From the Seat of Power Pt 2 – Q&A With Covert Affairs Exec Producer Doug Liman

We’re only a few days away from the debut of Covert Affairs, USA Network‘s next big series. As promised, here’s Part 2 of the Q&A with Executive Producer Doug Liman, in which he discusses filming in Toronto, insights that he learned from the CIA that have become a part of the series, and why this isn’t just another spy show.

What are your thoughts on shooting Covert Affairs in Toronto?

I’m a huge fan of working in Toronto. It’s an amazing, amazing city, and it has so many different looks. You can go a little bit out of the city in different directions and find so many different cities. I can’t imagine not doing this show Canada, because it is a show where Annie (Piper Perabo) goes on international missions. We even were able to pull off Sri Lanka on the banks of Lake Ontario. Canada cooperated and brought on tsunami-like giant waves for that one day that we were shooting there.

There’s a lot of visual effects involved in the show to add scope and depth. We send crews out to some of the real cities, and we combine the environments. But Toronto is an amazing back lot for us. I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to walk around our studio space, but that’s some of the best production design I’ve ever seen, and it was a real munitions depot. It’s pretty amazing. And I really like the crews in Canada. It’s been amazing for us so far.

Can you share some of what you learned from Valerie Plame (the subject of his upcoming film Fair Game) about being a woman in the CIA that have become part of Covert Affairs?

Probably the thing I was most fascinated about discussing with Valerie Plame was that she is a very attractive woman, and how was that used in the field. What was she told about how to use it, and what were the rules? Are you supposed to sleep with the people to get them to do your bidding? At the end of the mission, do you disappear the way James Bond does? What’s the actual protocol?

I don’t think I’m divulging state secrets, but what I was told was women were encouraged not to sleep with assets, and the men were. The feeling in the CIA was that women would get emotionally attached to their assets if they slept with them, and it could possibly compromise the mission. So what’s made it into the show so far is the logical honesty of this organization dealing with sexuality.

The other thing I was very fascinated by was how do you actually date? Valerie told us that they were encouraged to date within the agency, so that’s very much part of our show. It might seem to the outsider like it’s convenient because you have all these young, beautiful people in the same office, but it actually happens to be the reality of working at the CIA. And the divorce rate for people who marry outside the agency is very high.

In your mind, what sets Covert Affairs apart from other spy shows?

What I think sets it apart is that it has a very unique sensibility. Covert Affairs sort of exists in the environment that I thought was by far the most interesting aspect of the spy world that I was exposed to during all the research for Fair Game. It’s what happens when spies go home, and where spies intersect our world.

Remember to tune in this Tuesday (or set those PVRs) for the series premiere of Covert Affairs, 10 pm on USA Network.

Photo courtesy of USA Network

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