“Covert Affairs” returns to USA with its season five premiere on June 24, and the DPD is a markedly different place following the events of the season four finale. After killing the traitorous Henry Wilcox (Gregory Itzin), super spy Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) has been MIA for four months, leaving her former lover and handler Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham) in the dark about her movements. When she finally resurfaces, the CIA has more than a few questions about her time out in the cold, but Annie’s answers may not be forthcoming, leading to friction between the troubled operative and her agency.
Variety spoke to executive producers Chris Ord and Matt Corman about the secrets Annie may be hiding, her on again/off again romance with Auggie, and the new love interests the pair may acquire over the course of the season. Read on for more.
Last season took Annie down a very dark path professionally and emotionally, so how will those actions inform her character this year?
Corman: Greatly. I think that we’re going to see a new paradigm for Annie as a spy and as a person, and as you said, some of the actions she took last year — going dark, having to take out Henry Wilcox, operating alone for so long away from the agency — have affected her in ways good and bad. And right off the top, we’re going to see some dramatic things that will allow the audience to see just how much she’s changed, but also ask a lot of questions.
Annie’s playing things close to the vest when she reappears. What kind of strain will that put on her relationships with those closest to her?
Ord: This season, we’ll explore what it’s like for Annie to have a secret of her own. In seasons past, we’ve seen other characters carry their own secrets — Auggie, Arthur, Joan — but we never really explored Annie keeping a secret, other than the one she had with [her sister] Danielle. But this is a secret she keeps from her agency, which greatly impacts her job and her ability to do the job. So for us, it was really rich territory to explore.
Annie and Auggie decided to end things romantically last season, so where will we find their relationship this year?
Corman: Well, you have a very deep bond, and their relationship is always going to be very complex. So, they’ll be working together, and at least from the outset, they’re not currently in a romantic place, but that can always change. There’s so much rich history between them. They trust one another so much that there are many more chapters in the story.
Last season focused on the quest to take down Henry and root out corruption in the agency. What can you preview about the overarching plot in season five?
Ord: In 501, there’s an event that will rock the agency and catapult us into the season’s spy story. And that will arc out over all 16 episodes, that spy story. And then within that, there’s so many different threads of personal stories that we will be playing that feed into that story and also are consequences of that story.
Corman: Yeah, and that’s something new for us. I mean, in the past, we’ve told stories that arc over ten or six, but we’re telling one long tapestry of a story that weaves its way through the entire season. [A serialized approach] is very rewarding to do, and it sort of allows for a more naturalistic approach, but it’s definitely a different gear.
You also introduce a new regular this season, Ryan McQuaid. What does he bring to the show?
Ord: Ryan McQuaid — he’s played by Nic Bishop, who’s a fantastic actor. Especially this season, we’re exploring the idea of having it all: can you really have a work and a personal life? McQuaid’s somebody who not only believes you can have it all, but actually does have it all. He loves what he does. He loves what it brings him, and I think for us, that’s a refreshing character to bring on the show, someone who is so engaging in that way. And Nic embodies a lot of those qualities himself, and then he does a great job with the character.
Corman: Yeah, and he and Piper have a tremendous energy on screen, which is important, because they’re going to have a lot of scenes together.
Arthur (Peter Gallagher) and Joan (Kari Matchett) had a pretty rough year last season, and a lot of upheaval in their professional lives. What can you preview about their storylines?
Corman: Well, Arthur’s going to have a new job, which is challenging, because Arthur and Joan, for the first four seasons, were trying to reconcile what it is like to work with someone you’re married to. And now, they’re going to have to manage the question of what is it like when you’re married to somebody and you and they may be on separate sides of an issue?
Ord: Going into this season, though, the relationship is quite strong. They’ve just had a child, Joan just gave birth to Mack, and that’s really bonded them as a family. I think they’re excited to be entering into this new territory as a family. So that’s really a positive turn in their lives, and we really love that. They’re a strong marriage, and we do like to underscore that when we can.
There’s the old adage that you should never work with children or animals on set; will we see much of their home life, and baby Mack?
Ord: You know, working with babies is one thing, but the baby in this case is played by Kari Matchett’s own baby, Jude. So the bond that you’re seeing between mother and child is genuine, and really adds a nice layer on the show.
You seem to be drawing Calder (Hill Harper) deeper into the fold this season. What’s coming up for him this year?
Corman: Well, it’s interesting. Last season, we didn’t really understand much about his personal life. He kept it very close to the vest, and this season, we’re starting to peel back that layers of the onion, and see him in a relationship, see his vulnerable side a little bit more. It’s safe to say that the relationship is complex, and potentially even dangerous for him to be in. So, it’s going to evolve and present itself in ways that may not be immediately apparent, but there’s more going on there than you might think.
We don’t see her in the premiere, but you’ve added Amy Jo Johnson this season, so what should we expect from her character, Hayley?
Ord: She’s a strong character. She plays off Auggie and they have wonderful chemistry, the two of them. And she’s going to challenge Auggie in a lot of ways, both at work, but also romantically. And I think she’s just a fantastic actress, and is perfect in the role.
Obviously, the on again/off again romance is a TV staple at this point, but do you ever worry about fans getting resentful if you keep Annie and Auggie apart for too long? How do you navigate that tricky balancing act?
Corman: I think we just try to write to real emotion, and true relationship problems and issues, and if we can keep the characters navigating the world and one another in a believable and real way, that’s all we can do. I think if fans are invested emotionally, that’s a good thing. We’re not trying to create resentment or have people throwing coffee cups at the screen, but we think a little bit of engagement is not bad at all.
“Covert Affairs” premieres Tuesday, June 24 at 10 p.m. on USA Network.