“It’s easy for us all to otherize everyone else who isn’t aligned with our way of life, our line of thought, our struggle,” explains Betty Gabriel who plays Naya Temple, an FBI agent of Islamic faith in Season 2 of Counterpart.
Gabriel plays a new character to the show who she describes as having, “An air of mystery and cunning. She’s dissecting and microscopically sniffing people out. I love that about her, and as the season continues, you see her getting closer to the truth but also grappling more and more with what she thought was true her whole life in regard to her faith.”
Temple is brought in to investigate how the ‘Office of Interchange’ was compromised and infiltrated to pull off a tragic mass shooting at the end of Season 1. Due to the terrorist act, the border between the two sides of a parallel Berlin has been closed. Though the gateway is heavily controlled and kept secret in a government facility this isn’t quite Stargate with the only destination being a subtly different reality… the explanation so far behind the phenomenon is that in 1989 (the same year as the fall of the Berlin Wall) the world simply broke away and replicated.
The show blends science fiction with Cold War era spy thriller to entertaining and provocative ends. Created, written and executive produced by Justin Marks and featuring top notch directors such as Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and Jennifer Getzinger (Outlander and Jessica Jones) it taps into timely and politically charged issues such as border control, warring ideologies, government corruption, global overpopulation and terrorism, weaving them into the story through multiple storylines about assassination plots and covert operations. The two realities display minor differences in technology and population due to a deadly flu epidemic that hit one of the worlds in the early 1990s which in turn has led to conspiracy theories that it was all by design and adamant factions out for revenge.
“I think what the show does so well is it takes a very deep, disturbing look into the how’s and why’s”, says Gabriel. “These issues are so complex. Of course, we will all never agree on these matters and we’ll always have our differences, but perhaps a certain understanding of the deeper roots of these issues will allow for more awareness and more participation from the ground up.”
In Season 1, Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) a lowly office worker was introduced to his parallel self out of the blue – who just happened to be a tough, alpha-male operative for the other side. So, began a Kafkaesque nightmare for the men and a meaty dual role for Simmons as they came to terms with their differences and explored one another’s worlds. In Season 2 with Howard locked away in a secret compound the focus shifts towards his wife’s crisis as she emerges from a coma with no memory of her previous life.
Olivia Williams, who plays Emily Silk, enjoys playing the dual role. “Throughout my life and career, people inexplicably say that they find me intimidating and that when they first met me, they were really scared of me. I don’t know why!” she tells us. “Emily was hit by a car and she was utterly unthreatening, and nobody had any fucking idea what she was up to. It’s so much fun to play one person who is utterly unthreatening and has passed through society unnoticed and the other person who just trusts what she’s told.”
Harry Lloyd, who plays Peter Quayle, a director at the Office of Interchange, chirps in to say, “I really enjoyed playing a character who is doing everything he can to kill all the drama and get out of every situation that he’s in like this is not the show I want to be in! I want to have a comfy life! Every step I take forward in this journey is a step in the wrong direction so actually it’s a fun and different exercise to try and actually do as much to do as little as possible.” He’s a character who has been offered every privilege life has to offer and risen to the top thanks to his relationship with the daughter of a high-up government official. After a revelation that an army of counterparts are hell-bent on taking down his society Quayle begins to realise how much responsibility rests on his shoulders in both personal and professional stakes.
Nicolas Pinnock takes on the role of Ian Shaw, an operative who plays by the rules and quells personal relationships to reach his targets. “I think Shaw does everything by the book. Everything has to be in order or else he knows that things will be in complete chaos in his life. The main plot of the story is going one way and he’s kind of going another. There’s an element of him that wants to go along with it all, but he can’t. He really has to keep a lid on it because he knows if he doesn’t it will all just explode.”
Williams drew on her previous theatre and television work and the historical and scientific facts she learned while playing roles in a show about the Manhattan Project and Lucy Kirkwood’s National Theatre play about the large hadron collider, Mosquitoes.
“Season 2 touches a bit more on the scientific side. I don’t want to give away too much, but I did a show about the Manhattan project and this group of people who would have been at Los Alamos fucking about with particle physics…things like the Trinity Project could have started a chain reaction that destroyed the universe. That accidental nature and power is there and is rendered unto those who have made that decision and is very much a part of Season 2.”
Counterpart is on Sundays on STARZPLAY. For more from the cast of Counterpart Season 2 pick up the new issue of SciFiNow on sale 14 December.