Piper Perabo, star of USA's Covert Affairs, is having the time of her life playing Annie Walker, a novice spy. The show has a comedic element; we do a lot of languages; there's quite a serious action component to the show," she says. What's not to love? Well, one of her few disappointments of Season 1 came when a stunt double was brought in to perform a parachute dive from a plane. "I would have jumped," Perabo says, "but USA would never have let me." This season, there was a helicopter stunt she wasn't allowed to try. Perabo describes the scene: "Annie has an asset she's with in Argentina. She has to get on a helicopter, but the helicopter doesn't land. She has to run and jump into the helicopter." Her unsung stunt double was on hand to take the leap after Perabo did everything leading up to the shot. "And the director was saying as we were about to go, 'No matter what happens, do not try to jump into that helicopter!'" she recalls. "They know me too well. They know that I'll try for it." Given that there's no show without Perabo, can anybody blame the network for grounding her? At least Perabo can take solace in knowing she's indispensable to the Covert Affairs in every other way. The new season begins at 9 p.m. CT Tuesday on USA.
What changes will we see in Annie now that she's not a wet-behind-the-ears CIA rookie any more?
"This year Annie has more experience than last year, although she certainly still relies on the others. Within the hierarchy of the office, she's still low man on the totem pole. They let Annie do more complicated and difficult missions, because she is a little bit more experienced. But I think, in the evolution of Annie, we'll keep her sort of at rookie status. It's more interesting to watch her trying to solve problems on the fly and not being this slick, perfect spy. I think it's fun to watch her solve it."
Now that the show is a success, has the job changed in any way? Are you more self-assured on the set knowing that you've got a little more job security?
"It's always more fun when your job is not on the line, that is for sure. I think the success of the first year really emboldened everybody, all the way up and down the line. The actors and the writers are going for more. The production design this year has been really gorgeous and detailed and exciting. The guest stars we've been getting are amazing; some from last year are returning, so those characters are developing and we're getting to know them better. We're shooting internationally this year when we do our international exteriors. So it's had an emboldening effect on the show in every way."
Do you think Annie and Ben (a rogue spy and Annie's ex, played by Eion Bailey) could ever be happy together, assuming the CIA would actually let them be happy together?
"I don't know. Ben is not that trustworthy of a guy. In Season 1, he puts Annie in a lot of dangerous situations and doesn't go help her out. Sometimes I get mad that Ben doesn't help Annie out a little more. So I don't know about Ben. But it's like that with any kind of bad-boy romance: You can't tear yourself away, but you know he's not good for you. So it's tricky with Ben. I don't know yet."
Perhaps Annie should pair off with Augie (Annie's blind colleague, played by Christopher Gorham)?
"Yeah, at least she's got Augie in the office and he's easy on the eyes. And there's Jai Wilcox (played by Sendhil Ramamurthy). There are certainly quite distracting men around, if Ben Mercer doesn't make it."
What do you consider to be your character's greatest strength and biggest weakness?
"Inexperience continues to be both. She trusts her instincts about how to solve things. Not only can it lead her more quickly to the answer, but it can also put her in danger. Because she leaps before she looks."