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Cassandra Freeman, Raza Jaffrey Talk NBC’s The Enemy Within

Starring Morris Chestnut, the series airs on Mondays at 10pm on NBC

The Enemy Within is NBC’s latest action-packed spy thriller that guarantees to keep viewers guessing. A former CIA operative, played by Jennifer Carpenter, is serving a life sentence in prison for betraying the United States. However, a current FBI Agent, played by Morris Chestnut, need to track down a criminal and his traitorous prior colleague is the only one who can help. Alongside Carpenter and Chestnut, Cassandra Freeman and Raza Jaffrey take on the roles of special agents Jacqueline Pettigrew and Daniel Zain helping to hunt down enemies each episode.

Freeman, a vivacious personality, can be recognized from her roles on the police drama Blue Bloods and the comedy series Single Ladies. Jeffrey is no stranger to spy dramas, having acted in roles on shows such as Spooks and Homeland. We were able to get the scoop on their characters and what to expect on their latest project. You can watch The Enemy Within each Monday at 10/9c on NBC starting February 25, 2019.

How many episodes of the show have you shot so far?

Raza Jaffrey: 13. We’re on our 13th now.

How intricate does it become and how much do you have to remember?

Jaffrey: That’s one of the great things about the show, actually. You care about these characters week in and week out. It’s a bit of a departure from what we’re used to seeing in that way. You can track the characters a little bit more. In this first season we’re after this one guy in particular, and we bring Erica onboard to help them fight. That storyline, it runs all the way through.

Freeman: Which is different because it’s not like every new episode “Who’s the new bad guy?”. It’s more like that one bad guy–how do we get him? And we get people along the way who might know him.

Jaffrey: And then watching that web and the tentacles going deeper and deeper into government and everywhere else, sort of expanding through the season.

For the people who haven’t seen the show yet, what can you tease about your characters?

Freeman: My character—I would say she’s sort of like the funny and the wit of the show. So she’s always got something sort of like—“HAHA!” That’s what I would say about her. But her background is that she helps hostage negotiations.

Jaffrey: She doesn’t pull any punches, so people know the character, Jacqueline Pettigrew, is like, you know, not messing around. That’s why she’s so great at her job. Our team needed this character in Episode 3.

Freeman: Right. They sort of enlist my help. I’ve had a huge background, but I was working at Quantico, which is where they train FBI people, and I train my kids how to be great hostage negotiators, but they need me to come in for a special investigation. I’m like listen—I cut through all the red tape, and said there’s one way to do it—you go straight. Everyone else might want to follow the rules and I’m like no, we don’t need to do all that.

And what about your character?

Jaffrey: I play special agent Daniel Zain who’s the FBI’s senior interrogator. He comes from a military background where he was overseas watching the CIA interrogate people in a certain way. Daniel doesn’t particularly like the CIA’s style and way of doing things. He’s much more by the book.

Freeman: He’s the square. He’s like “there’s rules!”. If there was someone who was like “there’s a way to do things, his character would be the one who’s like “there are rules. That’s not how we should do it. Alright fine, but it’s on you if it doesn’t workout.” And my character’s like “I’ll do it!”

Jaffrey: But the reason behind that is he’s Will Keaton’s oldest friend and they’ve been around a long time and Will is doing some things because he’s on the hunt for his fiance’s killer and he’s doing some things he shouldn’t be doing. Actually, the FBI is all about that due process. It’s very different than the CIA. Bringing the case before a judge. The CIA is far more, you know, do things covertly. And that’s where the great mix of our show comes. Because on one hand you have CIA Erica Sheppard. FBI, our unit, [is] trying to bring people to justice. And we butt heads as a result.

Do either of you think that you would make a good special agent or spy in real life?

Freeman: Yes. Oh yes.

Jaffrey: Because no one would believe you were.

Freeman: No one would believe it. I think women in general make great spies. I really think that’s one of the most provocative things about our show is that the biggest traitor in America is this woman. And if you saw this woman walking down the street, you would never thing “there goes the traitor” and I think on many shows usually it’s the dude and you’re like “That’s the guy!” And instead, on this show, you’re like “That’s her?” and then you’re like “But she did it for her daughter? Oh wait a minute.. DID she do it for her daughter? Wait a minute.. can I trust her?” And then you’re like… this is why women are some of the best sort of double personalities you’d want to work with.

You keep playing a lot of spies, agents. Do you ever think you’ll do a comedy? Do you ever think you’ll do a role where you are not a government official or a double agent, or a spy?

