards.

AD: It is, it’s a house of cards because every, you know, every sort of intimate rel—every time that you see an intimate interaction between Danielle and Annie, it grows more and more dishonest, because Annie can’t really say what’s going on. Her emotional life, she can’t really tell her what, you know, if she’s upset, what that really is referring to.

I mean it all becomes this, like, major fissure between them, and yet at the same time they need each other so much.  If Danielle ever found out it would be the most devastating thing in the world.  Can you imagine—I mean imagine like, your parent, or if you have a really close brother or sister, learning that everything they told you about themselves is a complete lie.  I mean that would be so disturbing and so deeply –

TF: So you’d probably not prefer her finding out anytime soon.

AD: Well, I think it would make for amazing drama, but not any, yeah, I don’t think, it can’t happen anytime soon because I don’t think Annie really understands what’s even being built right now.  I don’t think any of the characters, I mean there’s no way that you can really look down the road and say, “Wow ten years of my life or two seasons or you know, however of my life have gone by.

And I have no real intimacy with anybody outside of my workplace, because everything is a lie to the people I care most about.”  It’s crazy, you know.

In a bit of irony, the domestic side of Covert Affairs may become the most riveting story arc as Annie, out of necessity, builds on her lie to Danielle and the “house of cards” grows ever taller.  This certainly builds on the core essence of this series being about character and while it is not afraid to show a light-hearted nature Danielle’s life could become quite dark in the future:

TF: This relates back to the question I asked earlier for this whole lie thing.  But clearly you-and the two sisters are leading separate lives, again, are you looking to keep those sort of distinct and segregated?  Or do you think it would lend itself to have, sort of, Annie’s world come back onto Danielle’s world as far as that risk factor goes, given what she does?

AD: You mean Danielle doing things that are-

TF: Like Annie’s life kind of encroaching on Danielle’s world.  Because you know, she’s in a very risky world and whatnot and potentially the CIA itself could become a bigger entity in Danielle’s world.

AD: Yeah, well I think that threat is always there, and I think you’re picking up on something that does exist, that’s real.

Even at its most innocent Covert Affairs brings with it a thread of endangerment to the characters.  It will certainly be interesting to see how Annie’s CIA life impacts that of her sister’s, Danielle.  Given Dudek’s past roles, especially on House, one almost hopes for the day when Danielle breaks down and goes a little bit crazy.

Anne Dudek and Company (Bob Starr, second from the right)

Check out The Flickcast as we continue our coverage of Covert Affairs, and be sure to watch Anne Dudek when the series premiers on USA Network, Tuesday July 13.

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