NBC presented their newest fall drama State of Affairs starring Katherine Heigl during the Television Critics Association summer press tour and there was quite a bit of drama during the Q&A. Heigl plays top CIA analyst Charleston Tucker who delivers a daily briefing called “The Book,” which is the CIA’s top 10 list of THE most critical threats facing our country, to President Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard).
This is definitely a new role for Heigl, playing something other than a doctor or some sort of love-stricken girl in a romantic comedy, which is something we’ve seen her do many, many, many times. “I loved doing romantic comedies,” said Heigl. “I love watching them and I stopped exercising different muscles of my ability. I was letting down my audience.”
When asked about why she took some time off Heigl responded by saying that she “took a couple of years to be with my family, my new daughter… I needed to be a mom and a wife and be a friend, and really revel in that, and remember what it is I feel so passionate about in this industry.”
One critic asked what attracted her to this role and what was challenging about it. Heigl added that “trying to get people to believe I was a CIA analyst was challenging…the opportunity to delve into that and show this side of the CIA. She’s [her character] a patriot and believes she can make a difference and protect her country and help the President do her job. It all felt like the perfect extraordinary role and story to tell for me.”
State of Affairs is definitely trying to compete with cable dramas, with Executive Producer Joe Carnahan saying that their “goal was to set out and move in lockstep with a cable program (Homeland, Breaking Bad) and the bar is set quite high. We needed to do something that was a step beyond that…Our goal is to out do what cable is doing.” Carnahan added that “NBC hasn’t put any restrictions on us and I think we’re going to continue to push until someone pushes back…in order to be competitive with likeminded cable shows.”
About halfway through the Q&A portion of the panel a reporter brings up the question of why “momager” Nancy Heigl was even there in the first place, saying he asked NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke the same question about Nancy. ”She bakes us cookies,” said Heigl jokingly. Salke did say in the executive session that Katherine and Nancy came to the network to pitch the show together. Apparently Nancy is very involved in her daughter’s creative process and career.
Nancy responded by saying “I am her mother for sure, so, of course I care about her, but I am just learning about executive producing and am learning from those who really know….I’m a newcomer to it.”
The panel came to an awkward pause when a TV critic asked Katherine, per all the tabloid drama, if is she is in fact difficult to work with, and that there was in fact some support from some of the media, saying she was punished for being outspoken. Heigl was a bit put off by the questions, understandably, with EP Ed Bernero trying to come to her defense and getting a very stern “no, I want Katherine to respond” response from the reporter. Heigl chimed in saying “I certainly don’t see myself as being difficult…I would never intend to be difficult. If I ever disappointed somebody, it was never my intention.”
And on that note, State of Affairs premieres on Monday, November 17 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
NBC SYNOPSIS: Each day the president is faced with dozens of life-and-death decisions, and to prioritize the biggest international crises facing the country, one top CIA analyst — Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl, “Grey’s Anatomy”) — assembles the President’s Daily Briefing (PDB). This list of the most vital security issues facing the nation brings with it moral and political judgment calls for Charleston and her trusted group of brilliant analysts at the agency. Aside from the political minefields she has to walk, Charlie has a close personal relationship with President Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives”) because she was once engaged to her son before a tragic terrorist attack took his life. Charlie survived that attack and is now determined to bring the perpetrators to justice. Navigating a complex personal life and a pressure-cooker profession is, of course, a challenge, and Charlie sometimes engages in boundary-pushing behavior to avoid facing her grief. But when the clock strikes 2 a.m., she is all about her job — protecting her nation, serving her president and still trying to get to the bottom of her fiancé’s murder that will reveal itself as a shocking mystery.
CAST: Katherine Heigl, Alfre Woodward, Adam Kaufman, Sheila Vand, Cliff Chamberlain, Tommy Savas and Leslie Odom Jr.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Writer-director Joe Carnahan (“The Blacklist”) serves as executive producer with Ed Bernero, Katherine Heigl, Nancy Heigl, Robert Simonds, Sophie Watts, Henry Crumpton, Rodney Faraon and Julia Franz. “State of Affairs is a production of Universal Television, Bob Simonds Company and Abishag Productions.