For the last ten years Anne Dudek has been breathing life into some of the most warped, conniving and diabolical characters on TV -- hell, her "House" M.D. went by the nickname Cutthroat Bitch. But the toughest role for her to crack has been Danielle, the mother, wife and sister she currently plays on "Covert Affairs" because she is so, well, normal.
Ironically the chance to play a "normal person" that doesn't flirt with fetal alcohol syndrome, coerce suicide or lie through her teeth is exactly what attracted Anne to the show. And in tonight's episode, Danielle becomes more than just a morning bagel pusher -- she opens a catering business.
Again, somewhat ironically, Anne can not cook.The extent of her culinary skills extends to hitting the defrost button. But she has a plan to counteract that. In addition to obtaining some knife skills Anne revealed to PopWrap what could happen if her character ever learns she's on a spy show, the pros/cons of playing a weirdo and how she learned to embrace normalcy.
PopWrap: Typically the "normal people" on a spy show get shafted, storyline-wise, but it seems like "Covert Affairs" is really giving Danielle a lot to do now.
Anne Dudek: Yes, it was an unknown thing when we started the series – what my role would be. Because I don’t work at the CIA, how central can I be to what the meat of this show really is? I didn’t know what that was going to be or how it could happen, so it’s nice they’ve found a way to let Danielle infiltrate Annie’s world.
PW: Knowing that, what made you say, "I want to be a part of this show?"
Anne: I was very entertained by the pilot script – and I’m not a good reader. I'll be a couple pages into a script and get lost. Reading the pilot for "Cover Affairs" was enjoyable -- it was so accessible and exciting. For me, I also have been playing a lot of kooky characters lately. Very extreme people. Which is fun, and exactly what I would have wanted to do right out of drama school – play the exciting, unknown, weirdo – but I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I don’t want people to think, “we need to cast a strange thing to sit in the corner .. let’s call Anne!” [laughs]
PW: Yes, Danielle is very much a grounding force in Annie's life.
Anne: Exactly, [their relationship] puts the rest of the show in context. Or at least I hope it does. Because to some extent, it’s quite fantastical. Here’s this extremely good looking agent, traveling the world, having thrilling car chases with equally good-looking people and leading this exciting life. So it’s nice to see this person go home to her sister, who has this normal family where the biggest drama is what will be for dinner. I like that our extreme action has this emotional counterpoint.
PW: And I don't know what kind of work you and Piper Perabo did, but you two share a very sisterly rapport.
Anne: Everybody says that it’s like we’ve known each other forever. That it’s a believable sisterhood. It was my biggest fear coming in. Having played roles on “House” or “Big Love” or “Mad Men” that were so far away from me, I didn’t begrudge myself if I didn’t instinctively know how to play them. It’s fun to figure out what life would be like on a compound. Or to be a super competitive doctor. But I don’t have a sister and it was so important to me that this be a believable relationship, I really stressed out about it. It's so weird that I ever worried about it, because it’s effortless to feel close to Piper. I think it’s her energy as an actor – she’s so welcoming and if you’re open to that, it’s easy to have a connection.
PW: But as close as they are, Annie is keeping this massive secret -- how long do you think it'll be until Danielle finds out?
Anne: That’s the big question, right? It makes sense that Annie keep this a secret as long as possible, however, the longer it goes on, the worse it is for Danielle. There's this backstory of us being army brats, so I imagine that we never developed close friendships with anyone but each other. So imagine having this incredibly close relationship only to find out that they’ve been lying to you for years about what they’re doing? I think that’s very unsettling and something that could ruin the intimacy that they have.
PW: How do you think Danielle would react?
Anne: It depends on what point she finds out. If I found out at the end of season one, it wouldn’t be the most destructive news to hear. If I found out after season four or five, that would be explosive. But, well [laughs], because the fight sequences are so amazing, I have this joke where I keep telling the writers to figure out how Danielle can show up in a fight. As an actor it would be fun to be a part of that side of the show -- I am jealous of what they get to do.
PW: But this week Danielle opens a catering company -- are you a good cook?
Anne: No. I’m terrible [laughs]. If you look at the food Danielle makes, it’s really amazing. She makes this serious fish dish at one point and I was laughing because I can pop a frozen pizza in the oven, but I’m not a chef.
PW: Well both Piper and Chris Gorham told me about the extensive training they got -- maybe USA should hook you up with some cooking classes?
Anne: [laughs] Right? Everybody’s learning! Although they never have me doing anything that tricky on screen
PW: Just lots of mixing?
Anne: [laughs] Exactly. I would love to learn how to chop like they do on the cooking shows – where their fingers are peeled back and they chop really fast? I’d love to know how to do that. Maybe I can get some training.
PW: You've been a part of so many amazing shows -- is there one character you'd love the opportunity to revisit?
Anne: I’ve been so lucky because I'm still involved with some of those shows. But you know, there was a character that I played on "Six Feet Under" who was – again – really deranged. I loved how incredibly pathetic yet sexy she was. I think the plot was that my father was being killed on death row, so I went to the funeral home.
PW: What draws you to a character?
Anne: I am drawn to these people who have things that aren’t very pretty about them. I like illuminating that and shedding light on the ugliness of human beings. I think that could be to the detriment of a career, because unless it’s "Silence of the Lambs" those roles never end up being the central part. They’re usually fun, but never the lead.
PW: But they can be the most memorable ones -- personally, I live for Laura's scenes on "Big Love."
Anne: Thank you, whenever someone says they saw me on “Big Love” I’m always surprised because it feels like “there I am, and I’m gone.” Laura has a very unknown energy – she and Alby, I think they’re people whose emotional life doesn’t match up with what they can express in a normal or healthy way. They’re bottles of soda shaken up and at any moment they could explode. But you haven’t seen the last of Laura! Not yet!
"Covert Affairs" airs Tuesdays at 10pm on USA