On Set Interview With Piper Perabo of COVERT AFFAIRS

Covert Affairs Set Visit - Piper Perabo

A couple weeks ago I traveled to Toronto to visit the set of Covert Affairs and interview some of the cast. You can check out my set visit article and photos here, plus my first interview from the set with Sendhil Ramamurthy here.

To get our interview with series star Piper Perabo, we were first loaded on to buses and driven out to the airport. There we saw cast and crew filming a scene involving an airplane…which is about all I’m allowed to say about it, as we were all sworn to secrecy on the spot. After watching the filming for a while, we popped inside to a nearby lounge (complete with sofas, comfy chairs and a fireplace) and it was here that Piper was kind enough to join us in between shots.

Meeting Piper in person, the first thing that struck me was the boundless energy she had. In fact, I don’t think I truly understood the term “boundless energy” until I met her. She has a lot of enthusiasm for her work and is very energetic when she talks. She sort of reminded me of a teenager, and I mean that in the best way possible. She spoke a lot with her hands, shifted around in her seat constantly to find the most comfortable position, etc. After a while it felt like we’d all been sitting there chatting forever; she is that friendly and fun.

On what it was like to film episodes in Paris and Puerto Rico

Recently Piper said that she and some of the crew had a whirlwind few days, flying from Toronto to Puerto Rico (which was used as Guam in the premiere), then to Paris. Then they spent a quick day in New York, and finally flew back to Toronto. They spent two and a half days in Puerto Rico, and 36 hours in Paris. Wow, talk about a whirlwind indeed. When I hear about stories like that, it amazes me even more the wonderful work these guys turn out.

Piper said that getting do trips like that is: “your actor dream come true. That you’re running across, you know, the Plaza at the Louvre, and it’s the Plaza at the Louvre. You don’t have to do that much work to imagine it.”

About Covert Affairs making its first appearance at Comic Con this year

Piper said that she’s never been to Comic Con but has heard about it from friends like Lena Heady and Chris Pine; she is really excited to go. She mentioned that she’s happy to be going with Sendhil because going with the former Heroes star is “is like going with Mr. Spock.”

She said that she can’t really imagine how huge it is and one thing she’s very curious about (and me too, now that she’s mentioned it) is the backstage areas, wondering: “do the different casts like pass each other? Are there rumbles? Do people know each other? You know what I mean, are people making out that know each other secretly from other shows?”

I’ve never been backstage, but if it’s half as interesting as that, I think Piper is going to have a blast.

On what it’s like to kick butt in Louboutins

Luckily the costume department was giving Piper a break when we saw her and she was actually in some very snazzy sneakers for her shots that day. She said that there is an episode coming up where they will be in Poland and she was very happy to have worn boots in most of it. Apparently all of this time out of her Louboutins is making her feel a bit spoiled but pointed out that “It’s much easier to kick butt in a flat. But I’m not going to get, you know, too comfortable. I like kicking butt.”

About what kind of training she does for the show

Piper reported that she is still doing mixed martial arts and that the fighting style on the show is a mix of very tight hand-to-hand combat. She also said that for some reason there’s been a lot more running and thinks that people must find it pretty exciting, though she felt sorry for the crew because: “the camera guys are exhausted when they’re running backwards,” and theorized “I think they like it when I have to be in heels, ’cause it keeps me slow enough so the camera guys can [keep up].”

On speaking different languages in the show

Apparently Piper is going to speak a lot more Russian this year, already having done a three page scene in an upcoming episode. It was the biggest foreign language scene that she’s done so far, but it didn’t stop there. Apparently Piper and her cohorts are also drunk in the scene..and they sing. She said: “At one point, I looked at the writer and I was like, really? Three pages? Drunk in Russian?”

Luckily there was a real Russian in the scene, who helped her a bit with pronunciation. Still, that sounds like a tough day to me.

On Annie’s love life this season

Piper reported that “Annie has more love interests this year,” and that makes things a little difficult for her to balance. At one point Annie may find herself with “more than one, you know, pan on the stove.”

When asked about who she would like to see play a love interest for Annie, Piper said she’s been fighting to get Ben Wishaw on the series. She also said: “I think it’d be really fun to have Yul Vazquez and Bobby Cannavale come on the show. I like them.”

On whether or not Annie might actually get a gun

Though Annie has no problem kicking all kinds of butt (either in her Louboutins or out), she has yet to be issued an actual firearm. When asked about it, Piper did remark that it was weird that Annie didn’t have one in the show, since she always has one in the poster. She mentioned that she started talking to the writers about it, wondering if maybe Annie could get her hands on one somehow, even if it wasn’t issued. The problem with that though, she said, was that it would make the fight scenes tougher and that “I do like that I don’t have a gun, because I think it makes the fight scenes and all the action sequences, by nature, then have to be much more creative.”

She described an upcoming scene where Annie takes on a woman her own size: “I’m fighting a girl my size, and only the safety lights are on, so not only is it dark and light, but there’s no weapons, and we’re evenly matched. So to me that was really cool, and if you have a gun, that kind of stuff would never happen.”

So for now she’s happy to have Annie without a gun, but thinks it will be a big moment when she does get one.

On how much input she has in creating her character

Piper said that she does offer a lot of suggestions but that they also go a lot by what the advisors from the CIA have to say. For instance CIA officers do not carry guns on American soil, because they don’t have a badge, and only really carry them on foreign soil, and even then sometimes they don’t. Piper has spoken with one CIA agent and when she asked what weapon the woman preferred when on foreign soil she was told that the agent purposely didn’t carry a weapon because it might spook her assets.

Looks like Annie being without a gun is a lot more realistic than I originally thought.

On what kind of research she did when she initially got the role

Piper said that watching spy films like Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and reading books like Legacy of Ashes really helped her before she got the role of Annie. But that it wasn’t until after she got the role that she got entrée into Langley, because Doug Liman was making Fair Game at the time. At that point she met Valerie Plame, who became the advisor on the pilot, and then got actual entrée into Langley and spent time there, and time with agents, and then really got the access to agents.

On her experiences with how the real CIA has reacted to the show

When asked about how the real CIA feels about Cover Affairs, Piper said: “because we paint the agency in a fairly positive and like humane light, I think overall they approve,” adding: “I don’t think we’d have the access to the information that we get from Langley if they didn’t like the show, if it was a negative portrayal.”

On what kind of cover she’d like to see Annie do at some point

Piper said that there was one cover she’d love to see Annie do, and has even been working on it with the writers. She thinks her idea would make a good season opener as she really thinks the trailer for it would be a real eye-opener. Her idea is that for some reason Annie and Auggie would have to get married, purely as a cover of course.

Piper’s description of how the trailer might look made it sound awesome. Annie walking down the aisle in a beautiful gown, Auggie standing there waiting for her and people like Joan, Arthur, even Henry Wilcox, in the audience. It would look totally legit until “somewhere in the ceremony like all hell breaks loose and you just blow the place up with guns, and exploding flowers, and the priest is CIA.”

She also added: “I just want to wear the dress. It’d be an awesome fight scene in a wedding dress.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I think that would be the best trailer, and first episode to a season, ever.

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