Interview with Sendhil Ramamurthy of USA Network’s Covert Affairs

| August 7, 2010

Who’s to know what really really goes on inside the halls of an undisclosed location in Langley, Virginia. The inner workings of the CIA have long been the realm of rumor and speculation, the fuel for dramas of espionage fueled by the terror of the cold war and the uncertainty of today’s ordeal with international terrorism. The goings on of America’s international espionage apparatus is the speculative realm of film and television, notably the new series Covert Affairs (Tuesdays at 10/9 central on USA Network), which was picked up for a thirteen episode run and welcome’s it’s newest permanent cast member, Sendhil Ramamurthy of NBC’s Heroes fame. He was good enough to sit down and discuss this week’s upcoming episode, in which the plot thickens for Ramamurthy’s character and the rest of the Covert Affairs cast.
Ramamurthy plays Jai Wilcox, a second generation CIA operative with a reputation to overcome if he is to take his own career in hand. After all Henry Wilcox, the former Director of the National Clandestine Services played by veteran actor Peter Gallagher was his father. He is assigned to stay close to new field agent Anne Catherine (Piper Perabo) the series’ star to fulfill an undisclosed agenda. The tension comes to a dramatic high point in the upcoming episode, where Wilcox’s decision between what is required and what he thinks is right are put to the test with the added interaction of his Machiavellian father. “In the end, there are emotions that can complicate something you want to be efficient,” he says of the situation. Such is true in the world of espionage, where “nothing is as it seems.” The most difficult part of the role for Ramamurth of course, is not “tipping his hand” and revealing too much subtext.
Ramamurthy had a late start after he was drafted to replace co-star Eric Lively as an agency operative after Lively’s departure from the pilot episode. He did not benefit from the direct supervision of CIA agents who coached Perabo and the rest of the original cast on little-known intelligence procedure, for the sake of time. The fact that agents do not carry firearms on US soil is specifically important to Tuesday’s episode, where Ramamurthy as Wilcox utilizes the French acrobatic wall-jumping martial art “Parkour” in a particularly physical chase sequence. The physical element of the job is what he enjoys most about the role. “Parkour was the coolest. It was lots of fun.”
Although he has had some difficulty adjusting to his late start, the writing staff has been more than accommodating in helping him develop his character. He and the rest of the cast have developed a chemistry and “hang out in a non-work setting.” Ramamurthy is pleased, “when you work for seventeen hours with people, it helps to get along with them.” He considers Tuesday’s episode as Wilcox’s true debut, since the previous three episodes involved his character being fit in to replace Lively. He is looking forward to contributing more scenes in the field, hoping for an interesting fight scene. On the many challenging tasks required of federal agents, he has a request for the show’s writers, however. “Accents are okay, but the writers are free not to give me any languages.”
Ramamurthy’s character is “by the numbers,” and theoretical CIA royalty, which could prove problematic in next week’s episode in which his ethics and his career are put to the test. It’s all par for the course in clandestine affairs. Watch Ramamurthy on USA this tuesday at 10/9:00 central.

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