Jaffrey: I just went and did a little special called Four Weddings and a Funeral as well. I just did a film with Blake Lively called The Rhythm Section which is out in the autumn this year. I’m certainly not a spy in that. So, that’s a different character. I love doing this kind of stuff. I enjoy shows which take a risk. And I think our show takes a risk in that way. I hope that’s why people will watch it. Smash was a great risk. I’m proud to have been a part of that. Code Black was the same. It’s great to be on a show that takes risks and that’s trying to do something different with the genre. Carrying those stories through and having a broken woman at its heart is really interesting.

After the pilot actually airs, Erica reveals a secret. It seems like the rest of the team is in the dark for now as to why she did what she did. How much are they circling the truth going forward? How important was it for you to find out why she at least said why she did what she did?

Jaffrey: I don’t think I know how to answer without revealing anything. We take a very long time to find out why Erica has done what she’s done if we ever do, in fact, find out. You know, she protects the truth for very good reasons. So, it creates conflict with the team all the way through because essentially she’s getting results, but maybe we’re doing this for all the wrong reasons, you know. We shouldn’t be allowing Erica Sheppard to roam free occasionally this way because of the consequences.

Freeman: Even though she tells stuff to Keaton, if it’s your enemy, how much of the truth do you believe that comes out of your enemy’s mouth? So it doesn’t really matter what she says. I like to think, for my character at least, it’s not about what she says, it’s about what she does. And I think we’re really trying to watch closely—what does she do and does it match up to what she says? But, you know, when you’re in the spy world, people can fake you out for such a long time and then flip everything you’ve ever known. So I think that’s another really provocative thing about the show is—how do you know when the truth is presented to you as truth?

We’re seeing a lot of stories right now. There are a lot of shows about unreliable narrators. Are there any reliable narrators in your show?

Jaffrey: Daniel. Actually, genuinely, my character’s probably one with the most integrity in the show. He’s the truth teller. He’s the guy at the heart of it who actually—he makes a point that in the interrogation room, he never lies to his subjects. That’s a rule that Daniel has. What that’s about is gaining people’s trust. So, yes, Daniel is a character at the heart of it who does have a moral compass in a way. He’s seen what happens when people go down that path. Which is why he’s such great friends with Will Keaton, Morris’s character.

Freeman: Jackie, though, I’m so out in the field throughout this show. I’ll be who I need to be to get what I need to get. Your character’s not so much like that. Like you are who you are, you are who you say you are. My character, she’ll bend the truth if she needs to. She’ll pretend to be someone else if she needs to get information. But as the audience watches that, I think you always know why she’s doing what she’s doing as far as I can tell. But I do think for the most part, you’re watching everyone, from the FBI to the CIA as can we trust the motivation why everyone’s doing what they’re doing every week. And I think you do sort of trust people because you know what the main goal is at the end of the day—is to catch that one bad guy, which is episode after episode after episode, you know, it’s a continuous thing.

Jaffrey: And of course we trust Will Keaton, played by Morris Chestnut, as well, because we know at the heart of it he’s out to get the killer of his fiancé.

Freeman: You trust him. I don’t know if I trust him. It takes me a long time. I don’t know if I trust him and truthfully I don’t know if Brad, the other character…the rest of us, sort of. There’s so many characters that come in and out. I don’t know if I even trust Keaton.

What aspects of your character would you say viewers would find most relatable?

Jaffrey: I like the fact that, across the board, we all work together as a team. And this kind of goes off the camera. And I hope it communicates on screen as well. We have a great time making the show. We’ve enjoyed being around each other and bouncing off each other in that way. So I hope that kind of relates to the audience as well. Of course, we’re out to catch “the bad guy” but underneath it, people want to know how we all interact with each other as characters. And I think our great writer, Ken Woodruff, has built a great team of actors who enjoy bouncing off each other and hopefully that shows in scenes.

Freeman: I agree. I think that’s the most relatable thing. Our show very much is like “Oh, well I didn’t think about that!” or it might be like “I don’t know if we should do that idea. We should do this”. Even people trying to put a plan together, even there’s drama in that. How do people put the pieces together? And then when they’re out in the field, things fall apart—how do people put things back together? I think that’s really quite relatable.

And there’s a lot that’s not relatable. Because, my character, she might put her life on the line—I don’t know how many people will be like “Yeah, I jump and get shot”. But I think the heroic part in our brain, we like to think “Oh, if I were her, I would totally do that”. And all these people are such true, honest sort of characters. Whether they’re the techie person or the person who risks their life, the person who gets all the intel. I think you do sort of relate to the best part of everyone in the show.

Following the discovery that a U.S. ambassador is selling classified intelligence to a Colombian cartel, Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter) devises a plan to catch him that will push Keaton’s (Morris Chestnut) moral code to the brink. Keaton brings a new member (Cassandra Freeman) on to the team.

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