July 9th, 2010 by thetvchick
I recently had the pleasure and privilege to visit the set of Covert Affairs, a brand new spy drama on USA Network. It is definitely a show I am eagerly anticipating, as the pilot was really fantastic. The lovely Anne Dudek plays Danielle, the anchor to Piper Perabo’s Annie Walker. She is her kept in the dust sister, who she comes close to confessing the truth to in her absolutely beautiful kitchen. Seriously, when we spoke to her around her fake kitchen table, I found myself wishing it was mine! We joked with her about being the mother on How I Met Your Mother, and her previous bad-ass roles. We chatted with her about Danielle, a very hilarious scene in the pilot and whether she suspects Annie at all. We even surmised a theory that maybe she is a spy, too. [Spoiler Alert: She's not.]
Are you the mother on How I Met Your Mother, no I’m just [kidding]? [laughs] You know what was really funny though? Is I met my husband through Josh Radnor who I met on How I Met Your Mother and I have a little son now. And if you follow the logic through, if my son ever asks me how my husband and I met, we can pull out a DVD of How I Met Your Mother, the episode I was on, and say, “This is how I met your mother.”
That’s cool. I like that. So is his name Ted?
[laughs] That’d be very ironic I’d say. I think it’d be great if, yeah if at end of the whole thing Natalie, my character on that show, ended up marrying Ted… very ironic.
You’re so nice on the show and it’s a far cry from the cut-throat bitch that we love from House. What’s that like playing such a nice character?
Yeah, well I mean I don’t know if, she’s nice, she definitely is. I mean she’s—the word I would describe her as is mainstream, which is a huge departure from things I’ve done recently. You know I’ve played this crazy evil doctor, manipulative bitchy doctor on House. And then I have a little role on Big Love where I play a sort of psychotic murderess, polygamist [laughs] wife, and even on Mad Men my character is a little coo-coo. And this is interesting because I think Danielle’s function in this show is that she is the mainstream choice, she is the sort of dream life. She has this kitchen and, you know, the husband who has the, you know, stable good money making job and the two cute kids who are adorable. And she’s really happy in her life, I think, pretty happy in what she’s doing. And so it is different because it’s not, it doesn’t really require the same kind of reaching into my weirdest imagination [laughs]. You know, it hits a little closer to my own life because I’m married and I just had a baby. And so it’s fun, because I get to deal with situations and relationships that feel more normal. And feel more accessible to me and to the people I know, and it’s fun to live in that world.
Does she get any sort of inkling of what Annie really does over the course of what you’ve done so far?
That’s a very good question [laughs] and I can’t tell you.
Does she wonder why somebody who works at the Smithsonian is gone so much or?
Well you know, I mean I spend a lot of time on the set thinking, “You know, what if Danielle just decided one day to go ahead and surprise Annie for lunch at the Smithsonian?” And I was told that actually, I mean right now Annie is based out of Langley. But there are situations in which she actually would have like a desk at the Smithsonian and she just [wouldn’t be there]. I mean, I think Danielle has no idea right now. I think that her relationship is that Annie has always been somebody who is involved in it, you know, in things that Danielle is like “Well whatever.” She’s not, I don’t think she’s that suspicious about her at all right now.
How are we going to see the relationship continue to develop as the first season continues on?
Well, I mean I think the first few episodes are dealing with the tensions of sort of things that seem like normal sisterly tensions. Of, you know, asking responsibility from one sister and not, you know, an older sister to a younger sister and not really having that met. And I hope that you get a deeper sense of why they have chosen, you know, why Annie has chosen to live here in the guest house and their closeness, and that they really need each in some way. I think that’s interesting because of the idea that, you know, two people who really need each other then have this huge secret [and that] in front of it. And that’s really dramatically interesting to me that tension of like how, if the reality of this ever got unearthed how would these people go on, because they really need each other.
I noticed from the pilot that we saw that your character added like a bit of humor to the show. But also I really got kind of the overall sense that Danielle was kind of Annie’s anchor, keeps her grounded to reality. Does that kind of continue throughout?
I think a little bit. I mean it’s weird because Danielle’s this very motherly figure. You always see her with her kids doing something, taking care of her kids, and Annie sort of comes into that picture. And it’s not like she, I mean they’re definitely sisters but it is like she has a motherly kind of thing that does anchor Annie into real life and the real world. And yeah in that way there is a like, sort of maternally sisterly kind of blur.
Do you know anything about the rest of their family at this point, their parents or anything like that?
