Montreal Gazette

Kari Matchett finally has a role in a U.S. series that’s renewed for a second season

- MIKE BELL

Kari Matchett isn’t a bitch.

She doesn’t even play one on TV.

That’s the message she stresses about her latest role as hard-nosed, but tendercent­red CIA chief Joan Campbell on the USA Network series Covert Affairs, which debuts in Canada on Showcase tomorrow night.

“It was really important to me that she not be a onedimensi­onal bitch,” says the fair-haired actress, who was born in rural Saskatchew­an, grew up in Lethbridge, Alta., and spent time in Toronto before relocating to Los Angeles.

“Obviously, I don’t have the power of the final draft, but I do have the power of interpreta­tion and I have done what I felt was my absolute best to make certain that she’s not that – because that is the danger with her. And, honestly, we’ve seen it before. We don’t need to see it again.

“So, as the show progressed over the first season, you got to see other, better sides of Joan. But I think it will be even better in the second season.”

Yes, as Matchett notes, there will be a second season for the series, which stars Piper Perabo as Annie Walker, an Agency newbie in the Domestic Protection Agency under the supervisio­n and tutelage of Matchett’s Campbell.

The show’s 11 episodes ran on USA throughout last summer to solid ratings for the network, drawing more than five million viewers to the program, which elicits comparison­s to both Nikita and Jennifer Garner’s late, lamented Alias.

For Matchett, the news of renewal was one she greeted with something approachin­g relief, especially considerin­g her track record in stalled American series from which big things were expected, such as the quirky cult fave Wonderfall­s, ABC’s brief Lost-like show Invasion and Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – a major ratings disappoint­ment before getting retooled, then finally gassed by NBC.

“An actor’s life is anxietypro­voking, because it’s the great ‘you never know,’ ” says Matchett. “You hope and you believe and often things work out, but you never know. So it’s nice to feel like the second season is sort of as close to a regular job as I’ve ever had. So there’s a level of calm that is in my brain that is unusual and welcome.”

TV has been a constant source of work for Matchett over her 15-year career. She cut her teeth on small-screen Canadian shows such as The Rez and Power Play, and the bulk of her resumé is taken up by parts on such shows as Ugly Betty and Criminal Minds, not to mention highprofil­e recurring roles on ER and 24.

And when she’s not filming Covert Affairs, she also makes regular appearance­s on the TNT series Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton, who was her co-star on A&E’s Nero Wolfe Mystery.

But while she appreciate­s the paycheques and the steady source of work, she does say the career she’s now enjoying is not what she envisioned when she first began down the profession­al acting path, attending the National Theatre School and spending a stint at the Stratford Festival.

“I’m still amazed and interested by the fact that I’m doing television and not movies or theatre. I imagined myself doing nothing but theatre and film; I didn’t actually want to do television. I barely watch television,” she admits.

Matchett may just have her patience rewarded in 2011, when she’ll hit the big-screen in filmmaker Terrence Malick’s hotly anticipate­d, long-delayed drama The Tree of Life, which also stars Sean Penn and Brad Pitt.

There’s been plenty of buzz around the mysterious film, which was shot two and a half years ago and now has a tentative May release – just in time for a rumoured bow at Cannes.

For her part, Matchett can shed little light on the project, with the exception of a brief rundown on exactly what role she signed on to play.

“I play one of the women in Sean Penn’s past that he is imagining and going back over,” she says. “He plays a man who’s looking back at his life and wondering why. So I’m one of the whys.” Covert Affairs premieres tomorrow at 10 p.m. on Showcase.

 ?? SHAW MEDIA ?? In Covert Affairs, Kari Matchett is head of the CIA’s Domestic Protection Division.
SHAW MEDIA In Covert Affairs, Kari Matchett is head of the CIA’s Domestic Protection Division.

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