Is Calder Michaels good or bad on Covert Affairs? Hill Harper doesn't know himself — and that's just the way he likes it.
After nine years as the good doctor-turned-CSI Sheldon Hawkes on CSI: NY, Harper jumped at the chance to join the USA drama as Calder, an ambitious station chief in Colombia who most definitely got viewers' attention in the Season 4 premiere flash-forward, which features him and Annie (Piper Perabo) opening fire on each other.
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"It's awesome for me," Harper tells TVGuide.com. "I did nine years on CSI: NY, where I played such a nice, nice, nice guy, and everyone loved Dr. Hawkes, so it's nice to dive into a show that's very different from a procedural — it's serialized — and to play a character that has so much edge. On CSI: NY, the audience knew I was a really good guy, and I caught the bad guy. But the audience doesn't know if I'm the bad guy, the good guy, the OK guy on Covert, and I love it."
Indeed, Calder is as gray as they come. Smug, over-confident and with his sights set on bigger things in D.C., he took great umbrage after Annie and Auggie (Christopher Gorham) went rogue and invaded his turf in the premiere to find Teo (Manolo Cardona), the ALC terrorist leader Calder has been tracking and who is Arthur's (Peter Gallagher) secret son. On Tuesday's episode (9/8c, USA), they cross paths again when Annie returns to Colombia with fresh intel on the ALC stronghold, and tries to convince Calder to go in together. Her offer: She'll give him the win for the takedown, if he'll let her have Teo alive, as seen in the exclusive clip below.
"Historically on the show and even in real life, Annie can charm anybody. What I love about Calder is that he's one of the few characters where her charm doesn't work," Harper says. "He's unsure if he should take her up on it. He's like, 'I don't trust you. I know you have a different agenda. Who the hell are you and what the hell is going on?'"
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But could part of that be due to resentment and jealousy? After all, Annie has climbed the agent ranks rather quickly in the past three years, while Calder has been stationed in Colombia and is perhaps a legend in his own mind. Not to mention, the fact that she has info on the stronghold locale must stick in his craw. "I think he's so confident in himself, and he thinks she's young and naïve, that there's no resentment," Harper says. "He kind of likes her style. I think Calder thinks there's a place for everybody as long as they're behind him.
"I think this guy's a real hero and he does what he thinks is best for America. His endgame is America," he continues. "Anybody who's in the government or politics, they don't always agree as to what is the best means to get there. He and Annie have two very different views as to how we should go about protecting our country. He believes that there are bad people in the world, and sometimes you can't change those bad people, and those bad people need to be eliminated. Annie believes that you can change anybody if you can get to them in the right way. It makes their interaction interesting. They can work together if she can listen to him and do exactly what he says!"
Needless to say, Annie will not be following Calder's lead completely (for now), since trust — or lack thereof — goes both ways. Calder is unaware that Teo is Arthur's son, and it will remain that way for the time being. "What I love is that he brings internal conflict, which they've never had, and he'll keep stirring things up. The question is, are they going to at any point trust him enough to tell him that?" Harper says. "Or do they think that he's the enemy? Is he working for Henry [Gregory Itzin], and he's part of Henry's plan to bring down Arthur and Auggie? That's the big question that needs to be answered. We haven't determined that yet in what we've shot."
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Harper, who's also an author and will release his fifth book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother, in the fall, does know the context of Calder and Annie's future shootout, which will take place in the midseason finale.
"Tune in. That's all I'll say. When I first read it, I was like, 'Oh, this is interesting. Someone may die. Does that mean I may become the new lead of Covert Affairs?'" he jokes. "You never know!"
Covert Affairs airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on USA.