Yeah, they refer to—as sort of being army brats and not really having a central kind of place we grow up. And I think that’s very telling about how, you know, the choices that you make from that kind of a background. Either you really want the most stable thing you can ever do, which is I think is what Danielle has chosen. Or you are used to that and that’s what you know and changing who you are and being in the different part of the world and all of that is the other side of that choice.
I’m always curious and we see this all the time with actors and actresses in Hollywood. You have kind of a break through role I mean, at least I kind of discovered you through House and then you’ve just been on such a roll with Mad Men and everything else. Like what do you think happens that, like, kind of just the spark where you’re everywhere? Like can you kind of crystallize or pinpoint a moment?
I wish I knew [laughs]. You know, none of those things, there was no moment. None of those things meant, were designed to be what they ultimately became at all. I had focused on writing for like a year, right before all this happened and I was really excited about that. And then I had an audition for Mad Men and I had no idea what that character was going be. All I knew it was like a one time guest spot. And it turned into something that was a little bit bigger, that episode, I mean that season. And, you know, it sort of became, at least for that season of Mad Men, sort of a like a, you know, a presence in that show. And at the same time, the same thing had happened on Big Love. I had this tiny, tiny little part that was weird and fun and they just sort of kept bringing it back and bringing it back, and so it, sort of had grown into that show a little bit. And then I auditioned for House and they said, “Oh, it’s this contest to be a new, you know, regular…” contest, whatever. My character was never meant to really be chosen as one of the permanent fixtures on House. But because people really responded to that character, it, you know, and I think that’s the things, that I happened to pick things that in themselves grew into something more. It wasn’t like all of a sudden I landed all these big roles, I just landed these little things that became more than what they were meant to be which was nice.
I guess it’s a testament to your acting.
[laughs] Or, yeah, or like a good chemistry between that role and, you know. I think there are a lot of times, and we were talking a little bit about this last night. In TV shows where a new character comes on and people get excited but it doesn’t really pan out the way that you thought it would. Or, you know, I mean it’s very weird, like what’s really going to happen to your character in the future, nobody can say. And I just, those were a really good fit between me and the writing that was happening, and if the writers were interested in writing what the audience happened to respond to and that. It’s a very rare thing that happened I think. So I was very lucky.
Are some of those roles still on-going like Mad Men and Big Love will they keep going?
I can’t comment, I’m not allowed [laughs].
I wish I could.
Is what we saw of you in the pilot sort of typical from your experience so far? Yeah I’ve heard that it changes.
So I don’t know, I don’t have any details on that. But you can look for some surprises [laughs].
Does Danielle’s story grow to be separate from Annie’s at all?
I don’t think so.
No I don’t have the answer to that.
But I don’t expect that it would, but you never, I mean who knows. Yeah, I mean Danielle definitely has a story line that grows. But it’s, you know, it’s not like wildly different than, the show’s about Annie Walker and what she’s going through.
Can you tell us how you got involved?
Yeah, I auditioned for this back—I don’t remember when it was, June or July or maybe even August. No it wouldn’t have been, maybe late June or July [laughs]. This is not the most interesting part. Yeah, I auditioned for it last summer and got cast, very straight forward.
Was there something in particular you liked about it that made you want to audition for it or was it just –?
Yeah, I mean I thought the script was really fun and I’ve always been interested in, like, spy world stuff. And it’s a shame because I would love to, like, you know carry a gun –
Maybe someday you’ll open the oven and they’ll be a gun in there that you have to take out and… Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah or maybe Danielle is also a spy. She’s not. There are a lot of, you know a lot of things that [could happen].
You’re the ultimate Mrs. Smith, but you don’t know.
Just nobody ever knows.
Nobody ever knows.
So the whole series goes on, right, and there’s like never a hint but that’s the truth.
That’s what I’ll be thinking in the back of my mind when I watch.
And then the last episode it’s like all explained, it’s like actually this whole time Danielle’s been working for the Russian Government [laughs].
You’ve got to go suggest that to the writers [laughs].
