INTERVIEW: ‘Counterpart’ Cast Talks Love, War and the Unknown in Season 2

The second season of Starz’s science-fiction Cold War analogue, Counterpart, starts tomorrow night and promises to be just as full of twists as its first. The show, which revolves around the diplomatic tensions between our world and a duplicate that began branching off in 1987, explores the barriers that humans put up to distinguish themselves from the ‘other’ as well as the mistrust and paranoia that often clouds our ability to love each other fully. At the premiere earlier this week, the cast shared a few of their thoughts on what went down in the finale and what to expect next.

J.K. Simmons, who portrays protagonist Howard Silk in both worlds, discussed how much more complex playing his own doppelganger gets when having to lie to his wife. “The more badass Howard has gotten better and better at impersonating sad sack, nice guy Howard,” the actor joked, giving more descriptive designators than Alpha and Prime. “So hopefully we’ll see new layers of subtlety there.”

As for the so-called sad sack Howard, even though he killed someone for the first time last season – namely the head of Project Indigo – Simmons didn’t see that act as a fundamental change in his nature. “It was an act of animal instinct; self-preservation,” he explained. “In the aftermath of that, is he beginning to access parts of himself he didn’t know were there? We’ll just have to see.”

Olivia Williams had her own duality to deal with when playing Howard’s wife, Emily Burton, who is an Office of Interchange agent in both worlds. One of her characters was in a coma for most of the first season, so what was it like going through her recovery process in the second? “It’s not also the woman who went to sleep, so really I have three Emilys to play. As an actor, it’s sort of a dream come true,” she gushed. “She doesn’t remember either [husband], but little snippets of memory come back. It’s that little thing of going, ‘There’s something not right about you.'”

It’s not just her husband who was become unfamiliar, but also her job. Williams shared a little about Emily rediscovering her own lies as well. “She still has that instinct that she wants to answer questions, but she’s like an innocent going into incredibly dangerous situations.” The actress researched real-world recoveries as well, comparing Emily to others who have lost their memories. “You go and meet people you’re related to and who were your friends, and what happens if you don’t like them?”

Sara Serraiocco no longer has two characters to play, since Project Indigo assassin Baldwin had to witness the death of her doppelganger Nadia Fierro last season. But her other self left an impression that will last through Counterpart‘s second season as well. “Baldwin was really good at her job in the first season but didn’t know anything about real life,” Serraiocco said. “Probably in the second season, she will accept herself as a killer and as a person.

Baldwin also got a taste of romance in the first season, both with her handler Claire and a German civilian named Greta – although both soured before the end. While the actress couldn’t share whether Greta would be back on the show this year, she did have hope for a stronger bond with Claire in the upcoming season. “Baldwin has feelings for Claire and has a beautiful relationship with her.” Can those feelings overcome the games that both women have to play to survive?

Speaking of Claire, Harry Lloyd has the honor of playing her husband Peter Quayle. Having recently discovered his wife was a sleeper agent for the other side, Harry chose to side with his family – however untrustworthy that family may seem to him now – over his job. “He starts off in an impossible position,” he lamented. “I think Season 2 is all about the fact that you have to accept that you are at war and you have to pick a side.” Despite this, Quayle and Howard try to have it both ways, which will certainly lead to some interesting drama.

“It’s also complicated by the fact that it’s family, that he doesn’t know what happened to his real wife, and the baby,” Lloyd added. Not only is there still love between the married couple, but “he’s someone who can’t be on his own because he’s got by on half a degree and a smile his whole life.” That being said, Counterpart‘s second season will prove to Quaye that he’s made of stronger stuff than he realized.

One of the people set to draw out Quayle’s other sides is Betty Gabriel, who joined the cast of Counterpart as FBI agent Naya Temple. She was recruited to help sniff out the doppelgangers and sleeper agents, but some of her partners are trying to keep necessary information from her. “She comes in to help [Quayle] and, without giving too much away, slowly but surely things start to get sticky.”

Trust isn’t the only thing at stake as the two worlds move from diplomacy to war, faith itself is often threatened. “It’s an integral story point, but it’s not leaned into too heavily.” As Naya is Muslim, Gabriel worked with MPAC to get the details right. “It was very important to me to really embody [and] they were just so pivotal in my character development.”

You can also check out interviews with showrunner Justin Marks and executive producer Jordan Horowitz on With An Accent’s Youtube channel, and make sure to catch the first episode of Counterpart season two December 9th on Starz.