Covert Affairs Season 3 Interview: Creators “Amp Up The Stakes This Season”

The third season of Covert Affairs has significantly changed the lives of Annie (Piper Perabo) and Auggie (Christopher Gorham)—not only is Annie under a new boss, but (possible spoilers) they are both without the charming Jai (Sendhil Ramamaurthy), who was killed in the July 10 season premiere. TV Equals was on hand during a conference call to ask the show’s creators, Matt Corman and Chris Ord, about Jai, what else is in store for Annie and Auggie this season, and whether Auggie’s family will finally make an appearance.

What’s in store for the characters in Season Three

If you’ve been watching the season thus far, you already know this season has started off at a much faster pace. Ord and Corman spoke about the change from a character perspective.

“We made a conscious choice to amp up the stakes this season,” said Ord. “We really view this season as Annie’s teenage years in the CIA and with those teenage years comes everything that comes with teenage years, be it more questions, more passion, and along with that comes greater stakes.”

“In addition to the faster pace you mentioned, there’s more long-arc storytelling,” said Corman. “In the past, I think we focused more on compartmentalized episodes to tell the story of the week, and although we still do that, it’s more of a novelistic approach with more mythology this year.”

Different challenges Season Three presented over Season Two

With the introduction of longer storylines, Corman, Ord and the writing staff have had to figure out how to keep Covert Affairs from feeling disjointed, according to Ord.

“To create a season of stories that fit seamlessly but also mesh with the individual cases of the week is probably the greatest challenge for us, but it’s a fun challenge,” he said. “I think last season we were a bit more compartmentalized, which was fun and great in its own right, but this season, we’ve been allowed to stretch our legs and find some character stories…for us, that is what you yearn for as a writer, to delve deep into the character.”

The possibility of seeing Auggie’s family

Auggie has already mentioned his family on the show, but audiences have yet to actually see them. Corman said that getting Auggie’s family on the show is definitely in the works.

“You know we’ve talked about that,” said Corman. “I’m not sure necessarily if we’ll meet his family this season but at a certain point we’d like to get to that. He’s alluded to the fact that he has several brothers and it would be really interesting to meet them…it might be a really interesting prism.”

The challenges of portraying a blind character

Auggie’s blindness creates inherent drama on the show, but it can also create challenges as to how to plausibly put Auggie in danger. However, for Corman and Ord, the challenges are worth it.

“It’s not hard to come up with scenarios he could be in, but we do have to make the missions and the action components authentic to his blindness,” said Corman. “We would never want to put…the character in a position that seemed fake or where an audience member would say, ‘Well, I’m not sure how a blind person could literally navigate that.'”

“But it’s a fun challenge, in the sense [that] you get to create action set pieces and things that you otherwise wouldn’t get to create,” added Ord.

Gorham has also been helpful to Corman and Ord, intensely studying his character and giving pointers as to what his character would or would not be able to do.

“He’s always working on his craft,” said Ord, also mentioning how much research and work with the Canadian Institute of the Blind Gorham does to inhabit his character. “In any scene, if you’re blocking it, he can immediately tell you, ‘I couldn’t to see that over there unless somebody makes a noise.’ He’s very much aware of the demands on the character.”

How Sendhil Ramamurthy reacted to the death of Jai

Fans of Ramamurthy’s character Jai were more than likely devastated when Jai was killed during the season opener. While it might have been difficult for fans to accept the character’s death, it was just as hard for Ord and Corman.

“It was a very difficult conversation for us. We like Sendhil a lot as a person, we respect him as an actor. It was not easy for us to talk to him about this because we so enjoy working with him,” said Corman. “But he’s a very classy guy, he took it in stride, he was as gracious as a person can be, but it’s hard, because I think he enjoyed working on the show and we enjoyed having him. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but we owed it to him to be as direct as possible and to explain it as much as we could.”

Corman also wanted the fans to know the reason behind Jai’s death. “Hopefully everybody [understands] this—it was a tremendous engine going forward,” he said. “We miss Sendhil, we miss Jai, but the concept of his death really propels the story [and] the season. It wasn’t just this callous thing where he’s gone andforgotten. But the presence of him and everything he represented is yielding fruit [and] will continue to do so throughout the season. So hopefully, that is clear to our audience as well.”

“It was always our intention to have characters die and have the audience recognize that there are real stakes to this job. It’s a dangerous job,” added Ord. “We love Sendhil as a person and as an actor, but in order to really convey to the audience that there are stakes here, one of our main characters needed to be killed. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was an important one for the series going forward.”

Make sure to catch Covert Affairs each Tuesday at 10/9c on the USA Network.