USA's 'Covert Affairs' returns for more overt fun


The spy game is alive and well on television.

A prime example: "Covert Affairs," the USA Network adventure-drama show that scored high ratings right out of the gate last summer. With filmmaker Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity") among its executive producers, it quickly earned a second season that begins Tuesday, June 7, with Piper Perabo -- a Golden Globe Award nominee for its first round -- back as novice CIA agent Annie Walker.

"It's my first time doing a television show, so I don't really have anything to compare it to," says Perabo, a veteran of "Coyote Ugly" and other movies. "I felt we had a really good crew and a really good cast, and everybody was working hard and putting their best foot forward. That's all you can ever do. You can't know how people are going to respond."

Viewers surely responded to Annie's sharp-by-necessity learning curve as she went on various missions. "You want to see some progression in what she's learned and some confidence," Perabo reasons. "I think what's fun about this season is that Annie is maybe overconfident. With 12 missions under her belt, she thinks she knows it all now … and that can get you into trouble."

So can revisiting a lost love, and for Annie, that has been fellow spy Ben (Eion Bailey). He resurfaced several times last season, playing an especially big role in the action-fueled finale. "Once we went into the hiatus," Perabo recalls, "I'd send the writers little texts and emails asking, 'How's Ben been feeling? Is he breathing?' They were tight-lipped about the whole thing, but those questions are answered at the start of the season premiere. We get to it right at the top."

Returning "Covert Affairs" co-stars include Kari Matchett and Peter Gallagher as Annie's married CIA bosses and Christopher Gorham ("Ugly Betty") as her trainer, Auggie, who is blind but extremely capable. Gorham actually can see, and he's been fascinated by reactions to his portrayal.

He says, "Even friends of my parents who knew me as a kid will come up to them and say, 'Did he lose his sight?' It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's very flattering."

Gorham isn't resting on those laurels: He called a Canadian Institute for the Blind staff member he'd worked with earlier, "and I had her come to the set and do a refresher course with me and Piper, specifically. Most of the things I do on the show, I do with her, so I wanted to make sure we could get our heads back into it.

"I also did blindfolded cane training out on the street," Gorham adds, "crossing intersections and the like, and it was really amazing. It was something I had wanted to do, but just hadn't had the time to get to. And I had a blind person at the institute, who's really into 'blind tech,' take me on a show-and-tell through all of his stuff. I'm always learning new things I can bring to the show."

Perabo spent part of her "Covert Affairs" break filming the forthcoming sci-fi movie "Looper" with Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt -- and she made a point of exercising regularly.

"When we came back," she explains, "we had about a week of preproduction, then bang! We were right into episode one. Because of the fight choreography and the crazy stunt sequences, I stay in good physical condition, just to stay safe. I never really know what's coming."

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