USA Network's popular spy drama, Covert Affairs, is back after its fall premiere for season 5. Before audiences catch up with the exciting espionage series starring Piper Perabo, actor Christopher Gorham talks with MStars News about sitting in the director's chair for this upcoming installment, directing his co-stars, and what's ahead for Annie Walker and Auggie Anderson.
As the seasons progressed, the relationship between CIA agents Annie (Perabo) and Auggie (Gorham) deepened, becoming even more complicated as they stepped onto the field. Their worlds will crash together once more when Annie continues her personal vendetta against Belenko and Auggie discovers his former colleague may have been murdered. In the riveting Starlings of the Slipstream episode, Annie heads to Germany in search of a rogue chemist while Auggie (Gorham) uncovers a startling link between the recent attacks.
Before Starlings of the Slipstream airs Thursday, November 13, at 10pm, MStars participated in a roundtable interview with Gorham as he discussed the challenges between stepping in front and behind the camera, directing the episode on tight schedule, and meeting Annie's new love in her life.
MStars News: Tell me about reading the script from the perspective of an actor, then as a director.
Christopher Gorham: As an actor, the first read is pretty much the same as an actor/director. I just try to sit down and read the script like an audience member. Just experience the episode and kind of let that first-read be whatever it is. And then, as an actor, I go back and start over focusing in on Auggie's story and what Auggie's emotional arc is throughout the episode. And then breaking down each scene, I ask, "Where am I coming from? What am I doing here? What do I want?"
As a director, I have to do the same thing, but now I have to do it for every character. So that we're on set, I say, "Listen, Piper I think you should come in this door and sit down on the couch." Piper goes, "Why would I do that?" I have to have an answer on why I think that would happen.
And aside from all the character emotional arcs, dealing with the acting stuff, I ask myself, "What are the visuals? Visually, how am I going to tell this story? Do I feel this needs to be big or open? Or do I want the audience to feel confined and claustrophobic? Do I want to isolate people by using long lenses? Or do I want to open up the world by keeping things wide?"
Then it becomes about all those visual ideas playing through my head and I make notes as I read through, and start refining them.
MS: Do you see yourself directing again? Or just sticking with acting after this?
CG: No, no, no! I definitely want to continue directing. Not only is it something I truly enjoy, I'm getting better at it each time I do it. I think directing is something I'll continue to do for the rest of my career hopefully.
On the differences between acting and directing
CG: It's really two completely different skill sets. When I'm behind the camera, in the director's chair, I have to be thinking the big picture. I have to be thinking not just the moment before, what's happening in front of me, but also, where it's going, and how all the individual pieces fit together. The individual camera angles, the wardrobe...you're in charge of everything.
And when you're acting, you really can't think of any of that stuff. All you really have to focus on is what your character knows, and the moment your character is in, and be very present in that place.
Check out what's coming up This Fall on Covert Affairs:
On his directing style
CG: I tend to plan things out fairly specifically, as far as shot selection, even when we're shooting internationally. The run-and-gun style of it doesn't affect how I direct so much. It really is more of a production question.
As an actor, when you're in the studio, or when you're shooting in Toronto, which is certainly more comfortable because we have our trailers, we have craft service there. We have all of the creature comforts that we don't have when we're shooting internationally.
But what you gain shooting internationally is something you can't replace; so it's worth it. They both have their merits.
On what still interests him about playing Auggie
CG: I've never played a character this long. One of the unexpectedly rewarding things about it is that we've been able to find new facets to his personality and his life. And it's fun to keep digging. We have an episode coming up, where we get an Auggie flashback, where we reveal more of his back-story. And being able to dig that deep, which you only get by doing 5 to 6 years of a series is a real privilege.
On the dynamic between Ryan and Auggie
CG: That was fun! I was really happy I got to be the director when Auggie and MacQuaid meet. I had a lift fun teasing Nic [Bishop] how I wasn't going to shoot his coverage. [Laughs] It was great!
It was nice to see those guys interact because it's a complicated relationship. You have the two men in our story who care the most about Annie. They're her two rocks. This is her her ex-lover and her love right now. They're trying to navigate it. They're trying to be grown-ups. They're trying not to be competitive. But some of that bleeds through. You just can't help it. It's complicated, which makes it really fun to watch and fun to direct.
Check out the teaser trailer to Starlings of the Slipstream here:
On the relationship between Annie and Auggie this season
CG: Auggie tends to get himself in trouble when his emotions get away from him. I think we've seen that multiple times over the years. Where we find him at the beginning of this episode is a perfect example. That being said, at the end of this episode, he's left without the ability to control much of his fate. He's at the mercy of others and is in real trouble. Of all our characters, I think he is equipped as anyone could be to handle the situation, but it's tough. He's put in a really tough spot.
On the possibility of a sixth season
CG: Listen, I tell you, I think where we end up at the end of this season, I hope it's not the end. We don't end the season on a cliffhanger in the traditional sense. It could be the end. But it's not the end that the audience would be happy with. It's certainly not how we would want to wrap up these characters' stories.