'Covert Affairs': How Hill Harper Went From 'CSI: NY's' Nice Guy to Cocky CIA Boss (Video)

Covert Affairs has more in common with the reigning NBA champions Miami Heat than one would think. Just ask Hill Harper.

The former CSI: NY star joined the USA Network spy drama, which will premiere its fourth season July 16, following a nine-season stint on the CBS procedural as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes, a sympathetic guy who offers his ear when his colleagues and friends are in need. For Harper, the transition from solving weekly crimes to wielding guns and traveling the world was a welcome change.

In describing the dynamic on Covert Affairs, Harper compared lead actress Piper Perabo (CIA agent Annie Walker) to the LeBron James of the show, likening himself as "free agent Ray Allen joining the Heat" -- coming off one successful program to another. "Somebody recognized we need to add a new piece to hopefully bring some new energy, some new conflict," Harper tells THR.

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But when the opportunity first arose, Harper -- who plays Colombia-based CIA bureau chief Calder Michaels -- admitted he was not familiar with the show at all. "The creators sent over some episodes. I watched a few of them -- four or five [episodes] -- and I loved the show," the actor says, highlighting the acting, the storylines and the energy as reasons he wanted to get in on the fun.

Who exactly is Calder? "He shakes things up a bit," Harper teases. In speaking to the decision to add a new foil for Annie, co-creator/executive producer Chris Ord told THR: "It's always great to find new foils, new obstacles and challenges. Calder will definitely present that not only for Annie, but for all the main characters."

"He takes his job very seriously. He thinks he knows what's going on and he's very good at it. He doesn't like the fact that there are people coming into his area without giving him the heads-up, so there's immediate conflict from the get-go," Harper says.

How season four opens serves as a framing device for the first half of the show's run, with Calder and Annie -- supposedly working for the same team -- pointing guns at each other in Frankfurt, Germany, before the episode flashes back to 10 weeks earlier. Does their confrontation mean only one will come out alive? Perhaps.

Harper offers this to ruminate on, though with a hint of tease: "Does Calder Michaels become the new lead of Covert Affairs? Or does Annie Walker die? Or does Calder Michaels die? Or do they both live? I don't know the answer to that question, but we will know if you watch every Tuesday for the next 10 Tuesdays in a row."

Covert Affairs premieres July 16 at 9 p.m. on USA Network.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube