Christopher Gorham On "Covert Affairs" Season Two

By Jamie Ruby

Christopher GorhamUSA Network's Covert Affairs follows CIA operative Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) as she goes on secret missions around the globe, all while struggling to still have a life outside of work. The series also stars Christopher Gorham as fellow agent Auggie Anderson.

One of Covert Affairs' recent episodes focused on Gorham's character and how he became blind.

Gorham is not new to television and previously worked on such series as Popular, Felicity, Odyssey 5, Jake 2.0 and Ugly Betty, to name a few. More recently Gorham starred in the film The Ledge, which has been accepted into the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Gorham recently talked to members of the press about working on Covert Affairs.

USA Network Conference Call
Covert Affairs
Christopher Gorham

July 15, 2011
4:12 pm CT

Christopher GorhamSCIFI VISION: Can you tell us how you got the part on Covert Affairs?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes. It was a pretty traditional kind of audition process. I - the only I think interesting part of the story is that I - like most people who haven't spent any real time around blind people, I came into the audition with a lot of preconceptions and stereotypes, and showed up with a big you know pair of dark sunglasses and was asked by the Casting Director on the way into the room to take them off because we wouldn't be using them on this show, and had a mild panic attack because I tried to figure out what I was going to do.

So - but other than that, it was going to be a pretty traditional audition process and then you know, going in and testing at the ?network level.

And then the real work started after I got the role, and really right before we started shooting the pilot.

SCIFI VISION: Have you done research or watched some blind people to get into your character, because you're very convincing.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Thank you. Yes, I've done a lot of research. I've been working very closely with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which is an organization in Toronto where we film Covert Affairs. And, I've been working with them since before we started shooting the pilot until now. We're - I just have a close relationship with people at the Agency, and then people that I've been introduce to through them.

You know, I have friends now who are blind and you know, I can go over to their house for dinner and really kind of get a close look at what their lives are like and how they get around and how they do things, and how they feel about things.

Because it - it was very important to me from the beginning to get the portrayal right, because you know while Auggie is not real, there are many, many people who do live with this disability and it was vital for me to do them justice and respect those lives.

SCIFI VISION: How do you find yourself the same and different from Auggie?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: You know, very different from Auggie in many ways. You know Auggie is - he's one of the extraordinary few. He was in Special Forces in the military and the weeding out process that goes into being a part of those units is something that very few people can get through and he did, and he was highly successful doing that.

On top of that, he's had to come back from this life changing injury and has had the strength to come through and not just survive but thrive after that.

So I think the strength in Auggie is something that's extraordinary and something that I honestly don't know if I have. You know, you can't know until you go through something like that. You know, it's one of the things I'm so grateful about for the show and this part is this amazing portrayal of a disabled veteran who is a leading man on a major television show.

And it's - you know, it's another community that deserves respect, because there are thousands of very real people who've gone through things similar to what Auggie's gone through, whether it was losing your site or losing limbs, or some traumatic brain injury and depression. And they like Auggie are not just surviving but thriving and having very full lives after going through something like that.

And, I just think it's extraordinary.

QUESTION: Covert Affairs is primarily a story about Annie, and why do you think that it was so important to delve into Auggie's past, and particularly how he became blind?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, I think it's all tied into Annie's story really. I mean - you know because you're right. This show is about Annie Walker. It's not about Auggie Anderson, and it's not about you know the Annie and Auggie. It's about Annie.

And you know, why it's important is because this is an important step in a very important relationship in her life. You know, her relationship with Auggie is very important within the context of her life and especially where she is right now. And this is a big step for those two characters.

So I think you know, that's why an episode like this is important and not just fun.

QUESTION: At the end of the episode, it appeared that everything...is pretty good between Auggie and Annie.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think there's going to be any future ramifications for what he had her do without her knowing and, for good or bad?

...

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: I - honestly, I think that the bigger ramifications come in the kind of deepening of their friendship. And because Auggie's telling - I mean, that's why - I don't know how to say this without (giving it away). I think she gets her payback at the end of this episode. You know, the fact that this is all being revealed is his thank you to her. Does that make sense?

QUESTION: Yes, definitely.

And one last thing is how was it filming in Istanbul?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Filming in Istanbul was one of the most extraordinary trips I've ever taken. You know, it's - it was just one of those moments in your life where you just have to step back and just say thank you. You know, whether - you know, it's for you know something - or you know for just saying thank you to God or the Universe, or to whomever.

It's just one of those moments where - you know, I mean I get flown to someplace like that - it's one of the most extraordinary places in the world. Get completely taken care of. I get to do this amazing job that I love while I'm there. All the while, seeing these incredible places and being taken and eating incredible food. And then, I get to come home and I've got my family with me you know, for the summer in Toronto. And, it's just - it was kind of overwhelming really.

And so, it was an extraordinary trip. And, I took tons of pictures and video, and it's very well documented.

And, it was amazing for the show. You know, we're so lucky that we have you know producers - the producers that we have who are so creative and have figured out a way to take these characters and you know instead of being satisfied with sticking them in front of a green screen, finding ways to send them to Puerto Rico, to send them to Paris, to send them to Istanbul, to Rio. You know, just incredibly grateful.

QUESTION: How does it feel to get an episode focused specifically on Auggie?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: You know, it's - it feels great, you know. It's - you know, I think - like I was saying earlier, it's like I don't feel - part of the reason why I feel it's great is because I feel it's very much in keeping with what we're doing with the show. Like I don't feel like it's just like a gratuitous way to satisfy me personally. You know, like I feel like it's part of the larger fabric of Covert Affairs and the story of Annie Walker and where she is right now. And so you know, it feels good.

And largely, it feels - mostly because I feel like we've done it well. You know, Auggie is a very unique character. He's a leading man who's a disabled vet, and you know what he's gone through is something that thousands of our veterans have gone through. And so, you have to respect it. Like you can't just you know, make things up whole cloth. You have to kind of go and really explore the real emotions and the real journey that these men and women go through every day. And, I feel like that we did that justice.

QUESTION: Now that Auggie has a new position in the OCA, how does that affect his relationship with Annie?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Oh, he doesn't. You missed the episode. He took it, but then he gave it back. That would - you know, it was a big question in an episode earlier in the season was you know, that he was offered this promotion and accepted, and - but at the end of the day, he just - he couldn't go overt. He just loves what he does too much.

You know, he's - it's you know, one of those moments where you have to make a choice in life as to which direction you're going to go. And you know - and when you realize that you really can't have everything. That you have to make choices. And you know, he ended up deciding that that new gig was not in fact where he wanted to spend his career.

QUESTION: Can you talk about working with Rebecca [Mader] on this episode?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Rebecca Mader, she's incredible. She was so much fun. You know, and she - and also like just the right kind of actress to come in and play this role, because like her character, she - you get thrust into this kind of crazy adventure. You know, we flew up to - up and back to Toronto two or three times, and then fly her you know, across her across the globe to Istanbul to shoot.

Like what was - it felt like a little gorilla independent film for three days. And, she just really rolled with it and we had a great time. And she's so talented and - so yes, she was amazing.

QUESTION: The episode is excellent. I just finished watching it.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Oh, thanks.

QUESTION: And I don't just mean the Top Gun-ish scenes.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, good. Well, don't forget them either now.

QUESTION: Well, of course not. Of course not.

Talk to me first about Auggie's back story and how much input you had. Or, was it kind of already set in stone for you?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: The actual events that happened - I don't know if they were set in stone, but they were maybe set in quick dry concrete. It was a question that I had actually for Chris and Matt -- the creators of the show -- when we were shooting the pilot. Because you know, in the pilot he tells the story to Annie - this is one of the many versions of the story that he's told to Annie and other characters about (unintelligible).

And, I just thought that it didn't sound real. Why would you get out of your armored Humvee to go investigate a dead dog? But, they assured me that you know based on their research - the people they'd talked to, that stuff like that did happen.

And they also said, "You know, listen. We know where this is going. Just trust (unintelligible)." And so you know, I - so I did. And it did turn out fine I think. I - you know, I'm really happy with how it turned out.

I think that where - typically where I have the most influence is sometimes when you kind of - the emotional journey. And then just when I pick up little things - little details from my own research that I can come in and add.

You know, I met with a military advisor, an Army Captain, in preparation for this episode and brought a few things to the table based on the conversations that we had had. And then you know, with my blind research -- I have a lot of it as far as to what goes on with the show.

QUESTION: And tell me how you did the choreography for the big fight scene at the end, because it was really amazing, and thinking about you playing it as a blind man made it even more amazing, but, it was fantastic. Can you talk about that and the work that went into planning that?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes. Well you know, it's - I've given up the - you know, they wrote a - they wrote that into the script. A big part of this fight scene was how important it was for Auggie not to lose contact with the guy he's fighting. And so you know, our stunt coordinator - our stunt guys really designed the fight that it - really, it hinges life or death on making sure that he can stay physically connected to this guy. Because as long as he's physically connected, then he can win the fight.

And you know, what then becomes exciting and dramatic within the fight is then the moment where he loses that connection, and then you see how very limited he can become very quickly.

QUESTION: We saw the military part of the episode. How much research went into that? I know you started to mention it before, but did you meet with a lot of veterans, or...

Covert AffairsCHRISTOPHER GORHAM: I talked with two different guys. One in the States and then one guy who's up in Canada working with our show directly. And - yes, so I did, and we had long conversations and we went over the script and talked in detail about the stuff that was feasible. The stuff that wasn't.

Things that felt like you know might be tweaked. Things that he felt like were totally great. And kind of - and for me, some of the questions too was like, "Well, how much freedom do I have?" You know what's kind of set in stone? What's kind of fluid? What's made up between the guys you know, in theater? So some really great, interesting conversations that...

And also like physically, like what things look like? You know, what does it look like when you know, an IAD blows up? What does it feel like? You know, demeanor? What - you know, do you wear your helmets even when you're in the Humvee traveling between cities in the middle of nowhere? You know, like random stuff like that.

QUESTION: Do you consider Auggie to be a role model for anyone that had to overcome such odds? Not necessarily blindness, but any kind of odds.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, I tell you I don't know - I don't look at Auggie as a role model so much as I look at him as an example of what people do every day you know. Because there are people like Auggie all over this planet who you know, get up and go to work and do their job, and live their life and refuse to let people feel sorry for them despite any number of challenges that they might have.

You know, so I think of - as a character, I think kind of he honors those people is how I think I think about it.

QUESTION: I may now have a favorite hot, sweaty half naked man playing a sport in the sand scene.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Hey, all right.

QUESTION: I didn't think anything would ever take the place of Tom Cruise in Top Gun playing beach volleyball, but...

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Whoa. That's a big win.

QUESTION: The tone of this episode is much heavier and much more intense than any other episode before on the show. And obviously, that's because of what the episode is about.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about how different it was to film that compared to the lighter - you know, with much more humor and lightness case of the week type episodes?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes. I mean you know, it's not all - it's maybe not as different as you might think, just because you know every week we come in and we do our best to play what's on the page as honestly as possible.

So like the process isn't much different. I - you know, maybe the tone sometimes on set changes a little bit, you know, for the heavier stuff. But it's maybe - it's not quite as different an environment anyway as you might think it is, depending on the tone of the episode week to week.

And while we do deal with some like - some pretty heavy you know, emotional issues in this episode that - you know, there's also some fun to be had. So it's - you know, it's not a full on tissue box from start to finish, but you might want to have it for the end.

QUESTION: You're getting used to playing...Auggie as he is now, which is blind. I know it wasn't filmed in the order we saw the scenes of course...

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Right.

QUESTION: ...but how was it going from blind to sighted to blind? Did it make it harder to get into character and stay in character?...

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: No. But you know what, it was weird. It was - it didn't feel - that's funny, because playing him sited didn't - suddenly didn't totally feel like Auggie.

You know? So it was kind of strange. You know, the first day - we only did the sited stuff for a couple days, but you know for the first maybe few hours anyway of the first day. Like I really had to consciously say, "Oh, okay. I can make eye contact. It's okay. You can make eye contact. You can see," you know, to kind of remind myself that it was all right.

QUESTION: You've been on Covert Affairs a few years now. What is the biggest or best change in your life due to being on this show?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: You know honestly, it's - there's a stability to this show that is incredibly refreshing for an actor.

QUESTION: How so?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: It's - well just in that - like this is a show that feels like it's going to be on the air for a few years. And you know as a working actor, like having that kind of job stability is a very, very rare thing. You know, I was just - I sent Ty Burrell a congratulatory email yesterday for his Emmy nomination, and so we were talking back and forth and just talking about how great it is to be on a successful series and know that you know, you've got a job to come back to next year.

You know, I think - you know for guys who've been around awhile like we have, it's - you really do appreciate it.

QUESTION: Speaking of that - yes, I think I read somewhere that a lot of Canadians got - were nominated for Emmy's this year. Any thoughts on that?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: A lot of Canadians?

QUESTION: Yes.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Oh, really? Oh, I don't know.

QUESTION: I saw the headline in passing. I didn't actually read the story, but it - so there must be. I guess its news here. Maybe it'll be there.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, I don't know. I'm not Canadian, so if that's true...

QUESTION: Oh, I thought you were. I'm sorry. You said you were in Toronto. But you're filming, right?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Oh, we shoot in Toronto, yes.

QUESTION: That's right.

I wonder actually if all the shooting now done in Canada is bringing more Canadian actors to America? Probably not.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes, probably. And there's certainly a lot of talented people up here.

QUESTION: Besides the things you spoke of before, have you found yourself being recognized more on the street now that you keep getting bigger and bigger roles?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, yes. I mean, especially because I look very much - I mean, I look basically exactly like Auggie when I'm out, so yes. I mean, Ugly Betty was another one that - where was recognizable, but not so much. I wasn't - it was a very recognizable role. I wasn't always recognized, well just because I look very different from you know, Henry Grubstick when I'm out and about.

QUESTION: Right. Not as nerdy.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes. But for Auggie, yes. No, it's - you can definitely tell - you can definitely tell when you're show is hitting a chord of - is really gaining an audience because people notice.

QUESTION: Would you consider yourself a Titter-aholic?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Oh, yes. For sure. I'm on that thing all the time. There's no doubt.

QUESTION: After watching the whole episode, it was really interesting because to see Auggie evolve and show parts of him that you don't usually get to see while he references them sometimes, or may elude to them in a kind of situation where Annie sits there and kind of goes, "Wonder what he did before?" You know, you see that...

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes.

QUESTION: ...her mind working. But to actually be able to - she can - the audience gets to put it all together.

How is Annie's character going to react in future episodes to this?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, I think it's a place to build on you know what I mean? And I'm trying to think in the last three episodes of the summer season - yes, we don't - like you don't - you're not going to see - at least in the short-term like a direct link to what happened in this episode. But what happens in this episode is - changes their relationship.

You know, Auggie really opens up to her for the first time about something that's very close to him and something he has only told maybe two people. So you know over the course of the series, I think this will be a defining moment for those two characters.

QUESTION: I think it's going to be interesting because as that will draw the two characters closer, then there's more vulnerability for each person.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think those characters can deal with it, given what the risks are in terms of being an active operative?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, we'll see. We'll see. I guess - you know, it's - part of I think why people respond so much to the relationship between Annie and Auggie is because we - we work very hard to keep - there's tension between the two of them that's - it's like - you just - you're not sure where the relationship's going to go. You're not sure like are they just friends? Are things going to get romantic? Like, what's going to happen?

