As Arthur Campbell, the head of the CIA's clandestine service department on "Covert Affairs," Peter Gallagher knows all the ins and outs of the spy game. But in real life, the 54-year-old actor says he's not entirely sure what the actual CIA looks or feels like.
"I really know nothing about the CIA," he says. "I've always read about it. I've always been fascinated with it. I always think I have a couple of friends that are in it, but of course, they can never tell me."
Still Gallagher is confident his USA Network series is realistic. ... Or at least that it looks and feels realistic.
"That the reason that working with (producers) Doug Liman and Dave Bartis appeals to me so strongly is, obviously, their strong storytelling skills and what I saw Doug bring to ‘The O.C.' in the pilot episode was real," Gallagher says. "He would start. He had the camera operator pointing in another direction entirely from where the scene was going. He'd call, ‘Action,' and have the operator find the action. So it gave the camera a sense of urgency and a sense of your point of view, and made it feel (real) and (he) was interested in making all of the scenes feel real.
"That's exactly how I feel about anything we do, even if it's the CIA or the mob or whatever you're doing. If it feels real, chances are the story will be better told. If it's important to you, you'll look for those moments and opportunities to keep things on the planet so the rest of us on the planet can look at it and say, ‘Oh, I recognize that.' "
"Covert Affairs" is often described as a 2010 version of the 2000-era "Alias." However, show lead Piper Perabo says there is one large difference. The 33-year-old actress, who stars as newly trained CIA agent Annie Walker, says spies in her series are not superheroes -- and they don't have superpowers.
"When I first got working on the show and I was speaking to actor friends of mine about what the show was about and how I was going to create the character, people said, ‘You should watch Alias,' Perabo says. "I had never watched the show; don't ask me how I missed it.
"So I got the pilot, and I watched the pilot, and I thought it was genius. I didn't really want to watch anymore because I don't want to in any way imitate what Jennifer (Garner) was doing, and I want to make sure that Annie is her own woman and dealing with her own world. But I thought that what I saw of the work on that pilot was really exciting and the fight sequences were really dynamic and she was just a really powerful, smart, intuitive woman who can make decisions on the fly; she's brave, and she's still a real person. I think those parallels can be drawn to Annie.
"I think in our show, though, you see a lot more of the real life of a spy, what kind of car you drive and what it's like when you get home at night after you've just been chasing an assassin all day. So, in that way, I think we are really different. I think that if people come and watch our show because they like ‘Alias,' then that's great. But I think they're going to get to see a much bigger world than they saw (with ‘Alias'), and so hopefully they'll keep watching."
To bring about Annie's authenticity, Perabo says she drew inspiration from a fictional heroine and a real life artist.
"One (influence) is the original ‘La Femme Nikita' that Luc Besson did," she says. "I thought that film was a great balance of the pressure of the job and the real emotional pull that it takes. Also, I loved how he handled action with a woman, and I just think that movie is so beautiful and she's so strong, and it just was a big influence on me for Annie.
"Then Lee Miller, who was an artist and a war photographer; she was a beautiful journalist who put herself in the middle of these battles in order to take photographs. So I had read a lot about her and how she maintained her integrity and still was a beautiful woman amid the battlefield, and I thought that was really inspiring thinking about Annie."
"Covert Affairs" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on the USA Network. Visit the show online by clicking here.