Starz's supernatural spy series The Rook is complex. It's based on a twisty novel by Daniel O'Malley, and it draws from the fantasy and espionage genres, which both create their own jargon. So there's a lot of unfamiliar terminology in The Rook, but TV Guide is here to help explain it. At the premiere at SeriesFest in Denver, we asked executive producers Lisa Zwerling and Karyn Usher and star Olivia Munn to define in their own words some of the terms you'll be hearing on The Rook.
The Checquy: Pronounced "SHEH-KAY."
"The Checquy is the last truly secret service in Britain, for spies with paranormal abilities," Karyn Usher explained. It's a very sophisticated clandestine intelligence agency, sort of like X-Men meets the Bourne movies' Treadstone, with a distinctly British sensibility.
EVA: Stands for Extreme Variant Abilities, and describes both the powers and the people who have them. Checquy agents are EVAs with EVA. They're "superhuman abilities that aren't actually that super," Usher said. "They're something that could be derived from real human biology, or animal biology." For example, main character Myfanwy Thomas' (Emma Greenwell) ability is reminiscent of an electric eel, while Monica Reed (Olivia Munn), an agent from the Checquy's American counterpart, has super-strength. "I can push a deadbolt out with the tap of my thumb," Munn said. "It doesn't take a lot of effort to create a lot of damage."
Vulture: "A Vulture is a human trafficker who traffics in the illicit buying and selling of human beings with Extreme Variant Abilities," Lisa Zwerling said. "There's a Vulture network of black market traders and kidnappers of EVAs." EVAs are bought and sold for millions and millions of pounds (or dollars, or whatever currency), so these aren't your average street thugs. "They're people who you might imagine trading nuclear weapons on the black market," Zwerling said. "They look fancy, they're educated, they're very, very smart and wily, and they way that they run that they run their business is crafty, and an interesting part of our show, because you get to see how they do it."
Rook: "The spies at the Checquy are all ranked in order of the chessboard as a matter of tradition," Usher said. "In our world, a rook is a support player" — Myfanwy Thomas is an office administrator, not a field agent — "but they're also very vital to the organization, and they're there to protect the Queen and the King." The King is Joely Richardson's Linda Farrier, the director of the Checquy, and the Queen is Adrian Lester's Conrad Grantchester, the head of operations.
Gestalt: The show's other rook (and most interesting idea) is Gestalt, one consciousness shared by four bodies, siblings Eliza (Catherine Steadman), Robert (Ronan Raftery), Alex (Jon Fletcher), and Teddy (also Jon Fletcher). "If one hears something or sees something, the others do the same simultaneously," Usher said. They can be in four places at once. Gestalt is a hive mind, which is actually kind of a hard thing to show on-screen, and it comes through in the performances, Usher said. "They had to work really hard so that you could read the way, in very subtle cues, that they're reacting in sync." Sometimes they speak in unison, but when one is speaking individually, the others avert their eyes, as if the consciousness is only in the speaker for that moment. They never look at or speak to each other, because they don't have to. They can't have secrets from each other, which is interesting in an espionage story. They're like limbs of the same body.
Cobbler: "A Cobbler is someone who makes fake IDs really well," Zwerling explained. "Like a passport that you could go through customs in a very sophisticated airport and nobody would catch you."
Myfanwy: Rhymes with Tiffany. It's Welsh!
The Rook premieres Sunday, June 30 at 8/7c on Starz.