From Jennifer Garner in Alias to Evangeline Lilly on Lost, executive producer J.J. Abrams knows how to empower his leading ladies. His next heroine? Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the star of NBC's new spy series Undercovers.
"J.J. has written such a wonderful part, and he's known for writing great parts for women," Raw says. There's also Keri Russell, who played the sensitive college girl in Felicity, and Anna Torv, who will command not one, but two roles this season on Fringe.
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"I don't feel so much pressure," Raw says. "I feel like because J.J. is so incredibly experienced and incredibly good at what he does, it's really inspiring to work with him."
In Undercovers, Raw plays Samantha Bloom, a retired spy who used to be partnered with husband Steven (Boris Kodjoe). They're both thrust back into the field, and though they act like it's an intrusion in their lives, the jolt is just what their marriage needed.
"She left the spy business at the top of her game to pursue this normal life," Raw says. But "we will find out as we go that there were greater reasons why she left, and actually, bigger reasons why she was brought back."
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Before you say this is just Alias with wedding rings, know that Undercovers will be less complicated. The show will lean toward standalone episodes, says Raw. "It's not the kind of thing where you get to Episode 4 and if you haven't watched it from the beginning, you're going to be lost. You can really tune in because each episode has a beginning, middle and end."
"Obviously the relationship [between Samantha and Steven] is at the heart of it, so it won't be a will-they-or-won't-they because they are already married. At the same time, there's mature aspect to it because they do have to work out their problems... They're discovering new things about each other."
One of those new things is Samantha's ex, Leo, who will be introduced early on in the pilot. "That adds this interesting dynamic to it," Raw says with a smirk. "Also, there's Lizzy, Samantha's sister, who we'll later find out has a slightly troubled past. It's kind of hinted at that she's very needy and relies on her sister a little too much."
Undercovers debuts Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.