And we really like living there right now. We really like that there are many possibilities and there is great tension in those possibilities. So right now, we very much like where we are.

You know at some point, you're going to have to start - you know just like in life, you're going to have to start making choices and then there's going to be consequences to those choices. And you know, we're not there yet, but sooner or later it'll happen.

QUESTION: Because this is your vacation, or, well, not quite your vacation, but you're in New York right now and not on set.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Right.

QUESTION: What do you do in your spare time?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, right now I've my family with me, because it's summer so my spare time is hanging out with them. You know, the only other thing that I do other than work and hanging out with them is go to the gym. It's about all I have time to do.

But I'm just so happy to you know, have my whole family together in one place that - you know, we just have the best time. We'll go to the pool. We'll go swimming. You know, we're taking a road trip to Michigan and Chicago. Just having a great summer together.

QUESTION: I had a question from earlier when you were talking about the friendship that's been developing between Auggie and Annie. And I'm trying to figure out, or want to clarify why he chose a new CIA recruit to kind of reach out to and trust with this personal aspect of his life. Normally older operatives and more experienced operatives don't allow the new operatives that close to them.

Covert AffairsCHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well, I think it's part of - I would say two things. I would say one is that you're right. It's unusual, especially for Auggie, to reveal so much about himself, and certainly something so intensely personal.

The flip side of that is I feel that his relation - he and Annie's relationship is also a highly unusual one for him. That for whatever reason, he's - he was drawn to this woman from the beginning. There's something I think about Annie that rings very familiar to him. That he in many ways sees a lot of himself in her, and has taken her under his wing and feels very protective towards her.

And over - you know now we're in our second season, so it's not like it's brand new. They've become good friends. And in this particular instance, the fact that he's revealing this information to her is not arbitrary. It's truly something that he feels he owes her because of her helping him out in a very tough squeeze and a very tough spot.

QUESTION: When you were doing this particular episode, as an actor you would have to draw upon a kaleidoscope of emotions to portray, like to go from sited to non-sighted in the (firm), or vice versa.

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Right.

QUESTION: So now you (turn from sighted) and right back again. Can you talk a little bit about the different emotions that you had to tap into to portray that?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: Well you know, actors come at - you know that in many, many different ways. It's always very personal you know what your process is. For me, I really try to ask myself kind of the what if questions. You know, what if I were in this situation what would it feel like? You know, it's kind of a digging down of asking questions of what if's and then what if, and then what if, and then what if, and in doing your homework and doing your research.

And then once it comes time to rehearse and then perform it, finding a way to let that all go and then just play the scene and just be present and listen to what the other character is saying to you and just to try to react honestly.

I mean at the end of the day as an actor, you're top goal is just to portray this person as honestly as you can. So, that's what I try to do.

And I felt like we pulled it off. You know, and I feel like in that last scene, the one you have just Annie and Auggie after we've lived now - as an audience, you've lived through this entire journey and seeing what happened, and now it's just the two friends talking. Like I feel like you see the complexity and you see on Auggie's face what he's been through and what it means, and how he remembers it.

And I hope that it works, and I hope that it comes across as very honest and real. And I think if it does, then you're going to have a really solid, emotional punch at the end. And like you can't help but empathize with what you see that this other human being has gone through.

QUESTION: What emotion do you think is underneath the surface for Auggie? What is the core emotion he relies on to kind of make it through is current existence?

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM: I was - the first thing that came to mind - I don't know if it's so much an emotion, but there's - it's ambition. But, there is - you know, Auggie is one of these human beings who just has an intense fire burning inside of him.

You know, he's the type of person that just simply not only won't give up, but like can't give up, because those are the only type of people that can become you know, special forces. Like guys like Seal Team 6 that took out Osama bin Laden. These are like the best of the best. The most physically and mentally fit and sound and most driven human beings on the planet. And Auggie is one of those people.

And you know, so in that way - not just because you know he lost his site and he's succeeding after that. You know, I mean - you know, he's an extraordinary person with site or without.

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