Television was a relatively new world for Piper Perabo when she signed on to star in the USA Network series “Covert Affairs” in 2010. Except for a few TV guest spots, most of the Dallas native’s work had been in movies, ranging from the forgettable “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” to the unforgettable “Coyote Ugly.”
Her inexperience in TV worked in her favor when she was cast as Annie Walker, a raw new CIA recruit. Just as Walker depended heavily on veteran CIA agents Arthur Campbell and Auggie Anderson to learn the ropes, Perabo turned to the actors behind those roles – Peter Gallagher and Christopher Gorham – for guidance.
“Both of them would whisper in my ear what was going to happen. Just like Annie, I was in way over my head. It works much faster than film. So I spent a lot of the first season just getting my footing,” Perabo says during a break from filming.
She not only found her footing, but she became a marathon runner as the show (10 p.m. Tuesdays, USA Network) has reached its fifth season. After the fourth season, in which Walker faked her death to go on a rogue mission to bring down a major threat, the new episodes will look at Walker trying to return to the life she had before.
It won’t come easy.
“Annie thinks that she can reboot her life – that things with Auggie and her can go back and she can go back to a more familiar style of operating. The problem is she can’t rewrap that Christmas present once it’s open,” Perabo says. “But I think that’s one of the reasons this show has stayed this interesting. The writers have let Annie evolve each season.
“We went from a mission of the week in the first season to an agent with five years of experience who is always evolving. Now, Annie has a superhero quality that at times borders on fantasy because she’s so good.”
One of the big evolutions has been Walker’s relationship with Gorham’s character. From the first day, Walker and Anderson showed the kind of chemistry that let viewers know they would one day go beyond just being co-workers. When their relationship finally blossomed, major hurdles – like the return of Anderson’s wife – got in the way.
Perabo enjoys working on the show because the cast is a supportive family. She particularly enjoys working with Gorham because he’s not only a talented actor and director, but he’s “one of the nicest guys on the planet.”
She’s taken the opportunity between seasons to work on movies such as “Looper” and the upcoming “Endangered.” Perabo also keeps busy with the two restaurants she owns in New York. Her cooking skills – or lack of them – weren’t the reason Perabo got into the food business. Because apartments in New York are so small, big events like birthdays are celebrated in restaurants, and this gives her two options for hosting large groups.