Yeah seriously, that’d be crazy. No, but I thought—I really liked the script. I’m really interested, I think the spy world is something that’s really great. Because all great stories, I think, are answers, or attempt to answer the question, “Who am I?” And since nobody really knows that answer, we’re all just trying to pretend about who we are I think. I mean, this is a very philosophical way of looking at life, but I think all television series and all movies, if you really think about it, boil down to, “Who am I?” right. And they’re—like Mad Men for instance, is also a very, you know, direct metaphor for, “Who am I?” It’s like I’m leading a double life, here’s me pretending to be someone that I’m not. Which is all, we’re all doing that to some extent, because we don’t really know who we are we’re just making it up. And I think that’s something that interests people when they watch television, is a reflection of that kind of struggle going on. But you can’t really voice it, you don’t talk to your friends about it. They don’t really even wait up at night, you know, when you worry about things, it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s a, that’s the human condition. And so to have a story that—that in a really clear fun way talks about that, I always respond to that and I like being involved in that. So, yeah, that’s why I like this script and this show, is because it’s about, it’s very clearly about a question that’s interesting. And it has a lighter side to it too, it’s not this, like, super serious like, everything is kind of grey and dark shadows. And, you know, it’s an entertaining way of entering an interesting world that is emotionally relevant [I think].
Is there any element of all—do you think of Danielle kind of worrying obviously is [she also] feeling sorry for Annie? And, you know, there’s the life she hasn’t had, you haven’t had a relationship in two years or whatever.
Yeah, I mean, you know, there is a part of Danielle that, like it’s interesting you know, like, “Oh she’s so nice.” And she’s not really that—I mean she’s not a saint. She’s not a, you know, she looks at Annie and I thinks she’s like, “Oh God she, you know, she needs to get her life kicked into gear.” I mean look at her she’s kind of a loser, she’s obsessed with this guy and it’s never going to happen with him, she’s living in my guesthouse. You know, I mean, yeah I think she does see this lifestyle and her kids and her husband and the life that she’s built as what everybody wants. And anyone who doesn’t really have that is, “God let’s get them on track to getting it,” you know.
But really Ethan… that guy. Yeah.
[laughs] I thought it was so funny, and for every, like, I mean, what made it into the pilot is really funny stuff. They sort of just let him go for a while in this conversation and he improvised. I mean, I wish that they could, like, take that and put it as like a little tidbit on the website or something, like, “The rest of Ethan at the dinner party.” Because it was hysterical and we were all, like, the stuff he was coming up with, he was a really, really funny actor and that was a really funny scene.
Was the moustache real [laughter]?
Yeah, it was real and apparently, I forget the actor’s name who plays Ethan, but he came into the audition he had just done another job that he needed to grow this moustache for. And the first thing he said is, “You guys, I meant to shave this today, I can shave it don’t worry about that, but please try not to, you know, worry about the moustache.” And Matt and Chris were like, “No it’s great [laughs] you don’t need to shave it, it’s kind of perfect.” So it was a real moustache, yeah. There’s something so funny just about a moustache right?
Do you have a sister or a sisterly relationship that’s one like Danielle and Annie?
You know I don’t, I don’t really at all. And so that’s interesting, that’s kind of like a, it’s a difficult thing as an actress because I don’t, I’ve never really had that. I have like close female friends, but I’m not one of those people who has, like, my one best friend who’s like my sister. And I didn’t grow up with sisters. I have an older brother. So and, you know, that was one of the things during the auditioning process they’re like, “No it’s like that typical sister-sister thing, they kind of give each other a hard time,” and I was like, “Oh yeah, that [laughs] typical sister thing.” But I know sisters like that, you know, and I’ve always been a little jealous. One of my best friends growing up, she had three sisters and she was very, very close to one of them. And so that is a special thing, like, that sisters have.
I’m an only child, so I –
Well yeah, you know, it is interesting I think from an outsider’s perspective because it sort of seems like a friendship. So you would want to treat it like, “Oh don’t, you know, don’t go there, don’t say that thing because you don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings.” But sisters it’s like no, you know, she’s not going to stop being your sister, you have her forever. So there are lines that I think can be crossed in terms of, you know, what that relationship is, is very close and it can be, you know, intense in ways that friendships can’t be.
In the first few episodes you filmed have you gotten to leave your house at least, do some shooting outside of the kitchen?
[laughs] There is a scene outside of the kitchen.
Maybe the [guest house] [laughter]
And I won’t tell you where [laughs].
In the Smithsonian, no that’s okay [laughs].
Yeah, it’s in the guesthouse, [and at this] kitchen as well.
You said you were working on writing before you were a writer, is that something you [planned]?
No not in any like real way, just – Well, you know, being an actor you, I think you learn about writing because you read so much. And I think most, a lot of actors I know want to try writing, because it seems like it’s easy and then you’re like, “Wait you know, [laughs] now I understand.” But I mean the way, yeah it’s [clearly all right] it’s just not like it’s something that any Joe Schmo is going start, you know, as a hobby and be successful.