You’ve seen her as Francine Hanson, suburban mother, housewife and friend to Betty Draper on Mad Men. She’s shown her murderous side as one of Albert Grant’s sister-wives on Big Love. Ted Mosby dated her in an episode of How I Met Your Mother. But you’ll probably know her best as Amber “Cut-throat Bitch” Volakis on House. Anne Dudek has to be one of the brightest stars on the small screen over the past decade. In her newest role, she plays Danielle, big sister to CIA agent Annie Walker on Covert Affairs. During a recent tour to the Toronto set of Covert Affairs, Anne Dudek answered some questions about her latest TV persona, and reflected on some of her best-known roles to date.
Your character Danielle on Covert Affairs is quite the stretch from the cut-throat bitch that we loved on House. What’s it like to be the nice one for a change?
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, manipulative, bitchy doctor on House. And then I have a little role on Big Love where I play a sort of psychotic, murderous, polygamist 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 the husband who has the stable, good money making job, and the two kids who are adorable. And she’s really happy in her life, I think. It is different because it doesn’t really require the same kind of reaching into my weirdest imagination. 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 more accessible to me and to the people I know. It’s fun to live in that world.
Does Danielle ever wonder why her sister, who supposedly works at The Smithsonian, is away so often?
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?” 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 a desk at the Smithsonian and she just wouldn’t be there. I think Danielle has no idea right now, I don’t think she’s that suspicious about her at all.
How will the relationship between Danielle and Annie develop during the first season?
The first few episodes are dealing with the tensions of sort of things that seem like normal sisterly tensions. I hope that you get a deeper sense of why they have chosen, 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 two people who really need each other, then have this huge secret. That’s really dramatically interesting to me, that tension if the reality of this ever got unearthed, how would these people go on, because they really need each other.
There’s an overall sense in the pilot that Danielle is Annie’s anchor, keeping her grounded to reality. Does that continue?
I think a little bit. 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. 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 sort of a maternally sisterly kind of blur.
Have you learned anything about your character’s parents, or the rest of the family?
Yeah, they refer to us as being army brats and not really having a central kind of place where we grow up. I think that’s very telling about 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 what Danielle has chosen. Or you are used to that (life), that’s what you know, changing who you are and being in different parts of the world, that is the other side of that choice.
Was there anything in particular that made you want to audition for Covert Affairs?
Yeah, I thought the script was really fun, and I’ve always been interested in spy stuff. I think the spy world is something that’s really great. All great stories attempt to answer the question, “Who am I?” Since nobody really knows that answer, we’re all just trying to pretend about who we are. 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?” That’s why I like this script and this show, because it’s very clearly about a question that’s interesting. And it has a lighter side to it, too. It’s not super serious.
So, is there any chance that you’re the mother on How I Met Your Mother?
(Laughs) You know what’s really funny though? I met my husband through Josh Radnor who I met on How I Met Your Mother, and I have a little son now. 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.”
I think it’d be great if at end of the whole thing, Natalie, my character on that show, ended up marrying Ted … very ironic.
Photo Courtesy of USA Network