COVERT AFFAIRS Set Interviews: Kari Matchett and Eion Bailey

Covert Affairs Set Visit - Kari Matchett

A few 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, my interview from the set with Piper Parabo here, and my interview from the set with Chris Gorham here.

Here are my final two interviews from the day, both done on location where the cast and crew were filming scenes at an airport (be sure to check out pictures from the location shoot below). First up is Kari Matchett (who plays Joan Campbell on the series), who was very busy filming that day but was kind enough to come and visit us in the lounge to answer a few quick questions in between takes.

On filming more scenes with Arthur and Joan at home

At the studio, we were shown a monstrous set that is Arthur and Joan’s house. When asked about what would be happening on that set, Kari said that the house was built because they were starting to shoot more scenes with those two at home. The writers are apparently trying to get Joan and Arthur out of the CIA world and Kari remarked: “I think they want us to keep revealing their personal life and what happens with them internally, [rather than] just strictly at work. So I think they’re thinking a home setting will help create that.”

On Joan going out into the field this season

That’s right folks, Joan is going to be leaving the confines of the DPD and will in fact be heading out on some missions this season. When asked about the upcoming scenes, Kari said that she felt like she had almost forgotten how to act outdoors when they first started shooting them, having been in the DPD for so long. She said that the scenes have been exciting to shoot and she is happy that the audience will get to see why Joan is in the position that she’s in, adding: “You know, she was really, really good at what she did in the field, and now we get a chance to see it.”

About the specifics of Joan’s mission, Kari could only tell us: “I take on a persona and I get to kick some ass.”

On what it was like filming the recent episode where Joan was on jury duty

Kari said that she enjoyed filming the episode where Joan was taken out of her comfort zone as well as out of her usual position of power. She found it fun to film scenes where Joan was suddenly not at the top of the hierarchy and liked showing a whole new (and hilarious, in my opinion) side of the character.

On what she would like to see for Joan in the future

Apparently getting to film a few scenes outside of the DPD have whetted the actress’ appetite because when asked about what she saw in Joan’s future, Kari said she would love to see Joan get out of the office more. She mentioned that there is a conflict that is going on with Joan that hasn’t actually been revealed to her yet, but she believes that some of it may stem from the fact that Joan’s heart still wants to be in the field. Kari told us that Joan is at her desk position for reasons that haven’t been stated yet, but feels that going into the field will continue to be an essential part of where the future lies for the character.


After Kari was whisked back on to the set to continue filming, we were lucky to meet up with Eion Bailey, who plays the elusive and mysterious Ben Mercer on the show. Eion was our last interview of the day and I have to say he was also the one who made the biggest impression on me.

He was thoughtful and very introspective when answering our questions. He took time to think over his responses carefully and I was impressed by how he also took the time to make prolonged eye contact with each and every one of us as he answered. I always liked the character of Ben but this was one of those instances where meeting the actor who played a character made me like the character that much more.

Covert Affairs Set Visit - Eion Bailey 2

On his character

When asked about his character, Eion said that he felt like Ben was a one woman type of guy and if he was ever going to settle down and be with one woman, Annie would be the one. He felt that Ben was compelled to go travelling around the world (and leaving Annie) to avoid some uncomfortable interactions with the CIA, who Ben believes “are not as altruistic as they would like themselves to come across [in] the public.”

Eion believes that Ben is in search of the truth when it comes to the CIA, saying: “in spy agencies there is so much double dealing, there are so many lies, and [Ben] wants to get at what is the truth and what is real in this world. And if he can find a way to help bring the truth to light, then that’s a mission accomplished.”

He also added: “The CIA, although there are good people who work within it, like within any bureaucratic institution in any country, also has an agenda that is not, in Ben’s opinion, pure or about freedom or about righteousness or about leading in the free world. It’s also a duplicitous organization that is about acting [as] a lynch mob for big American business interests in foreign countries. [Ben] is very much aware of that and when he knows he’s [been] brought in to support that aspect of the CIA, it creates a real morality pull within him that he is actually supporting and serving an institution that is destroying people.”

On what it was like to film the scene where Ben was shot

When asked about what it was like to film the climactic scene at the end of last year’s finale, here is what Eion had to say about it (I’m leaving his entire quote because no one could explain it better than he did):

… a very important thing in acting is anticipation to not anticipate. Because we all have the script and we all know what’s coming, and the whole thing is to truly be in a place where you don’t know what’s coming. So you’ve got this mini explosive on your back that you know is going to be detonated and you know right where it’s going to happen and then you just kind of wait to feel a pop and then have your reaction, and then really try and get to that place of. ‘I’m shot’, [and it is] somewhere where it could be hitting a vital organ.

I mean we’ve all thought of our own mortality in this room [and] we all have [gone] through it, so what is that for each of us individually? And I just think of those things and what that is personally for me. Like what is it to lose this world, before I’ve accomplished whatever it is I set out to accomplish? I think that’s the thing, right, it’s like to leave this world when it’s time and then it’s, it’s part of the, the thing, but to leave it before we’ve done what we want to do.

On what drew him to the character of Ben

When asked about what drew him to the character of Ben Mercer, Eion said that he was interested in giving voice to the CIA. He said that he does believe that there are a lot of good people really trying to do good things in the organization, but added:

“… in all of life there is, like Star Wars, there’s the light and there’s the dark, and its in all of us, and it’s in the world at all times, and sometimes the light is stronger than the dark and sometimes the dark is stronger than the light, and I think that exists in the CIA. And I was interested in giving voice to the people within that organization who try and steer it to the light, as much as possible.”

On the best part of playing Ben

When asked about what his favorite part of playing his role on the show, Eion said that for him the best part was the adventure and the fun of making the series. He said he gets to work with a lot of good people, – actors, crew, writers, and directors, who were all a lot of fun to work with. Plus he gets to go to places like Puerto Rico and Sri Lanka.

And who can argue with that, right? Be sure to check out the second season of Covert Affairs, which airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA Network.

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