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A young CIA trainee, Annie Walker, is sent to work in the Domestic Protection Division (DPD) as a field agent. August "Auggie" Anderson, a blind tech operative, is Annie's guide in her new life. In the beginning, Annie's cover story is that she works in Acquisitions at the Smithsonian Museum but she is later let go. As of the fourth season, her new cover is that of a glamorous and well-connected importer/exporter, with expensive tastes and dealings that may not always be legal. The series traces Annie's evolution from a wide-eyed young operative who fetches coffee for her co-workers to a hardened spy who doesn't balk at enhanced interrogation. This change in tone is also seen in the opening credits, which used chick lit-style graphics in the early seasons. The cartoons, like the focus on Annie's home life with her sister, were gone in the fourth and fifth seasons.
Cast and characters
Piper Perabo as Anne Catherine "Annie" Walker: a CIA trainee who is suddenly promoted to field operative. In addition to English, she speaks seven languages fluently and several other languages with various skill levels.
Kari Matchett as Joan Campbell: a senior officer who heads the Domestic Protection Division (DPD); she is Annie's supervisor, Arthur Campbell's wife, and a skilled spymaster who was quite talented in her field days. She attended Pennsylvania State University, and her cover is that of an executive at the World Bank.
Anne Dudek as Danielle Brooks (season 1-2, main; 3, recurring): Annie's older sister, who is married with two children; Annie lives in her guest house. Initially she is unaware of Annie's real career, knowing only Annie's cover, that she works in Acquisitions at the Smithsonian Institution. Annie eventually reveals her CIA employment, which briefly causes a rift between them.
Sendhil Ramamurthy as Jai Wilcox (season 1-3): CIA officer assigned to the DPD by Arthur Campbell. His family has a difficult history with the CIA; his father, Henry Wilcox, was formerly the CIA Director of the National Clandestine Service (D/NCS). He is killed by a car bomb at the beginning of the third season.
Peter Gallagher as Arthur Campbell (season 2-5, main; 1, recurring): D/NCS. During his time as a field operative in the late eighties, he posed as a student in Berlin to gather intel on the Stasi.
Hill Harper as Calder Michaels (season 4-5): CIA station chief based in Medellin, Colombia who is reassigned to Langley. Calder becomes the new head of the DPD after Joan is made D/NCS.
Nic Bishop as Ryan McQuaid (season 5): The owner of a private security firm for whom Arthur Campbell works, who finds himself working alongside Annie.
Oded Fehr as Eyal Lavin (season 1-5): a Mossad operative who occasionally works with Annie on her missions, and has become her confidante. The two are close, and turn to one another when in trouble.
Noam Jenkins as Vincent Rossabi (season 1-4): an FBI agent with whom Annie must occasionally work despite their antagonistic relationship.
Eion Bailey as Ben Mercer (season 1-2): Annie's ex-boyfriend, who was being targeted by the CIA, before returning to the Agency. He is hired by Arthur as a "black ops" agent.
Gregory Itzin as Henry Wilcox (season 1-4): the former CIA Director of the National Clandestine Service and Jai Wilcox's father.
Sarah Clarke as Lena Smith (season 3): Annie's supervisor in another CIA division. Lena is not satisfied with Annie's performance and sends Annie back to the DPD. Lena believes in a more hands-on, direct action approach to espionage compared to Joan's by-the-book approach.
Emmanuelle Vaugier as Liza Hearn (season 1-2): a journalist with a mysterious source inside the CIA, who publishes a series of damaging articles about the Agency.
Richard Coyle as Simon Fischer (season 3): A venture capitalist and suspected SVR spy, whom Annie is assigned to cultivate while working in Lena's division during season 3.
Perrey Reeves as Caitlyn Cook (season 5): Ryan McQuaid's assistant.
Amy Jo Johnson as Hayley Price (season 5): An NCTC official who is investigating the Chicago bombing and soon forms a relationship with Auggie.
Shailene Garnett as Joan's Assistant (season 5) Episode Titles: Trigger Cut and Brink of the Clouds
Development, casting, and production
Covert Affairs first appeared on USA Network's development slate in July 2008. The pilot episode was written by Matt Corman and Chris Ord. Casting was underway in June 2009, with the expectation that successful casting would lead to a production commitment. Piper Perabo was the first actress cast in early July 2009, as CIA officer Annie Walker. The casting of Christopher Gorham came in late July, quickly followed by an announcement that the pilot had been green-lighted by USA Network.
In early August 2009, Tim Matheson signed on to direct a 90-minute pilot. Further casting announcements included Anne Dudek in mid-August, followed by Kari Matchett and Peter Gallagher in early September.Eric Lively was cast as a fellow CIA officer and peer to Perabo's character, and Eion Bailey was cast in a recurring role as Annie Walker's ex-boyfriend. The pilot began filming in Toronto in September 2009.
In January 2010, the Covert Affairs pilot received a 10-episodes order. Sendhil Ramamurthy was added to the cast as a CIA officer, replacing Lively's character, along with Emmanuelle Vaugier in a recurring role as a journalist.
The series executive producers are Doug Liman and David Bartis and the co-executive producer is Jonathan Glassner. Production of the series takes place in Toronto, Ontario, at primary static sets housed in a studio, as well as at "stock" shooting locations throughout the local area. This is combined with material filmed at various international locations in which the series' episodes are set, such as Washington, D.C., capturing geographically unique elements of these places. In some instances, the series' producers use a stand-in location for shots where the costs and logistics of the actual location shoot are impractical, or if the location specified is fictional.
Covert Affairs received positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 93% approval rating, while on Metacritic, the first season of Covert Affairs received a score of 64 out of 100, based on 23 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The second season received a score of 68, based on six reviews. At the 68th Golden Globe Awards, Piper Perabo was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama. She also won the award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Breakthrough Role at the Gracie Awards in 2011. Christopher Gorham won the Seeing Beyond Vision Loss Special Achievement Award at the CNIB Awards in 2013.
^IMDb on executives "The show airs on July 13 (10/9 C) Executive produced by Doug Liman and David Bartis, Jonathan Glassner (Co-executive producer). A New Series From the Producers of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and the Producer of the "Bourne" Trilogy..."