It's one thing to play a role. It's another thing when the character you're playing is playing a role, too.
So it's impressive when someone like Kari Matchett of Covert Affairs can pull off that "role within a role" in a way that renders both believable.
"It makes me so happy that you think that, thank you," Matchett said. "That means so much to me. "You obviously are a very sensitive watcher, but I really appreciate that."
Well, we're not sure if we're worthy of that compliment. But TV viewers can see what we're talking about when Covert Affairs returns to Canadian TV for its second season, Sunday, Sept. 4 on Showcase.
Covert Affairs - which is shot in Toronto for the USA Network, where the second season began airing south of the border in June - is a CIA drama that focuses on secret operative Annie Walker, played by Piper Perabo.
Matchett plays Annie's boss Joan Campbell, and the series also stars Christopher Gorham, Peter Gallagher, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Anne Dudek.
You know how some actors get cast as authority figures and you never really believe it? Well, there's something about Matchett's manner and tone that makes you instantly accept Joan as the woman in charge.
"I've resigned myself to the fate of Joan, in that she does have to be the heavy, the voice of reason, the one who has to say no sometimes, like a parent in that world," Matchett said.
"Joan has to be the grownup - I'm not, but the character is!"
Nonetheless, as the first season progressed, Matchett slowly got to show different sides of Joan, especially when it came to her personal life. That's what led to our conversation about Matchett playing a role within a role, since Joan - for the good of the team - is committed to behaving a certain way in her work place.
"That's very interesting - I love that question, that is so true," Matchett said. "Because Joan is part of an organization, and it's an old organization, a governmental organization, an essential part of the fabric of what the United States of America is all about, she has to fill that role. And one of the reasons she's in that position is that she can fill that role.
"On that level, she has to follow rules, she has to follow a doctrine that has been pre-ordained by people before her, mostly men. So although she still is a woman, and she feels things, she absolutely has to play, 'I can't be too warm, I can't let too much happen, I can't cut you too much slack.'
"But inside, Joan might be conflicted about it, which is one of the things I try to play as an actor."
Looking at things through the prism of her own personality, Matchett finds it inherently amusing that she's playing someone like Joan in the first place. "
Joan is very black and white, and I'm not," Matchett said. "I think an actor's, or an artist's, mentality is to think more in greys and mauves."
Colour schemes notwithstanding, Joan gets out of the office more often in season two, which suits Matchett fine.
"The writers are taking Joan in interesting directions, so you see her in the field," Matchett said. "She gets out of the DPD (Domestic Protection Division) in almost every episode, and they're writing some lighter stuff for her.
"The second season you have to branch out, and they really are with Joan." So Joan has to be multiple people, which means Matchett does, too. While always remaining covert, of course.
Who knew the CIA could be so complicated? Luckily, Kari Matchett can handle it.
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