Wiretaps, car chases, clandestine meetings and brutal Cold War-era assassinations — and that’s just the first episode. NBC’s twisty spy thriller Allegiance pulls viewers into the world of America’s fight against espionage and one family who is embroiled in the fight from both sides.
Alex O’Connor (Gavin Stenhouse), a rookie CIA analyst specializing in Russian affairs, learns that his parents (flawlessly played by Scott Cohen and Hope Davis) are former covert Russian spies reenlisted by the Kremlin to plan a terrorist operation inside the United States. Now he has to decide where his loyalties lie — to his family, or his country.
“You see those allegiances, those fixed ideas of justice, start to bend and twist,” says Stenhouse. “How much can you get away with and where is your allegiance now? Where does your concept of what’s fair — and what’s right and wrong — come from? Who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy?” As Alex struggles with his family’s traitorous past, his ideas of good and bad roll in a state of flux, which is difficult for Alex, whose life thrives on and requires clarity, order and precision.
“He’s quite an awkward guy and his areas of expertise are in processing numbers and facts. He’s more at home in front of a computer screen, or in his own head,” says Stenhouse. “He doesn’t deal well with having these big ideas brought in front of him.” The revelation of his parents’ spying pasts may be the unhinging of his brilliant but troubled mind.
The role of a spy sounds like the gadget-filled fantasy of any actor, but the suave Brit (who has mastered not only a convincing New York accent, but who is also learning to speak Russian like a native) laughs. “Mark and Katya [Cohen and Davis] get to play with most of the cool spy gadgets; they’re the actual spies. I just play an analyst; I don’t get much of the cool technological stuff to play with … yet.”
In addition to becoming multilingual and poly-dialectal, the actor relishes time that he spent at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., meeting real CIA analysts. “It was such a privilege and experience to go there, to meet with people who are doing my job in the show, who I could grill and ask questions and get advice from, and just see how they work in their world.” But, Stenhouse quickly adds with a chuckle, “Usually I was faced with ‘We can neither confirm nor deny that.’”
Allegiance is based on an Israeli format and comes from George Nolfi, the writer/director of The Adjustment Bureau, and Avi Nir, an executive producer of Homeland. “The pace of this show is so dynamic that it doesn’t let you get ahead of the story. It doesn’t let you get ahead of the characters as they unfold the story,” says Stenhouse. “George Nolfi writes spy stuff very well, action sequences, really well. I read one of these action sequences in the first script and once we finished doing it, and seeing everything, it just blew me away. It was like watching a feature film. It’s just incredible.”
Allegiance > NBC > Thursdays beginning Feb. 5, 10pm ET
Allegiance Cast photo: Joe Pugliese/NBC, © 2014 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Gavin Stenhouse as Alex O’Connor photo: Will Hart/NBC, © 2014 NBCUniversal Media, LLC