Former Heroes star Sendhil Ramamurthy appeared on Covert Affairs part way through its first season, and during our recent visit to the set in Toronto, he stopped by to chat with us about his character, Jai Wilcox, and the direction he is headed in Season 2. From the sound of it, Jai’s about to embark on a very dark path.
Will some of the mystery surrounding Jai come to light this season?
It’s a very, very slow burn for Jai, and you get little snippets of his back story. I think at some point we’ll probably find out a lot more about where he came from and maybe what he was doing in London before he joined up at Langley. This season, it goes very, very slowly, and kind of starts going to some dark places for Jai. And I still have no idea what the ultimate end game is.
By the end of the first 10 (episodes), it’ll kind of become apparent what Jai’s end game is for the season. But at the beginning it’s kind of seeing Jai dealing with not having things going his way, and that’s not something that he’s used to. I mean, he always gets what he wants. It’s been like that his whole life. He’s led a very privileged life, and had a privileged upbringing and he’s not really used to this, but he’s also pretty crafty and willing to do things that maybe others wouldn’t, and maybe that he shouldn’t do to get what he wants. We’re going to start exploring that a little bit. It’s a little bit dark, and it’s kind of cool to play.
Can you comment on the bad blood between Jai and Auggie, and the sense of animosity that we get from some characters at the CIA in relation to Jai?
I think a lot of it just stems from the fact that … he’s Henry Wilcox’s son, and everybody kind of thinks he must be like him. I think Jai could have kind of done anything. He went to Yale and has a good head on his shoulders. He could have gone into anything and probably made a lot of money, but he’s decided to … go into his father’s line of work, knowing that he didn’t have the greatest reputation and that, he was considered the Prince of Darkness at the CIA. It’s either ballsy or really stupid of Jai to try and go in there, and part of my thinking with the character is he wants to change that perception, not necessarily of his father, because that boat may have sailed at this point, but kind of redeem the family name a little bit and just cut his own path. When you grow up around a certain environment, it’s kind of natural to go and follow your parents’ footsteps … prove something to his dad. They have a very contentious relationship. Actually, Greg Itzin is up here right now and we’re about to shoot a bunch of scenes tomorrow, which I’m really, really looking forward to ’cause they’re a lot of fun and, actually, there’s like a little bombshell that comes out at the end of one of their conversations and I’m looking forward to playing those moments.
Is Jai’s friendship with Annie going to continue to grow, or will it go back to being more of a professional relationship?
Jai has quite a few fires to put out on his own this season that he’s dealing with. The relationship with Annie, I suppose, is touched on, but I think that it’s more of a friendship type of thing. Romantic-wise, I don’t see it. The camaraderie is definitely there and you see it in the episode that we shot. Jai ends up having to go in and … he and Annie come together at the end of a mission, and you kind of see a deepening of their friendship. But for the most part so far, Jai’s been off on his own, dealing with things that he doesn’t really want to be dealing with, to be honest, but he’s forced to, and going down paths that he probably never thought that he would, but he needs to – to get what he wants.
What about Jai do you think resonates with the Covert Affairs audience?
I actually try not to think about appealing to audiences. I just try to think about playing the character, but if you’re into the bad boy thing, you’ll kind of be attracted to Jai. He just does what he wants and doesn’t really care too much about what anybody else thinks … and so that’s the way I’ve tried to approach the character. As you’ll see, as you see more episodes, he kind of starts going to places that I actually never really thought that he would go, but it’s fun to play and it’s dark for our show. And I’m interested to see how it’s played. There’s something to be said for, for playing a character that … really marches to the beat of his own drum and isn’t really concerned with what others think of him, as long as he gets what he wants.
He’s kind of a naturally flirtatious character, and cocky and arrogant, and that can turn some people off. You know, some people just don’t really respond to that and some people do, so that’s where worrying about what the audience thinks of your character, I don’t see how it’s helpful. Just play what’s written and then people will respond to how they want to respond. But it’s a lot more fun than playing a full-on good guy, and I think it’s more realistic, CIA-wise, just because I don’t think anybody in the CIA is all good or all bad. It’s impossible. If you’re going to be successful in the CIA, you have to be willing to do some pretty messed up stuff, and I think Jai is more than willing a lot of the times to do that, which is why I think, ultimately, he’ll probably do very well at the CIA.
Will you be traveling to any exotic locations this season like some of your cast mates have?
As far as I know, no. I know that Piper went to Paris and Puerto Rico. Chris is going to Istanbul, and then I’ve heard, but I don’t know if this is actually happening, that they’re planning on a German expedition at some point and maybe one to Norway, to Oslo. I get left behind for reasons which will come out. Again, I don’t know cause we haven’t gotten far enough in, but I think really kind of from the fifth episode on, you’re going to see the direction that Jai goes down for the season, and there’s a scene with Joan where he kind of makes a decision as to what he’s going to do … and you’ll kind of know what he’s up to, but then I think it twists and it goes in a different direction that you don’t even really expect for the back six.
See where Jai Wilcox’s path leads in this season of Covert Affairs, Tuesday nights at 10/9c on USA.
Photo Courtesy of USA Network