While fans await tonight’s season 3 premiere of Covert Affairs (USA, 10 p.m. ET), which changes multiple characters’ futures, they can learn more about the past of one — Christopher Gorham’s Auggie — in the new interactive web series Covert Affairs: Sights Unseen. Gorham directed the five-part prequel set roughly one year after Auggie lost his sight in Iraq and one year before Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) joined the CIA. It follows Auggie as he adjusts to his new position as a CIA handler and gets sent by Joan (Kari Matchett) to Barcelona to supervise a rookie agent, Garrett Miller (Benjamin Nathan), who’s trying to turn a girlfriend of a Salafist Group member into an asset. “Things get more complicated than they should,” Gorham teases. ”Garrett’s a young man who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s smart and talented like Annie is, but he doesn’t quite have the same people skills or instincts. So he’s a big challenge for Auggie at this point in his career.”
The challenge for fans: The five-week event (episodes premiere Tuesdays at noon ET) is choose-your-own-adventure. “The audience chooses how Auggie handles each situation. Does Auggie handle Garrett with kid gloves early in the story, or does he play hardball? As things get more complicated, does Auggie physically get involved or not? There are consequences to the decisions, especially later on in the series,” Gorham says. “If you make the wrong decision, the whole thing’s over.” Spoiler alert: Auggie will not be shirtless. “There’s a gym scene, and it was shirtless, but as the director, I actually put Auggie’s shirt back on because let’s be honest, nobody works out shirtless in the gym at work,” Gorham says, laughing. “But I was dying to put in an Easter egg choice at the gym scene where the user could choose ‘Shirt On’ or ‘Shirt Off.’ Then the joke was I was gonna have Jamie Barber, our director of photography, on a bike in the back and he was gonna be the one whose shirt was on or off. We just ran out of time. We had to shoot that boxing scene in literally six minutes, so my Easter egg joke had to go out the window.”
Watch a clip below.
The fun for Gorham was adding in details the show’s hardcore fans will appreciate: “Like Auggie’s just gotten the laser cane, so there’s a moment where you see he hasn’t quite mastered the thing yet,” he says. “Very subtle things. He’s a little slower with the Braille, and his radar is not quite what it is now. When we see him on Covert Affairs, he has Joan down. He knows what she’s thinking. In this, he’s still figuring out everybody’s silent language since he can’t see their body language.”
The project — which is accompanied by a sweepstakes to win a trip to Barcelona, courtesy of USA and the web series’ sponsor, Capital One Venture Card — is the largest directing project Gorham’s undertaken. (His other credits include the hilarious Funny or Die video “Gamechangers Ep. 1: The Rant Writer” with Ty Burrell. They’ve shot a sequel that should hit the site soon, he says.) The crew had to make episodes of Sights Unseen, which run five or six minutes, look as slick as the TV show when the budget was “a dime and a piece of chewing gum.” They also had to keep to a tight schedule in Barcelona (the setting for season 3′s second episode) when unexpected delays occurred, like NBC/Universal security forbidding them from leaving their hotel for a day because of the anti-austerity protests. Even the standard office scenes came with a surprise: “They wrote it thinking we could use the existing sets, and when I got the script, I had to call everybody up and say, ‘You guys realize that in episode 2 of the show, we moved offices. So our current sets are totally unusable,’” Gorham says, laughing. “We have a therapist office this season, and it was repainted to be Joan’s office for the two days we shot her. We have an old interrogation room set that we almost never use that we redressed for Auggie’s old office. We tried to capture the feel of their offices you saw in the pilot.”