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[Warning: Some spoilers ahead for season four of Covert Affairs.]
Covert Affairs‘ dysfunctional family is fracturing.
USA Network’s spy action-drama led by Piper Perabo picks up after Annie aligns with ex-head of Department of Clandestine Services Henry Wilcox (Gregory Itzin) and goes on an undercover mission that puts those closest to her in major jeopardy. New addition Calder Michaels (CSI: NY‘s Hill Harper) adds fuel to the fire following an explosive premiere that kickstarts the characters’ rollercoaster journeys for the rest of the season.
“We’re at a place now where we can really dig deeply into the story and into these characters’ lives and tell one novelistic story,” co-creator Matt Corman tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s quite a lot when you list [the reveals] out, and there are even bigger bombshells to come in episodes four or five. There will be things coming down the pipeline that the audience won’t even anticipate.”
For Corman and co-creator Chris Ord, heading into slightly “darker” territory through an even more serialized format in season four is a natural progression. “The show has been evolving in that direction starting with last year,” Corman explains.
In a chat with THR, the executive producers discuss the challenges of Annie and Auggie’s new romance, the decision behind adding a new character and working all the way up to the “intense” summer finale.
The Hollywood Reporter: What did you want to accomplish in season four?
Chris Ord: This season we really wanted to challenge our nuclear family, as they are our core characters, and nothing challenges [them] as much as having secrets. As you can see in the premiere episode, a number of secrets come out, even within the episode, and that is not even the extent of it. There is a lot that unfolds.
THR: Were there specific questions that you wanted to address right off the bat?
Matt Corman: One core question is: Can you have a relationship and be in the CIA and can you have a relationship with another spy and make that work? The Annie/Auggie relationship is definitely going to be a big part of this season. Beyond that, we just wanted to look at Annie evolving as an operative. We’re now going into our fourth season, she’s advancing and growing and becoming a full-on spy. That’s amazing but it saddles her with all this knowledge of what this life really is.
THR: What does Annie teaming up with Henry Wilcox mean for her relationships with Arthur (Peter Gallagher), Joan (Kari Matchett) and Auggie (Christopher Gorham)? What difficulties will she face this year?
Ord: She’s doing it for her family. She trusts her family more than she trusts Henry. But, be careful what you wish for, be careful what rabbit hole you go down. Once she starts uncovering truths, more truths will come out. Those secrets will challenge our core characters all season.
Corman: We’re going to do a lot of long-arc storytelling.
THR: The premiere, through all the different reveals, certainly sets up a season-long journey for all the characters. What should we expect moving forward?
Corman: That is just the start of it. We can’t give away too much, but one of our main characters [has] a deeply held secret. I don’t know if the cut you saw had the scene between Arthur and Auggie in Washington, D.C. — when Arthur implies that Auggie has secrets he’s holding back, stay tuned.
THR: What was the most exciting story arc to work on this season?
Ord: Obviously Annie’s journey is the most exciting. She’s always been the core of our show, and as she grows as an operative and as a person, she gets challenged by greater and greater things. Our goal this season is to find ways to challenge that. Just when you think you have it all figured out is when the greatest challenges come.
THR: How successful is Annie in balancing the romance versus the work life?
Ord: It’s not easy. It’s hard enough to be a spy and have romance and relationships. It’s exponentially hard to be a spy and have a relationship with another spy. There are too many things that come with the job that challenge the relationship. That is what we’re seeing with Annie and Auggie; they think they know each other.
THR: The beginning of the episode foreshadows what’s to come later on in the season. Why did you feel this was the best way to kick off the season?
Corman: We’re introducing this new character [Calder Michaels, played by Harper], and it’s exciting to show a different shade to him. Going forward, the audience is going to be wondering is he good or bad or is he really bad. It’s not something [we’ve] done before, but it’s a framing mechanism to the entire season. When we get closer to that time period, the audience is aware of it.
THR: Why did you decide to add another character?
Ord: 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. Annie, Arthur and Joan are a strong family, but it’s people like Henry and Calder who are going to challenge that strength.
THR: How does Calder’s presence affect Annie’s world? What does he add or take away?
Ord: He has a strong sense of self, and he’s an interesting character that we’re going to get to know over the course of this season. He’s not all that he seems. There’s something more going on with him.
THR: The premiere filmed in Colombia. What other locations does Covert Affairs travel to?
Ord: In the summer season, we will also be traveling to Rome, Vienna, Copenhagen and Frankfurt.
Corman: The Bahamas. In the fall season, we’re going to go to Hong Kong. We’ve never been to Asia, so we’re looking forward to it.
THR: What are you excited for people to see this season? Are there specific moments or episodes you’re interested in seeing reactions to?
Ord: Some [episodes] are loaded with secrets, some are loaded with action, and for us that’s been the fun part of the season to be able to not only amp up the action at certain points, but also amp up the secrets, truths and lives that come out amidst these character dynamics.
Corman: There are bombshells. I’m looking at the chart [in our office]. For the first seven or eight episodes, there’s something remarkable — either a new character development or physical jeopardy.
THR: Is it fair to say the season is going darker?
Corman: I think that’s fairly accurate. It’s still a humanistic show. It will never be too dark. That’s not our sensibility; that’s not the world we created. These characters are growing up and learning and getting deeper into the spy game. With that knowledge comes a worldview that informs their action. It’s a little darker.
THR: Where do we find Annie in the summer finale?
Ord: You’ve got to tune in to the summer finale. We’re just about to shoot that. It’s going to be pretty intense and spin Annie’s life in a very new direction.
Covert Affairs premieres July 16 at 9 p.m. on USA Network.
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