Fans of Covert Affairs‘ Auggie (Christopher Gorham) are getting to see what the blind CIA tech head does when he’s not “handling” Annie (Piper Perabo), courtesy of the six-week Tweetcast: Mission Budapest. Developed by the shows creators, writers, and Gorham, the series of tweets — including videos, photos, audio streams, and classified documents — follow Auggie as he guides two CIA operatives with a romantic past through an op in Hungary and continues to live his life outside of the office (have we gotten video of him swimming yet?).
You’ve got to love the idea of CIA operatives tweeting their whereabouts next to photos of their faces. “Yes, that did occur to all of us,” Gorham laughs. “The suspension of disbelief is that it’s not the regular Twitter, that when you’re following the Tweetcast, you are becoming a CIA officer and it’s an interoffice Twitter.” The real mission, of course, is to expand the world of the series, assure the audience that Auggie does more than serve Annie, and introduce agents who, at some point, may enter the show. (A filmed resolution to the Tweetcast will air during Covert Affairs‘ July 12 episode as a payoff to fans, who can also help influence how the mission unfolds.)
Gorham says his active Twitter following partially inspired the idea of the Tweetcast, even if it doesn’t revolve around their favorite topic of conversation — the possibility of Auggie and Annie coupling. “I would say that most of the feedback that we get is pushing for that at some point,” he says. “What I think is a credit to how smart my followers are and the fans of our show are, it’s also almost universal that they agree with me that if that’s going to happen, it needs to happen a long, long time from now. Most of what makes those pairings so much fun is the potential, the flirting, the missed opportunities. That’s what’s so exciting. If you go there too soon, you let the air out of the balloon.”
‘Shippers will, however, get a little tease in the June 28 and July 5 episodes, Gorham says, when Auggie gets offered a big promotion. “It’s a real potential turning point. It’s one of those moments in your life where you have to decide which direction you want to go and what you want to do. It weighs on Auggie, and it’s another opportunity, too, for his relationship with Annie to show itself and build a little bit,” he says.
Here’s what other intel we can report after our chat with Gorham:
• He himself is an excellent multitasker, conducting our phone interview while his two-year-old daughter chatted away in the background. “I can’t tell you how happy I am right now that this little bag of crackers is not all over the floor of our minivan. The fact that she handed it to me still full of crackers is an amazing day,” he says.
• The July 19 episode, which flashes back to a sighted Auggie in Iraq and will finally reveal how he lost his vision, isn’t the only hour that will involve a romance for him this season. “I always like to say, it is Annie’s story, so just because you don’t see Auggie dating someone in the episode doesn’t mean he’s not dating someone,” Gorham says. “It’s another useful thing for this Tweetcast, it came out in the first week that he was with a girl. His life goes on outside an episode of Covert Affairs.” Gorham says he hits the gym regularly because you never know when Auggie’s personal life will require a shirtless scene, and because Auggie comes from special forces. “Any time his shirt’s coming off, I want him to look the way that I feel like he would look, so that requires me to be kind of miserable for awhile,” he says. “My dirty little secret is that I hate running. I don’t like cardio. I also really like food and all kinds of food — bread, chocolate, all of the yummy stuff. I up my cardio quite a bit and I start cutting out carbs, sugar, and salt just to try to get as lean as I can.” (This felt like a good time to tell him that his first shirtless scene as accountant Henry on Ugly Betty is probably the moment fans remember best from that show because they weren’t sure if his upperbody was real or a special effect. “Can I tell you, literally, the producers of the show thought there was some trick,” he says, laughing. “It’s so funny because my wife was so annoyed by the whole thing. She’s like, ‘What the hell do they think? You’ve looked like that forever. What are they talking about?’ She got very protective and defensive about people being so surprised that I’m fit.”)
• Auggie has switched to an iPhone this season — not as a product placement, but because Gorham insisted on it since all the Apple products come accessible for the blind. He also has a portable Braille keyboard this year that works via Bluetooth to his iPhone. “Last year, we had to cheat, and we had him have a laptop, but there’s no laptops allowed in Langley,” he says. “We figured, well, maybe they let him have one and he just couldn’t take it out of the building. But this year, we’ve done away with that, which makes me feel better because I like things to be as accurate as we can get them.”
• Gorham’s drive for authenticity means he’s constantly adding little things to the show. “When we’re doing a walk-and-talk through the office and we have a new director, I have to remind him, ‘If we’re gonna turn a corner, then I’ve got to be holding on to somebody, otherwise I’m not gonna see that he’s turning the corner, and it’s gonna be a mess.’ One director was like, ‘Well, if I have background actors cross in front of you, maybe that will slow you down,’ and I had to remind him, ‘Well, I can’t see the background actor crossing in front of me, so I’m just gonna crash into the dude,’” he says. “If we’re outside of the office, it’s having some of the background actors react to me the way most sighted people react to blind people, which is they’re not sure what to do. It’s throwing in those little real-world details that most people don’t know.”
• Asked if he ever thinks about viewers watching to see if they can spot him falter, Gorham explains what concerns him and what doesn’t. “I worry about different things than I think some people think I do. A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you keep your eyes from moving? How do you not blink?’ Blind people blink and blind people’s eye move all the time. Those are two stereotypes that I don’t worry about,” he says. “What I do worry about is having it look like I’m watching something or look like I can see something. So I have to be careful that I’m not tracking anything, like someone walking across the room. I can’t react to facial expressions that anybody is making. Body language I have to completely ignore. I really focus on only reacting to what I’m hearing from the voice, which is tricky and drives you crazy sometimes. Piper will make some really adorable face, and I think, ‘God, it would be really great if I could react to that,’ but I can’t. I have to completely ignore it. Every once in awhile I slip, and it’s like, ‘Cut! Stop! Go back! Don’t use that!’”
It’s been a learning process, Gorham admits. When they started shooting the pilot, they learned that he had to think ahead about where he was going to place his gaze in a scene so he didn’t end up staring right into the camera when they came back in for a close-up. “Also, people like Auggie, who’ve lost their sight as adults, in real life, are really good at making eye contact because they’ve grown up doing it. It’s second nature. Their eyes automatically go the right place just from hearing the voice,” he says. “And so I actually have to make Auggie worse at eye contact than he would be in real life just because it would be very confusing for the audience. I know from personal experience hanging out with guys who’ve lost their sight that it’s a mind trip. You’re in the middle of a conversation, and you can swear they’re looking right at you.”
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